Review written by Jess Peacock
I have to admit, I have a tendency to trumpet my love of the zombie sub-genre on the grounds that the walking dead are often a wonderful metaphor for larger social ills. George Romero tackled out of control consumerism with his seminal film Dawn of the Dead, while Max Brooks addressed global relations in his superior novel World War Z. The truth of the matter, however, is that while social commentary is a mainstay in zombie fiction, a walking dead novel without the appropriate amounts of carnage is nothing more than a rose without petals. In other words, entirely useless.
Feed, the first book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, is a distinctly bloodless zombie novel that leans heavily on addressing issues of new and traditional media, terrorism, and a little political cynicism thrown in for good measure. Interesting subjects, especially when mixed into a post-post-apocalyptic society where the zombie holocaust is 25 years old, parts of the world are still off limits due to the walking dead, and the population is divided between isolating themselves from any potential danger versus attempting to reclaim some semblance of real life. Unfortunately, Feed is a 599-page zombie novel with very little focus on the zombies.
Despite its shortcomings, Feed does provide some brief moments of fascinating futurist thinking with regard to how society would operate in a world recovering from an undead onslaught. From the advanced blood testing technology (manufactured by Apple, of course), to the restrictions on pet ownership (animals of a certain size run the risk of zombification), to the abolition of the death penalty (who needs one more zombie in the world?), Grant has obviously done her due diligence in attempting to create a fully fleshed-out near future that feels genuine and tangible. However, her overly redundant focus on safety procedures overstays its welcome within the first two chapters, dragging Feed into tedious monotony.
Ultimately, Feed never succeeds at creating any suspense, fear, or even acceptable violence that one would expect in a zombie novel. By focusing on the political machinations at play within the story at the expense of any substantial undead action, Grant seems to be dragging out the well worn trope that humans are the true monsters in the world (been there, read that). Perhaps Grant will amp up the horror in Deadline, book two of the trilogy due out in 2011. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I even care to find out.