Alright, this isn’t going to be a review as much as a two and a half part essay. So if you just want to know “if this book is any good”: yes it is, I didn’t love it as much as I loved FEED (but maybe I loved that one a little too hard). The conspiracies are intricately woven, ridiculous, outlandish, terrifying and horrifyingly plausible-ish. The action is so well described I felt like I was watching it instead of reading it and the characters were so real that I was crying, outraged and holding my breath for them.
It’s wordy, and repeats itself, but it gives the novel a sense of urgency. It gets 5 zombies…
…I mean stars, whatever I give out here, I need to work on that anyway. Mira Grant is a suspense genius.
Anyway: Now that the basics are out of the way here,
Are there any vegans here? Not really, but red meat is totally off the menu after the Rising. There’s a steady supply of soymilk, teriyaki soyburgers, and tofudogs.
Where are the ladies at? This book started the way the first one did: with an idiot. In Feed it was Shaun Mason, in Deadline it was Rebecca “Becks” Atherton.
Rebecca could have been marketed as a no-nonsense-action-chick (and I probably still would have liked her). But she is a no-nonsense-action-chick, who kept her hair long and wore makeup and had great ratings and better merchandise sales than anyone else at the After the End Times. She has better analytic skills than most of the staff, quick witted, sharp tongued, and willing to stand outside with her pistol all alone in case any zombies show up while her team leader is having a nervous breakdown.
I said part of what I liked about Feed was that there was no love story to get in the way of all the suspense and take away from the gravity of the situation. Deadline strayed towards a brief lovestory, and here’s the worst of it: I actually give a shit who Becks ends up with, if anyone. I don’t think it will work out the way I want it to. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe I’m the one in love with her. And you know SOMEONE has to die, and I really found myself clinging to the idea that the next book would be hers. Oh yeah, and she’s from the East Coast.
Now, Becks is the only girl on the team who’s worth her shit in the field. It’s true. I know that almost seems unfortunate, but a couple of the guys couldn’t shoot straight and the other ladies present held it down for the brain trust.
This book also introduced us to Dr. Abbey. Ridiculously clever, possibly mad-scientist. She can probably shoot. She also could have probably saved the world. And she’s funny. Very funny.
The important stuff: Sci-fi, classically, has introduced you to all sorts of THINGS, like aliens, robots, mind control and in this case zombies.
These things are not the “big-bad”. There something to bang your head up against while you lose sight of the actual problem. The big-bad in any sci-fi worth it’s weight is: the military industrial complex, bio-tech corporations, the government at large, and in this case specifically the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization.
27 years after the Rising, blood tests are part of daily life. 27 years after the Rising, there’s no personal privacy. Going outside requires filing paperwork and body armor, coming back inside requires blood tests and decontamination showers. Letting your kids out of the car to stretch their legs on a road trip could get you thrown in jail for child abuse. You can get criminal charges for “standing too close to a goat.” Travel that crosses more than one state line needs to be registered with the highway Commission, so that your movement can be monitored. Your location gets updated when you check into a motel or stop for gas. Air travel if practically unheard of. There’s always someone watching you, but it’s standard procedure for your safety. In many areas, you can shoot first and claim that you thought the person was infected, if it’s a high enough of a hazard zone, no questions asked.
What if it was determined that it was better to have people living in a constant state of fear? What if people would have gotten better but then they would come out of their houses and demand a different set of rules?
As said by Dr. Abbey, “It could have been worse, that’s what no one wants to admit. So the dead get up and walk around- so what? We don’t get sick like our ancestors did. We don’t die of cancer even though we keep pumping pollutants into the atmosphere as fast as we can come up with them. We live charmed lives, except for the damn zombies, and even those don’t have to be the kind of problem we make them out to me. They could just be an inconvenience. Instead, we let the define everything.”
If the population was under total control and anyone “in the know” could be reasonably sure that they wouldn’t get infected… there wouldn’t be any point in changing anything for them. And for everyone else, they were busy enough with the zombies to not look for a villain.
In Deadline, after a serious outbreak there was a warning, “Anyone found out on the streets may be shot without warning. Anyone leaving their homes will be assumed infected and treated with appropriate protocols.”
Oh, and I wanted to say something about Oakland.
The After the End Times moved it’s head quarters to Oakland, “They had a gang problem back in the early nineteen-eighties, but that cleared up, and they were fighting a different war by the time the Rising rolled around. Oakland had become the site of an ongoing conflict between the natives who’d lived there for generations and the forces of gentrification that really wanted a Starbucks on every corner and an iPod in every pocket. Then the zombies showed up, and gentrification was lost.” Yuppies headed out, but the people who’d grown up there knew how to fight for what was theirs. “Maybe they didn’t have the advantages some of the richer cities started out with, but they had a lot of places they could hole up, and they had a lot of guns. Maybe most important of all, thanks to all the gang violence I mentioned earlier, they had a lot of people who actually knew how to use the guns.” The emergency services wrote them off.
This is important. There’s a lot of consideration in this book about parts of the country where you can live. Who fell, who stood. And why. For Oakland, they stood, because this was an area who couldn’t depend on anyone outside of their community for anything. Now, in real life, ask Detroit and Chicago whether they think the government has their back.
I don’t live anywhere that chaotic, and I’m not claiming to. That being said, I live in an area where many buildings already have windows that are less than a foot and a half wide, are further off the ground and/or have bars on them. No one needs a picturesque bay window view of a coke deal across the street or someone peeing in the neighbors yard. For me, seeing someone I don’t know in my yard with no shoes on in the middle of the night gets me ready to throw a punch, not call the cops. Speaking of, there are plenty of people for who “calling the cops” isn’t really a thing. And not even because they are doing anything wrong, it’s just not a effective, results getting type of thing to do. You don’t call the cops, you call your neighbors.
The book goes on to the towns that survived versus those who didn’t. The rural areas were left pretty much to fend alone… unless they had farming or fishing. Cities were likely to be saved if there was a business district. The dust settles after the Rising, you still need banking, you need tech firms, pharmaceutical companies, you need weapons, you need cellphones, computers, cameras, satellites, you need gasoline. How would your area stand up? I think Worcester is pretty great. But no one can pronounce it, it’s a “joke” that we’re a post industrial wasteland. We’re the second largest city in Massachusetts. This is a map I’d like to show you:
It’s pretty legit.
Oh, and something does go wrong in Oakland and the CDC claims that it was people illegally breeding pitbulls for dogfighting. Which was a wonderful way to illustrate how people of authority play up stereotypes to create a culture of fear.
This is already long enough, so maybe more on that later. Or comment if you would like to talk more about that. Because I could go on.