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Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) by Mira Grant
Cover Artist: Shtterstock
Review by Steve Sawicki
Orbit Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316081054
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Book's website / Show Official Info /

It's the near future and medicine has made some great strides and created one giant problem. Cancer is cured and so is the common cold. Well meaning activists have stolen the retrovirus and released it into the populace as a means of subverting any potential idea of controlling it. This has unwanted consequences, one of which is a mutation that leads to people amplifying once the virus in their systems reaches a certain level. There are two ways for this to happen: death and being infected by someone who is already at elevated levels. In other words, Zombies.

Georgia Mason is a newsie while her brother Shaun is an Irwin. They are both bloggers and the third part of their team is Buffy, a fictional. Blogs are the new news vehicles. Newsies report the news as accurately and clearly as possible, Irwins provoke the news through action and adventuring, and fictionals put things into relevance through poetry and fiction. They all carry and utilize technology that allows them to report instantly and with video. One of the main things that they cover is zombies and zombie outbreaks. The Masons and Buffy are one of the better teams and they've applied to be able to cover Senator Ryman in his bid to become president--the first campaign to officially embrace blogger coverage. They get chosen and are soon dropped into a world of intrigue, back stabbing, intentional viral infection, and conspiracy that contains much suspense and a fair amount of betrayal and death.

This is the first book in the Newsflesh series and as such Grant needs to use it to lay down all of the essential background information about the world she has created. She does this mostly through the use of blog posts inserted at the beginning or end of chapters. These post provide useful information and take the place of expository lumps which then allow her to be able to tell the story without needing to find a way to inform the reader about things that the characters would already be very well versed in. It's an effective tool. Grant also has created an engaging set of characters that she uses to move the plot forward and keep things rolling.

Grant's Zombies are still the shambling beasts of Romero's Nights but now we know how they got that way and Grant takes the infection to a logical conclusion, which would be that the world would be near destroyed by such a thing. The infection also gets into animals of a certain size and is being studied by the CDC who has no lack of experimental subjects.

There are a couple of issues with the world Grant has created however. First, you need to buy in to her premise that bloggers will become the news vehicles of choice for society, and that they will be regulated and licensed. While Grant does address how this happens it still seemed like a fairly big hole to me and a place that more than once yanked me from belief suspension. You also have to buy into the idea that the world could lose such a large part of it's population which would then go on a killing spree (which becomes perpetual) and still manage to hold pretty much all of society together with what appear to be few changes except for the added security precautions. The final thing is that the main way to tell if you are not infected is through the use of a kit that sticks your hands with needles so that blood can be analyzed. Any health care person will tell you this: constantly sticking the same spot over and over creates all kinds of problems for both the person being tested and the testing process. Yet no one seems to have any problem with being tested, in some cases, over a dozen times a day.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy the book, I did. Just that these were the places where I stopped reading because my brain was telling me there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Overall I thought the idea was very well done and executed and I'll be looking forward to seeing what Grant does with the second book in the series.

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