Monday, June 25, 2012

The Ending of Deadline

Just like I did with Feed, I want to talk a little bit about the ending of Deadline.  This is for those who have already read Deadline or, I suppose, for those who really don’t give a crap about piddly little things like knowing how a book ends. 

Otherwise, here are my reviews of Feed and Deadline

So, with the ending of Feed, Mira Grant killed off Georgia Mason by having her shot with a dart carrying the Kellis-Amberlee virus, becoming infected, and in a horribly brutal scene (which I loved), was then shot and killed by her brother Shaun.  I thought this was a perfectly authentic way to kill a character and it felt right for the novel.  Loved it, despite how much I like Georgia as a character.

As I see it, the ending of Deadline was set up three times. 

First, Dr. Connolly faking her own death (with help) and letting the team know that the CDC has accomplished human cloning.  It was the Doc’s clone that was killed and destroyed to help her escape.

Second, Shaun mentioning later in the novel that the CDC had George’s blood for a period of time and had run a series of tests on it.  This seems natural, but in light of how the ending to Deadline, is also suspect.  Also, I no longer recall just how Georgia’s body was destroyed in the van. 

Third, immediately preceding the Big Reveal, Shaun’s blog post states that if he had one wish and could change anything in the world, his wish would be to get Georgia back and damn all the other consequences and damn making the world go back to how it was before the Rising.  His world is Georgia.

The last chapter opens with a person waking in a sterile room and we initially think that this is Shaun because has just in isolation after being bitten by a zombie (he also tested clean as his body is the only known body that has actually fought off the infection).  But, it isn’t Shaun.  The chapter ends with a voice from an intercom asking the individual to identify itself and it does: Georgia Mason.

At which point dropped some profanity and was confused. 

I followed confusion by annoyance.  I realized how Grant set this up and it isn’t completely out of left field, but I haven’t decided if I like this. 

One of my major pet peeves (besides the phrase “pet peeve”) in fiction is when an author just can’t let their damn characters stay dead.  Seriously, I applaud you for killing off a major character and one whom I may actually like, but once you do it – own it.  You kill a character, don’t cheat the death by turning back the clock somehow.  That’s what pissed me the hell off about To Green Angel Tower from Tad Williams.  He killed a character in a heroic manner (I think) and it was a big deal.  And then he undercut all the emotion of that event and (in my mind) the entire series by bringing him back in the epilogue with a “whoops, I survived.”  I haven’t read Tad Williams since.  Though, to be fair, his Memory Sorrow Thorn series wasn’t all that special and I wasn’t a fan of his writing style. 

Georgia Mason coming back as a clone?  I don’t know about that, people.  It fits in the context of the series and I’ll grant that science could advance to full human cloning that somehow transfers the mind / soul / identity into the clone.  I’ll give the author all of that – and I assume that there will be all sorts of implications of how Clone Georgia relates to the world as a clone, how that changes *everything* about her and her relationship with Shaun and their news organization and friendships and all of that could be fascinating as hell.  I’ll go so far as to say that I absolutely expect to be delighted by Blackout.  Mira Grant has done a fantastic job with the first two novels in her Newsflesh trilogy and I think so highly of them that I’m also going back to read the first of the novels Grant published under her real name Seanan McGuire (Rosemary and Rue). 

But I really hate when writers kill off a character and then bring them back.  I hate it.  And while bringing back the clone of a character is different than having the character magically escape death and come back, or worse, have someone else use the literary equivalent of a Phoenix Down and revive the character – it still undercuts some of the emotion of the original scene of death. 

And I hate that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Deadline, by Mira Grant

Mira Grant
Orbit: 2011

If you haven’t read Mira Grant’s novel Feed (review), stop right now and go read it. I’m a big fan of Feed and becoming a fan of Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, but a central point of Deadline hinges on the ending of Feed and I can’t talk about Deadline without talking about that.


Mira Grant told the story of Feed primarily through the narrative voice of Georgia Mason, a “newsie” blogger in a post zombie apocalypse world. The world had stabilized into something we might recognize, but, well, zombies. In my review of Feed I wrote that “As the first in a stated trilogy, I can’t wait to see where Mira Grant takes us with the next two novels – especially given how she ended Feed.”

How she ended Feed is that Georgia was purposefully infected by Kellis-Amberlee, the virus that causes zombification, and as she begun to amplify (i.e., she was turning into a zombie), she was shot and killed by her brother Shaun. Shaun then took over the narrative duties and finished out the election coverage (they were the first bloggers to follow a presidential candidate on the campaign trail, a campaign that led them into a very nasty political conspiracy, plus zombies, you can’t forget the zombies).

Deadline picks up a year later with Shaun semi-coping with Georgia’s death, running their news organization, and was having a slight break from reality as he was hearing her voice and carrying on conversations with his dead sister. There was an uneasy stability in his life until Dr. Kelly Connolly from the CDC arrived at their headquarters and pointed them at a larger conspiracy within the science community regarding what is really going on with Kellis-Amberlee. As the CDC is a semi-autonomous organization since the Rising, this is more than a big deal.

