Wednesday, September 15, 2010

After the Zombie Apocalypse, life goes on

Most zombie stories take place during the initial outbreak.  That makes sense; action movies are based on action, after all, and normal humans first finding out that their loved ones want to eat them tends to create plenty of action.  Even movies like the recent Zombieland still have a post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

But what happens after the first outbreak?  Assuming that we normal folk can keep some kind of containment going, you might get a world like the one in Mira Grant’s Feed.

It all started out innocently enough.  In 2014, scientists use engineered viruses to cure both the common cold and cancer.  One would think that this would create a new renaissance.  But a few problems begin, snowballing into the greatest public health epidemic in world history.  

First, liberal do-gooders, who are afraid that the scientists might try to sell the cold virus cure, steal the new virus, called the Kellis virus, go up in crop dusters, and spread the cure around the country.  Some people hailed them as the greatest humanists of all time.  At the same time, the first cases of cancer are cured with the Amberlee virus.

What no one knows until it is too late, however, is that when the two viruses interact, they cause Kellis-Amberlee syndrome.  Generally benign as long as the host is alive, once the host dies, the virus becomes active within the host.  The body resurrects, with higher brain function destroyed, and an insatiable craving for fresh meat.  Every animal over 40lbs can, and is, infected (there’s at least one recorded death by giraffe bite at a zoo...).  Being bitten, even non-fatally, by a human or animal with active Kellis-Amberlee in its system will also cause the virus to manifest in the victim.

On top of that, when the virus first broke out, the Mainstream Media mocked the idea that zombies were among us, and actively tried to cover it up.  The internet, however, distributed the true information, along with ways to kill zombies, localized outbreak information, and theories about how the outbreak started.  Because of this, many, many people do not pay attention to the MSM anymore, and the idea of blogging news has taken off. 

This brings us to our intrepid reporters.  There’s Georgia, the leader of the group, and a staunch Newsie (fact with as little opinion or commentary as possible); Shaun, her not-quite-twin brother and Irwin (a little too dumb to survive, likes to poke at zombies with sticks, and gets everyone into trouble, but draws lots of ratings); and Buffy, the small, blonde, perky Fictional (writes the fiction, poetry, and soap operas of the ‘net).

Mira Grant has worldbuilding down to a science in this book.  She does enough that nothing pops out of nowhere to surprise us (except zombies, but that’s what they do), but not so much that it gets repetitive or boring.  Every leap that the country has done socially makes sense, and even the science seems plausible.  Nothing annoys me more than coming upon bad science in a novel, but Grant has audited virology courses to make sure that this book makes sense, and it shows.  It sets the stage well for the next two books for the trilogy, but still has closure unto itself.  Very nice novel.

Highs:  Worldbuilding, characters

Lows:  Some zombie cheesiness

Verdict:  Great start to the trilogy

Further Reading:  Boneshaker, World War Z

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