Lowdown: A gang of bloggers investigates a zombie conspiracy.
I quite liked Mira Grant’s Feed; it won my vote for this year’s best book Hugo award for a start if you ask me, it was the only worthwhile nominee). Better evidence for me liking it comes in the shape of me buying and [relatively] quickly reading its sequel, Deadline, even though Feed had a proper ending and didn’t scream out for a sequel.
Deadline takes off some months to a year after Feed finishes. The story is told in first person from the point of view of Shaun Mason, the master blogger whose sister Georgia told us the first person story of Feed. By now the presidential candidate they were blogging about in Feed has become president and Shaun has himself a new gang of fellow bloggers to replace those that turned into zombies at the end of Feed. Oh, didn’t you know? Feed and Deadline are post apocalyptic zombie science fiction books.
As the book starts, a visitor knocks on Shaun’s door. She carries a secret with her: it seems as if all humans carrying benign infections of the virus that turns people into zombies die prematurely of unnatural causes. Our team of bloggers quickly jumps at the queue to investigate matters and find the truth of the matter, but just as quickly find themselves being hunted down by elusive foes that stop at nothing to stop the truth from being exposed. Thus begins a saga that is pretty similar in nature to the saga described in Feed.
It’s very much the same story, only told from Shaun’s point of view instead: each quarter of the book tells us of another escapade in which the heroes venture into some zombie laden territory (and then get out). The exception is the middle bit, in which we have a long and thorough break during which Shaun has sex with a fellow blogger. And throughout it all, we have the voice of Georgia popping up in Shaun’s head. Just in case you haven’t caught my drift here: given that my main complaint against Feed was its tedious nature, that complaint is quadrupled in Deadline.
It’s actually worse. I could smell something fishy the second the “cloning” card was drawn at the book’s very beginning; usually, stories that have nothing to do with cloning and which draw this card do so in order to get out of a particularly tight corner they get themselves stuck in. That smell grew into a stench as my reading of the book progressed and I began to realize it would take something special for this book to be able to offer a satisfying ending. Then, at the very end, I realized I found myself in the middle of this gigantic dumpster: Deadline does not have an end; it has a weird and unexplained twist (of a rather fantastic nature) and it just stops.
It stops without giving us any explanations about absolutely anything concerning the conspiracy at hand. Virtually all Deadline does provide, given that lack of detail, is the story of 3-4 zombie encounters and a detailed sex scene. That is not what I am after when I read me a thick book.
Deadline is actually worse than that. Shaun is a bit fucked in the head, you see, since the time he had to do what he had to do to his sister (back in Feed). He constantly has to show us this nature of his, and thus he spends half the book banging his fists against walls, banging his fists against his colleagues, or talking to his inner sister’s voice. Sure, there is nothing wrong with having a mentally ill person as the hero of a book, but it sure is hard to identify with them. And it sure is annoying to read for the fiftieth time that their knuckles hurt from hitting the wall.
I was willing to live with it in order to see how things end up, but then again – things don’t end up with Deadline, do they?
I may be behind the times. Maybe it is the contemporary formula to make a trilogy off everything, with the first part being a good all around book and the second being nothing but a tool to make you buy the third. Maybe.
I will not succumb to the formula, though. If someone sells me a book then that book has to stand up for itself; if they want to sell me a book that is meaningless without its sequel then they have to tell me very clearly about it in advance. Deadline didn’t, and therefore Deadline does not pass as a book by my standards.
I therefore see no choice but to grant Grant 0.5 out of 5 stars. Do not come close to this one unless you’re already in possession of its yet unpublished sequel!