Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: Deadline by Mira Grant


Deadline by Mira Grant
Published: Orbit, 2011
Series: Book 2 of the Newsflesh Trilogy
Awards Nominated: Hugo Award and Philip K. Dick Award

Spoiler Warning: This review will contain serious spoilers of the first book in the series, Feed. I would recommend not reading this review if you haven’t read Mira Grant’s Feed.

The Book:

“Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.” ~from barnesandnoble.com

Deadline is the sequel to Feed, a Hugo-nominated novel that I’ve read and reviewed on this blog.  I loved Feed and was eager to read the rest of the series.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Deadline lived up to the expectations I had after finishing the first novel of the trilogy.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed Grant’s thorough world building in Feed, and I continued to enjoy her attention to many aspects of post-Rising life and society in Deadline.  The second book provides even more information about the Kellis-Amberlee “zombie” virus and how it interacts with human and animal bodies.  We also get to hear a little about how people outside the US have been coping with the post-Rising world, a topic I hope is expanded upon in the final book. In addition, there are some more interesting digressions about how some mundane experiences, such as grocery shopping and air travel, have changed.  I actually read a good portion of this novel while traveling, so I had a fun time comparing post- and pre-Rising airport security protocols.  The zombies themselves, though, seem less present than in Feed. They often show up as a threat to be avoided, but there’s very little zombie-fighting action featured in the novel.   All in all, I remain impressed with Grant’s imaginative, highly regulated, post-zombie America.

One Last Spoiler Warning! If you didn’t listen to me above, and you haven’t read Feed, stop reading now!  I really don’t want to ruin Feed for you!  As you know, the cast went through a major shift by the end of Feed.  Of the three main characters from the first novel, the only survivor, Shaun, is the viewpoint character of the second book.  George is still present, in a sense, but only as a hallucination in Shaun’s head.  Even the major secondary characters from the first book, such as the former Senator Ryman and the former blogger Rick, are no longer present.  Instead, a few bloggers from the previous book step up into the limelight.  The new central team includes Maggie, the pharmaceutical heiress and new head of the Fictionals, Becks, the ex-debutante Newsie-turned-Irwin, Alaric, a quiet Newsie, and Mahir, an Indian staff member living in the UK.  They’re all interesting and quirky characters, but I felt that they weren’t as fully developed as the team in Feed. Part of that could be due to the fact that, as a narrator, George paid a lot of attention to the people around her, while Shaun was mostly just focused on himself.

That brings me to my first major complaint about the novel.  I liked Shaun as a character in Feed, and even as a viewpoint character near the end of the book. In Deadline, which I believe occurs roughly a year after the events of Feed, Shaun is really hard for me to care about. He’s incredibly absorbed in his own inner world of anguish, and has become a textbook-case physical abuser towards his employees.  Given his behavior, I found it hard to believe that he would still have both employees and ownership of the blog site. He also tends to talk constantly about his ‘craziness’, which mostly involves him having imaginary conversations with his dead sister.  For the most part, he seems to use his alleged ‘craziness’ as an excuse to not even attempt to cope with his grief or consider how his actions affect others.  For me, all of this combined to make reading the story through his mental filter an incredibly frustrating experience.   

Once the conspiracy hunting gets underway, Shaun’s voice becomes a little less grating.  However, I ended up having some serious issues with the structure and content of the plot. Shaun and his team’s actions often seem more random than purposeful, and almost all of their successes are literally handed to them by characters that conveniently show up just to dispense chunks of information.  There were also some major plot twists near the end that didn’t really feel connected to the bulk of the story. Some of them felt like they cheapened the impact of events in Feed.
In terms of content, I was disappointed that Deadline did not seem to correct Feed’s problem of clich├ęd, over-the-top villainy. If anything, the villains in Deadline seem even more stereotypical and mustache-twirling.  I was on board with the idea of corruption within corporations who operate with no checks on their power, but most of what is implied about the grand mysterious conspiracy seems, at this point, somewhat unrealistic and slightly ridiculous.  I’m getting the impression that some of these problems arise from Deadline being a transitional book (between Feed and next year’s finale).  From that perspective, I don’t think I can really say how I feel about many of these issues until I see how it all eventually ties together in the final volume.

My Rating: 2.5/5

I started reading Deadline with high expectations, but I don’t think that it ultimately lived up to the standard set by Feed, the initial book of the Newsflesh Trilogy.  Grant’s post-Rising world was still fascinating, and I enjoyed learning more about both the zombie virus and other aspects of society.  However, the new cast of characters didn’t seem to be as fully realized, and I found Shaun to be a much less sympathetic narrator.  I had some issues with both structure and content of the plot, which seem to arise from a bad case of ‘middle book syndrome’.  Certain plot twists do not seem to relate significantly to the rest of the story, and too many characters seem to show up solely for info-dump purposes.  Deadline also seems to continue Feed’s problem of one-dimensional, stereotypical villains, with all the absurd plots and schemes that typically entails.  With all that said, I’m still looking forward to reading the final installment, Blackout, next year. I still want to know how the story ends, and I remain hopeful that everything will eventually tie together satisfactorily.

4 comments:

  1. Pity. Although living up to incredibly high expectations and unique freshness set by "Feed" was always going to be a mean feat. I'm hoping that the Hugo ballots this weekend won't be tainted by the disappointment of "Deadline."

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  2. Yeah, I've been trying not to let "Deadline" affect my opinion of "Feed". I hope this doesn't hurt "Feed"'s Hugo chances. In any case, I still think there's a chance the third novel might pick back up.

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  3. Thanks for bringing this up here. For anyone else reading, Amazon and B&N have released Seanan McGuire's new novel "Discount Armageddon" earlier than its planned release date of March 6. This is especially awful considering it is the launch of a new series, and the first-week sales of the novel may play a role in decisions regarding its continuation. If you're considering buying "Discount Armageddon", please wait until after March 6!

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