The trick in doing genre fiction well is getting the details down. Yes, zombies are scary, and it’s easy enough to exploit that. A good writer tries to work out the why and the how as well as the what, finding new angles that make the threat more personal. Right from the start, Mira Grant proves she knows what she’s doing in her horror epic Feed. Set more than two decades after an uprising of the living dead, Feed uses meticulous world-building to shape a narrative that’s believable, thrilling, and instantly clear. From examining the political consequences of a world constantly under siege to detailing how blogging and Internet news feeds would develop in the face of the threat, Grant’s creativity and thoroughness give her narrative an unshakeable credibility. Her cast is predictable, but her commitment to them, and to their environment, makes for an exciting read.
Georgia Mason and her brother Shaun believe in the truth. That’s why they run a news site, After The End Times, and that’s why they applied to follow Senator Peter Ryman’s presidential run as embedded journalists. Getting accepted for the position means a huge jump in net traffic, autonomy for their site, and their chance at the big leagues. It also means an exponential increase in personal danger. Life with zombies means endless security checks, a constant awareness of one’s surroundings, and a necessary phobia of any animal large enough to succumb to the urge to munch brains. But it doesn’t mean that people stop being people, and there will always be those who take advantage of a situation to put themselves in charge.
While it takes some time for the actual plot to get going, Feed is captivating nearly from the start. In addition to her talent for imagining problems and following them through to their utmost consequences, Grant (the horror pseudonym of fantasy author Seanan McGuire) has a good grasp of story values. Feed is The West Wing by way of George Romero, and the effect is a lot less ridiculous than it should be. Feed does suffer from a cast of stock characters: Georgia and Shaun’s relationship is distinct, but everyone else falls into predictable roles, with too-satisfying villains and heroes whose righteousness, while earned, can be off-putting. Thankfully, the narrative is strong enough that it’s only a minor roadblock when the cast’s familiarity becomes too apparent. It’s a novel with as much brains as heart, and both are filling and delicious.