I’ve been in Zombie Hell (Or Heaven, the way I see it!) and back.
It’s been zombie overdose all the way, last two weeks -> gorging on “Feed” by Mira Grant as well as got hooked onto “The Walking Dead”, one of the most acclaimed zombie apocalypse tele-series made on television. Gritty, Gory, drop dead gorgeous. ( I know I deserve flak for terming, flesh-eating rotting ‘undead’ monsters to be gorgeous, so sue me!)
More about this visually delightful hard hitting, human survival drama in the next post. For now, I will concentrate on the book at hand – A soul searching drama about the pursuit of truth and online journalism in the back drop of a zombie apocalypse.
I’d be rooting for Mira Grant, if it ever comes to a horror movie watching fest ( given that my better half and most friends, (girls!) are squeamish when it comes to watching the slick gore fest movies :D) Apparently she’s an unabashed horror movie fan, gets her kicks our of doing research on virus outbreaks and loves studying the devastating after effects of fire-arms. Atta Girl! Go get your ‘freak’ on.
Anyways, coming back to this book, I’ve read very few good quality books on the zombie topic. Sure, am a die hard fan of the genre in movies, but books – been few and far to get by. This one, certainly towers, head and shoulders above the rest of the ones I’ve read. Fantastic, Intelligent, complex, gripping. Did I say fantastic? Fantastic, witty, racy. Oh I think I missed Fantastic. Get the idea, I loved it.
When I clicked the last page on my e-reader, I was truly sad. Sad that this wonderful book ended. And also for other reasons ( Spoilers, so I’m zipping up on that!) this book ain’t about those disgusting, slow shambling undead things that thirst for your blood and flesh. Sure, it forms the backdrop for the story and the story definitely wouldn’t have progressed without this being the plot backdrop. But the overarching loop that traces through the story, is that of new age online journalism and reporting through blogs. As you would have figured out from the poster, the bait-line reads thus:
The Good News: We Survived.
The Bad News: So did they.
How can you NOT love such a teaser? The tone is light, intelligent and borders on dry sarcasm and irreverence. It reflects through the book. Mira Grant kicks ass with this brilliant opener to the trilogy ( tongue-firmly-in-cheek) called as “NewsFlesh” trilogy.
So here’s the premise: the world has survived a deadly virus outbreak ( Now here’s where the book starts to veer away from the normal zombie apocalypse stories – it actually details a very believable and authentic reconstruction of the viral outbreak that resulted in this catastrophe. And this is where her research on Virology shines through. An inventive approach which tells us the lurid tale of two different strains of virus that undergoes amplification and mutation to form the deadly new Kellis-Amberlee, the root cause of this catastrophe) the story unfolds through first person narrative of Georgia Mason, an intrepid online news reporter, a no-nonsense girl full of guts and gumption, whose sole motto in life is to uncover the truth. ( Here’s the kicker – her blog and the news site is called ‘The End Times’!!) Her faith accomplice is her brother, Shaun Mason – a daredevil, an adrenaline junkie who gets his rocks off, by prodding undead things using a stick, is a pro when it comes to guns and firearms of all kinds and generally provides for much of the lighter moments and entertainment in the whole book. They are joined by the rest of their staff, including a bubbly blonde ‘Buffy’, who is the tech whiz and a lover of mawkish poetry, a traditional media news reporter making the switch to online, among other side characters.
( It’s pretty interesting how Grant has built about the post-apocalyptic news community online; there are ‘Newsies’ – the ones who are all about hard core reporting. Then there are Irvines, the clan led by Shaun who dig action and have the online audience hooked onto their blogs through video recordings of all their stupid life threatening acts. Then there are ‘fictionals’ – the poets. )
The amount of research that has gone into the details of this tech-rich online news reporting is staggering. And it comes alive in Ms. Grant’s writings to a great detail. And yet, there is no overdose of the tech mumbo jumbo so to impede the pace of the plot.
Well, the plot by itself, is the weakest link here. It follows the duo along with their team as they get selected to cover a presidential election campaign -> on the road, with the one guy, tipped to become the next president of USA. Upping the ante of the whole game to a new level. Enter motive for foul play. Game for much higher stakes involved.
Motive for murder. Check. High profile smooth talking presidential candidate, a senator who probably looks like Harrison Ford. Check. His stunningly beautiful eye candy of a wife. Check. 3 nosy bratty reporters looking for a story. Check. The stern faced serious no-bullshitting campaigns manager ( Who probably looks a lot like Ed Harris from ROCK: J ) Check. Check. ( Whoa – you’ve got the perfect script for an ALL American blockbuster right there, Ms. Grant!) We’ve seen this before ( Yawn!) but what elevates the book to an entirely new level is the extraordinary setting of the book and the lively intelligent writing by Grant. Makes this book a whole lot more enjoyable.
Since the reader is actually stuck inside Georgia’s head the entire novel, naturally she’d to be a strong character. And she comes through as one. Warm likable and a winner at that. I found myself warming to this girl, the one who adored her brother more than anything else – we against the world. ( in fact, there are these clever little chapter epilogues – excerpts from the online blogs of all the main characters that kind of underlines the theme for that chapter. A clever little hook for the reader, I enjoyed this! so in one of such expostulates, the unpublished blogs of George, we’re privy to an interesting debate of whether God exists or not. It doesn’t matter, she says. Coz she got Shaun. And that’s all that she cared about. Subtle and yet very strong message!) this strong bond has been well etched out by Grant and it appealed a lot to me. Fresh take on relationships. Bro-sis bonding. George’s character has its own small quirks that are well detailed and this works in her favor, worming her way into our hearts as we sympathize, grow angry or anxious along with her.
Absolutely loved this gem. Looking forward to part-2. Got released in May 2011. Deadline, part two of the NewsFlesh. However this book is a standalone and reads satisfyingly enough. Another thing that works in favor of it.
A full FOUR AND A HALF Stars. The extra half and a big wolf whistle for Mira Grant, for being the plucky unabashed horror movie freak that she is!