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.

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