I love a good post-apocalyptic story. Hell, I even enjoy ones that aren’t that good, because just the hint of one will perk my ears. And given the proclivity of this kind of setting lately, it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. Just
yesterday I came across some trailers for an upcoming game, The Last of Us, where a version of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the fungus that can create a zombie ant, has jumped to humans and created zombies and lead to the collapse of civilization as we know it. I know so very little about the gameplay, the plot, anything, but I know it looks gorgeous and I’m suddenly we’ve got a PS3 and I’ll be able to play it! I’ve also written before about another such setting I ate up (a coincidentally interesting choice of words on my part) when I wrote about Feed by Mira Grant, which features fantastic world-building. The third book and final book in that trilogy, Blackout, releases later this month and I can’t wait to read it.
When reading up on TLOU the other day, a few things occured me. One, this was a perfect topic for my next Thursday Tropes post! Two, I clearly have an itch to write my own post-apocalyptic story, so I should work on that at some point. And three, why are we obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories? I’ve come to at least one conclusion: it’s real-life fanfiction crossed with cautionary tale. Read more
Feed, Book 1 of the Newsflesh trilogy, is the post-apocalyptic zombie novel I’ve been waiting for. I love post-apocalyptic stories. They fascinate me; The Walking Dead is one my favorite tv shows and graphic novels for its excellent extended exploration of what happens after the world ends. The stories of the world wiped clean and regressing into the Dark Ages is old news now; even the story of how the world ends has gotten stale. You’ve got zombies? That’s cool (though my friend Auston will argue otherwise). But they aren’t really that interesting, they aren’t characters, they’re just a plot device. I’m not as interested in how your apocalypse happened or how you survived it, tell me what happens next. After The End, after Happily Ever After (or not), because that’s the interesting. Not how the world ends, how it changed.
Penned by Mira Grant, Feed takes place in 2039, after the zombies have risen, and the world beat them more or less back, but still lives and functions with the constant threat of outbreak. Because every living person is already infected, and it’s a matter of time until they become the undead themselves. In this novel, we follow Georgia and Shaun Mason, bloggers dedicated to the goddamn truth, as they and their friend Buffy are selected to become the dedicated press attachment of Senator Ryman’s bid for the presidency.
This novel came out in May 2010 in paperback, and I think I’ve had it sitting on my nightstand since about then. Shame on me, I know. What made me finally pick up and start reading Feed?
I also recently borrowed from a friend and read the five books so far released in the October (“Toby”) Daye series by Seanan McGuire. This series is about a half-faerie private eye and knight living in San Francisco, solving all manner of fae-on-fae crime. While I once overlooked this series for the ridiculousness of the main character’s name–let’s face, ridiculous names tend to plague the fantasy genre–upon this recommendation I tried it out and devoured the books in the space of about a month. What McGuire does best is fantastic world-building: she has done her research and built her world of faerie mythology soundly, constantly adding in new tidbits and interesting twists. The latest book, One Salt Sea, took place half in an undersea realm still filled with Faerie denizens new to both the reader and Toby alike and it was just excellent. These faerie have rules, traditions, politics, a long list of intriguing and very different races, ties back to any and all faerie stories you heard as a kid and as an adult. They’re mean and quixotic, they don’t think like we do, and yet they have to try since they live half in our world, and it’s this thin line that Toby straddles.
What’s this got to with a book about zombies and bloggers? Well, turns out Mira Grant is Seanan McGuire’s pseudonym for this particular series. Once I knew that, I dove into Feed, and it has just as much excellent attention to detailed world-building as her other novels, with a great deal of thought (and consistency!) put into a world where the zombies have come and redefined everything about how we live our lives. There are security measures that have been planned, sections of the country that are more dangerous than others, how we eat out at restaurants has been addressed, and blood tests abound freakin’ everywhere because you could quite literally just suddenly become a zombie.
While the story has a slow build that may frustrate some, it’s got very worthwhile pay off, good characters, and it’s not boring while its building, either. Feed takes some really great risks that pay off, too. If you enjoy these things, and if you really like or are looking for some great world-building, I recommend the Newsflesh and the October Daye series alike.