I know I've said it before, but I adore Seanan McGuire's stuff. I've already rec'd the Toby Daye series, and I really enjoyed the two entries in the InCryptid series that are out. I'd known she'd written the Newsflesh trilogy under the pseudonym Mira Grant, but I hadn't gotten around to reading them. That changed in the last week, after I devoured the series in a way I haven't in a long time. If you're looking for zombies, post-Rising society, and political conspiracy, this is your stop because whoo-boy, does it have them in spades.
Premise: Three things happened in 2014: humans cured cancer. Humans cured the common cold. Oh, and the dead started to rise thanks to the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Now, over 20 years post-Rising, the social and political structures of the world have dramatically shifted. Bloggers and adoptive siblings Shaun and Georgia "George" Mason grew up in a world where any mammal over 40 pounds will turn into a zombie upon death, where blood tests are a regular thing, and where the less you can go outside, the better. That is, unless you're a journalist out for a story or to poke dead things with a stick.
Selected by Senator Peter Ryman to follow his presidential campaign, Shaun, George, and their colleague Buffy (real name Georgette) think this is an opportunity to kickstart their careers. It's all fun and zombie hunting games until they manage to uncover a vast political conspiracy that turns the biggest story of their lives to what could be their last. And that's just the first book.
The books are Feed, Deadline, and Blackout.
Why you should read them: I know that zombies are the big thing right now, and that there are ton of different types of media that have the walking dead in them. What sets this trilogy apart, however, is its setting. Rather than focusing on the immediate aftermath of the Rising, the books look at how society has adjusted to the presence of zombies and how that would react with the current security climate. In the world that Mira Grant has constructed, privacy is almost non-existant, thanks to constant blood tests and biometric monitoring. Fear and paranoia are constants for this post-Rising society, and they are logical extensions to where our society is today. Traditional media sources are viewed with heavy skepticism, and most people turn to the internet and bloggers for their information. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Furthermore, while zombies certainly play an important role (ZOMBIE GRIZZLY BEAR, GUYS), it's only part of the puzzle. This series is also a political conspiracy and medical thriller, starting from the first book. Much of the suspense comes from not hunting or being chased by zombies (although there is a good chunk of that), but from the twists and turns of the plot. Especially during Deadline, the middle book, I was sitting on the edge of my chair too afraid to breathe because I didn't know what was going to happen next. The protagonists are so far over their heads and they don't realize it until everything starts blowing up in their faces in the most spectacular and bloody way possible.
As with the Toby Day series, the worldbuilding is fantastic. Grant spends time developing how a post-zombie world might look like, what cities/states/countries humanity has chosen to cede to the living dead (Alaska and India did not fare well), how things like travel are impacted, new legal precedents, politics, medicine, etc. And she does it in a way that's believable and compelling and terrifying at the same time. Of course the CDC is going to be one of the most powerful organizations in this new world order. Of course the politics discussing the death penalty and abortion are going to change. Of course I'm now going to be terrified of the idea of zombie deer. It all builds on each other, and something that might be a throwaway reference in an early part of the series has drastic complications later on.
And the characters are great as well. Shaun and Georgia are semi-militarized codependant sibling bloggers. George is a Newsie who sees things in black and white and will tell the truth no matter what. Shaun is a devil-may-care Irwin who likes poking dead things with sticks and likes weapons. Buffy is a tech genius who writes poetry and smut about the interns working for Ryman's campaign. Peter Ryman is a candidate who is almost too good to be true. I would go into more characters, but then more spoilers and I think the best way to enjoy these books are as unspoiled as you can because there are some twists that you just don't see coming.
Which brings me to my last point. These books have the potential to leave you emotionally devastated. I was getting toward the end of Feed and just shocked and crying and so glad I wasn't reading on the Metro. There were more times than I can count when I was texting friends with "SO DONE, MY BRAIN IS CRYING." In a good way, though. :)
General disclaimers regarding this series: lots of blood and brains and decaying bodies. (ZOMBIES. what did you expect?) Emotionally devastating plot twists. Far too many "What the fuck???" moments to count. One character going crazy starting in the second book (although it's handled fairly well). Overall, though, these books are fantastic reads and I can't recommend them enough. If you want a good zombie thriller, read these books. I don't think you'll regret it.
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