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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Feed

Feed - Mira Grant Reading this book is like finding a particularly succulent looking chocolate, putting it in your mouth, start chewing with enthusiasm, only to find that it has a crunchy frog filling!

I love zombie movies, Romero's "Dead" series, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Fido etc. Unfortunately when it comes to zombie novels I have not had much luck so far, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Day by Day Armageddon, Rot & Ruin are not awful but they don't score very high on my personal enthusiometer. So when I noticed that Feed is a Hugo nominated novel and I hoped that this will be "the one". I mean a zombie book nominated for a Hugo? A Hugo nomination is certainly not a guarantee of quality, but at least the books tend to be fairly high brow affairs, not something I would expect from a zombie book. So I was hoping this book will be "the one", like the Dune or The Stand of zombie fiction. Alas, no.

It all started so well with a cleverly conceived post zombie breakout USA, not quite "post-apocalypse" as government still functions and people still live in houses with electricity and plumbing, not to mention the Internet. This is something of a dystopia though as people live in fear in their high-tech fortified homes, their freedom is restricted to keep the zombie plague under control and they have to have their blood tested numerous times a day for "virus amplification". The idea of a zombie virus has been done to death, but the the virus amplification concept is brilliant. Everybody is infected but the virus is dormant until triggered in various ways, occasionally it is spontaneously triggered for no apparent reason, being bitten also has the expect zombification effect. The back story of how the plague came about is also cleverly conceived and the pseudo science believable. Unfortunately, having built such an interesting world where the zombie menace is always present but still manageable the author suddenly decided to derail her own novel as if she was having a sudden attack of virus amplification herself.

For some reason the author wanted to waste her ingenious setting on a dull story line that focuses on her annoying blogger protagonists spending all their time following some damn senator on his Presidential campaign trip. The pages and pages of campaign coverage are a total snoozefest*, which is only occasionally livened up by cameo-like zombie attacks, aside from these nothing very interesting transpires during most of the novel. It would have helped if the main characters are worth following in and of themselves but I find them to be insufferable smart mouthed YA-ish stock characters, they remind me of the Scooby Gang (not in a good way).

The tragedy towards the end is a welcome bit of pathos that gives the book more of poignancy, thus avoiding its own zombification, it came almost too late though. Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire by day) is clearly a talented writer with the potential to write top notch sf novels. This one was heading there for a while until she suddenly decided to make a sharp left turn straight for the ditch. It is hard to imagine what went wrong, perhaps her muse deserted her all of a sudden? It may be a good idea for Mira Grant to contact China MiƩville and borrow some of whatever it is he is smoking.

* I "read" this book in audiobook format, and I have just realized a new advantage of audiobooks. You can read and snooze at the same time, some of it may even seep into your subconscious. I wonder if I dreamed the good parts of this novel.