This story tries so hard to be everything: a political thriller, a zombie, post-apocalyptical, young adult novel and a discourse about the value of journalism and new media. But really all you get is a very boring, predictive and very repetitive novel with flat characters that just don’t deliver on the promises. It’s a mishmash of present pop culture: Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hackers and political thriller.
The novel is set around 2040, 20 years after a third of humanity fell prey to the zombie virus. Every survivor is now infected as well waiting for the virus to take over. But there never really was an apocalypse: society as we know it still exists. Mira Grant explains meticulously how legislation has changed to deal with or create a paranoid society. I found this rather boring to read. Despite losing a third of the population, the political and cultural lifestyle is still largely the same. With references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Video Games from 1980-2010 the story tries to adopt past and present pop culture into the future. Coke is still easily available and by the end of the book we have heard 50 times that Georgia Mason likes it, Apple and Starbucks are still in business, the electricity grid, satellites and internet access are readily available. This is apparently all done by a paranoid population who avoid getting together in groups from fear of infection. I didn’t grasp this concept at all? Of course all paranoia and all legislative rules forbidding human crowds are forgotten a few chapters later for a political convention. In a place that’s lost so much of its population so suddenly and has a continued omnipresent danger of attack there should be a Mad Max or Resident Evil environment, with a massive political and/or cultural shift. Instead it shows the problems of an author conceptualizing the invented future. Zombies are present in this story only as something that makes people feel unsafe and as an excuse for the government to restrict the freedom of the individual. Feed is not a story of survival, of isolation and of humans being an endangered species and having to deal with the ubiquitous threat of total extinction. This is not your end-of-the-world scenario; it’s not about how people will break down on a social, cultural, political or individual level. Instead it’s a really inadequate take on blogging and the media that takes place 30 years in the future.
Missing zombies and the concept of an pseudo-post-apocalyptical story aside, Feed is trying to be a political thriller without actually suspense or thrill. It’s a kind of novel about a conspiracy that’s somehow linked to the Zombie Virus. The problem is that the reader is presented quite early with the most probable suspect. Predictability at its freaking best! Half of this book reads like a thriller. The other half though, reads like a repetitive technical manual. I had to really fight hard not rolling my eyes when reminded every few pages that the main character had “Retinal KA”, meaning the zombie virus had somehow killed the muscles of her irises and hence was constantly being blinded by lights. The number of blood tests before they could enter the car, hotel or their home several times per day and chapter is described ad nauseam. Not to mention the daily head to toe bleaching (!) resulting in Georgia’s repetitive affirmation that she colors her hair. And there’s a lot of repetition on the details, too. Yes, we know Shaun only calls her by her full name when it’s bad, because we’ve already been told a dozen times.
There’s this poorly thought out future that looks almost like the present, which exists in a universe where 23 year olds still living with their parents are somehow top-notch experienced reporters. This is the real problem of the book: the ridiculous take on news reporting. A couple of times the main characters miraculously discover really obvious evidence that somehow, the armies of experienced experts who were investigating before them managed to miss. I guess it’s the magical power of being young. Georgia talks about how she’s a “Newsie,” meaning a straight reporter of the facts, yet her actual “news” reports are pure opinion. Mira Grant clearly has no idea what reporting is. However, the author failed to incorporate the many and varied iterations of blogging we’ve seen just over the past decade: vlogging, podcasting, webcam livestreaming, etc. It could have been beneficial for the conceptualizing of a future relying in social media and the web as information distributors if Mira Grant just invented a new terminology for blogging as the new dominant medium.
This is another story that tries too hard to be too smart and instead is just really boring and completely unbelievable.
„Deadline” and “Breakout” are the second and third installments of this thrilling trilogy.