My primary concern after finishing Feed was how well Grant was going to be able to carry the story along with Shaun as narrator. Georgia was so much the heart of Feed that I worried that the shift would grate and not serve the story. I need not have worried. There is a certain similarity in the first person perspectives of both Shaun and Georgia, though there is a difference in the focus of each character and also in Shaun’s propensity to threaten violence. Regardless, Deadline is a smooth reading novel that damn near demands that one continues to turn the page to find out what happens next. It’s a good feeling and I could not get enough of it (even though I still missed Georgia as a narrator).

One thing that Mira Grant does very well is craft an ending that leaves the reader wanting more and wanting to know more. Feed’s ending was a natural ending point for the story and while there may have been more stories to tell in that world, Feed was done. Deadline does not have that sort of an ending. Deadline ends with a moment which causes the reader to exclaim “what the…” and where the ellipses are followed by one’s favorite exclamation or curse. Despite that, the conclusion *is* foreshadowed and set up – even Grant did something the reader didn’t exactly expect. Like with Feed, I’m not talking about it here. Unlike Feed, I’m not completely sure that Grant did the right thing, but I have personal bias regarding what happened. I’ll have to explain that in a follow up post.

That’s a little bit long winded to say that Deadline feels like half of a much longer novel and the ending served more to set up Blackout than it did to really conclude the story of Deadline. If the presumed primary storyline was Shaun’s investigation of the CDC and if there really is some sort of a conspiracy with the current investigative science behind Kellis-Amberlee; that storyline has not been resolved. Or, it has, but not in a way that fully satisfies that storyline.

Readers can pick up Deadline and follow the story just fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m a proponent of starting at, well, the beginning and moving on from there. But, if you enjoyed Feed (and I very much did) and were somehow on the fence about Deadline – don’t be. It’s almost as good. I say “almost” because Feed’s ending was a bit stronger and also just personal preference in the narrator. I can also see how some might prefer Deadline as Grant opens up the world a bit and also does some nasty stuff to set up Blackout. Either way – Deadline was a fantastically enjoyable novel filled with zombie delights.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


A couple of days ago Jeff VanderMeer posted about his forthcoming Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Writing Imaginative Fiction

VanderMeer has this to say

This will be the first creative writing guide that doesn’t just supplement text with images, but replaces text with image. In fact, its 300 pages will include over 175 diagrams, illustrations, and photographs. The diagrams will be radically different from what you find in most writing books, and the integration of the text with image will also be something you haven’t seen before.


The main text will include chapters on Inspiration, Elements of Story, Beginnings & Endings, Writing & Revision, The Bleeding Edge, and a special chapter on writing exercises that I think will blow most people’s minds visually—and will set out all of the things my wife and I do in our workshops and masterclasses. Elements like Characterization will be woven into the discussion in all of the chapters, since separating out the people from the story seems pointless to me.

In addition, the book will feature short essays on a variety of writing-related subjects by Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Karen Joy Fowler, Lauren Beukes, Charles Yu, Karin Lowachee, Catherynne M. Valente, Michael Moorcock, and several others, as well as a long exclusive discussion about craft with George R.R. Martin. A comprehensive list of over 700 essential non-realist novels is just one item of interest in the appendices. The format of the book will allow annotations and asides in the margins for additional value.

Sounds like something to check out when it is published next year.

Art by Jeremy Zerfoss.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Other Lands, by David Anthony Durham

The Other Lands
David Anthony Durham
Doubleday: 2009

(Note: I thought I had posted this back in August.  I have no idea why this didn't post last year.  I only noticed when I was cleaning out my drafts)

In a case of taking waaaay too long to read a book, I bring you The Other Lands from David Anthony Durham. This is the second volume in Durham’s Acacia trilogy and one I had been anticipating since I first read Acacia back in 2007…except I never picked up The Other Lands in 2009 when it was published.

Big mistake. Huge.

With a nearly four year gap between reading the novels one might well be concerned with remembering who the characters were and how things connect together. Durham opens with a refresher of “the story so far”, which is something that more big fantasy novels should include. The other thing is that Durham is both thoughtful and skilled enough to craft the story in such a way to gently remind the reader of events from the first novel while never giving the impression of dropping a huge info-dump on the reader.

Durham has written a sprawling novel set a decade after the events of Acacia. The Empire is still recovering from the invasion of the Mein and continues to deal with some of the unexpected consequences of that war. Queen Corinn holds tight control over the Empire and uses her surviving siblings to cement her own power, improve the Empire, and to keep them out of the way so as to limit their potential for threatening her reign. Aspects of The Other Lands work as a thoughtful political thriller.

The Other Lands is far more than “just” a political novel. It is a sprawling epic adventure tinged with a growing sense of magic and one character’s “journey” to the titular Other Lands opens up the wonder of just how big this world is and more fully introduces the other cultures and races of the world. While still steeped in the historical detail that readers should expect from David Anthony Durham, The Other Lands is also chock full of wonder, delight, and tells an exciting story about a threat to the Akaran Empire far greater than any seen before. It builds and builds, topping the reader off with tension.

Now, this is the middle volume of a trilogy, so while Durham does work in complete story arcs, The Other Lands does serve to set up what is likely to be an explosive conclusion when Durham publishes the final volume.

The big mistake I mentioned earlier was simply in waiting so long to read this. Though The Other Lands is worth waiting for, it is a book that you shouldn’t wait on. It should just be read. Read Acacia, then read this. You should have anyway.

Previous Reviews:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012