Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2)
Mira Grant (pen name of fantasy author Seanan McGuire) burst onto the horror scene last year with her Hugo-nominated novel Feed and redefined the zombie tale. Focusing more on the rebuilt American society than on the zombies themselves, Grant was able to create a fascinating story that was both entertaining and thought-provoking. Now the sequel, Deadline, is out, and Grant’s newest doesn’t disappoint.
Shaun Mason may be the head of the After the End Times news bloggers, and he may have survived investigating a government conspiracy, but what most defines him is what he has lost. Months after the events of Feed, he’s going through the motions of life with an empty heart. But he’s forced to sit up and take notice when a researcher from the CDC arrives on his doorstep. What’s surprising is that she supposedly died a few days earlier.
The faked death was a ruse to get her out of the CDC with vital information about the Kellis-Amberlee virus—the one that turns people into zombies—and how it’s being studied. Or, more to the point, how it’s not being studied. Shaun and his friends are soon on the road and on the run, searching once more for a truth that may be more than anyone can handle.
Whereas the first novel in this trilogy was about what American news dissemination might be like after the rise of the undead hordes, this book turns more to the questions of how to live in a society of fear. Seeing as how we are already living in such an atmosphere (to a degree), it’s eerie to read. In this version of our country, blood tests are routine and administered every day at various points. Under certain circumstances, you can be shot on sight without reprisal. Being watched and monitored is a way of life.
The author uses the novel to suggest that a society of fear, as stressful as it may be, can become the norm to the point that it’s accepted without question. And that, she asserts through the tale, is something that shouldn’t happen. We should always question things like that. At the same time, the world that she’s built in her novels makes a good case for needing that much loss of freedom, that the safety of many trumps the rights of the few. Where is the line? It’s a question that can—and should—make you think and engender debate.
If Grant did as much research as she seems to have done—and I have no reason to doubt that this is the case—than the possibilities raised by this novel are truly terrifying. Without preaching or lecturing, the author includes a lot of information about disease vectors and the ways in which viruses might mutate and produce results that we didn’t intend. Science already knows of the existence of a spore that turns ants into zombies exactly like the ones in the Newsflesh novels, so this scenario isn’t all that far-fetched.
This novel’s action seemed to be more intense than what was in Feed. Deadline has amped up the danger, as the conspiracy that struck at the end of the first novel is actively hunting Shaun and his crew in this book. Part of the increased tension comes from the fact that we as readers know how dangerous the situation really is. Feed portrayed a bunch of bloggers in over their head without realizing it. Here, Shaun knows that he’s a target and reacts accordingly.
There are several twists and turns in this tale. Characters that you think are trustworthy turn out to have ulterior motives; situations that appear simple are anything but; and the lengths to which the shadowy antagonists are willing to go is the scariest part. All I can say is, you won’t be able to anticipate where this story is going, and the final line of the book contains the greatest twist of all.
There is one aspect of Deadline on which I’m reserving judgment. The character of Georgia Mason may have died in Feed, but she’s definitely not gone. Shaun is apparently haunted by his sister’s ghost, and he’s constantly having conversations with her, sometimes in his head and sometimes out loud. This results in a lot of scenes of Shaun muttering to himself (and yes, it’s almost always “muttering”), someone saying “What?” and Shaun answering “Nothing”. While it didn’t ruin the book for me, I can’t deny that it got a little annoying by about midway through. I’ve seen some hints on the author’s blog that there may be a compelling plot reason for this situation, and therefore I’m going to wait and see how things play out.
Speaking of the author’s blog, during the month leading up to the release of Deadline, she posted snippets that chronicle the previously unknown story of the rise of the Kellis-Amberlee virus and the initial Rising of the zombies. It’s well worth the effort to look up and read, so go to http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/ and click on the “Deadline” tag to pull up the entries that constitute a countdown to the release date. They start at the beginning of May and continue through the May 31 release, so be prepared to click around a little bit.
Deadline is the must-read book of 2011. Crammed with action and shot through with thought-provoking ideas, it’s a thrill ride that’s not to be missed. This is indeed how the world might end… not with a bang, but with a zombie’s moan. Be wary, for the Rising could one day be our reality.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 9, 2011.