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Kaia

Kaia

Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
Neuromancer
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
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Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
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Erin Morgenstern
Perdition
Ann Aguirre
Feed - Mira Grant Considering some of the things I read about Feed before getting it, my hopes of liking it weren't that high. Granted that could in part be because zombie novels have let me down so much lately. But hey, let it never be said that I'm unwilling to give books their fair shot. There's a lot of good and bad in Feed. Hell, there's a lot, period. There's so much book, I could use the thing to reach the top of the bookcase if I wanted to. The question is, did there need to be that much book? Well, probably not.The Good:The world-building - It's not perfect (and I'll talk about that a bit later) but it's by far the best world-building in any of these books so far whoops, that's not much of a compliment. I like that we're not living in a world full of sheep-like humans that are totally at the mercy of zombies. Humanity has rebuilt a life for itself and Mira Grant seems to have thought a fair bit about what this entails: gated communities, test kits, special biohazard procedures. It's a world where hope still means something. Characters - Question mark. I mean, I appreciate the fact that this is neither a zombie book dominated by men, or by ex-military/law enforcement women obviously written by men. But there were only two characters I connected with at all. One was Emily Ryman, the wife of the senator George and Shaun follow around and blog about. I guess maybe because I, too, am in doubt as to whether I'd be discouraged by zombie palominos. I mean, if excruciating pain, dust allergies, and below freezing temperatures can't keep me away from the horses, I don't think a zombie virus will either. No, seriously, I've gone riding in rain, sleet, and 11F weather. I'm pretty insane like that. Also, though she's presented as somewhat fragile at times, Emily is made of Fierce. I love how she jumps at Tate like she's about to rip his eyeballs out and shove them up his ass. Also, I liked Rick. I'm not even sure why, though him rescuing that cat helped. What can I say? I love animals. But there's always a sense of something more to Rick, which is nice in a book full of characters with all the depth of a puddle. Zombies - Question mark. Question mark. This is kind of true and untrue at the same time. In comparison to some, the zombies weren't that superfluous or unscary, just mostly unscary and I think this comes down to world-building. Giving the zombies the classic "arms forward" zombie pose meant that mostly, when they were around, I found myself giggling. But Grant does a pretty good job of convincing the reader that the people find the zombies scary. To the characters in the book, the zombies aren't superfluous. The zombies have affected their lives and taken their loved ones. That doesn't really make them not superfluous, but I was at least convinced some of the time.Also, I like that the zombie disease was created because people were trying to do something good, for a change, rather than because greedy mad scientists were trying to make greedy rich people live forever, or because the army was secretly trying to craft super soldiers. Not that I mind that latter so much, but the former is tired. The whole "zombies happen because people are just evil and stupid" thing in general is tired.Story - Question mark. Question mark. Question mark. I know, this is all coming off lukewarm. I had a lot of mixed feelings about Feed. But the perspective of the whole thing was kind of nifty. I liked that it wasn't a world that had been totally wiped out and that, therefore, we were dealing with familiar topics: primarily, in this case, the presidential election. A campaign trail plagued by zombies is not actually something I've seen before. Unless we're counting the Tea Party.I guess what I'm trying to say here is that there are some genuinely nice elements to Feed. There were things I very much enjoyed about Feed, and I wanted to point that out before moving on, because this isn't going to get nicer. On the surface, Feed seems meticulously thought out, but as soon as you start looking closer, it really comes apart.The Bad:World-building - It seems to make sense upon first appearance, but the small problems start adding up. There are some surprising technological discrepancies, and some technology is set back years. Strangely, you've got tiny little cameras that can be hidden in earrings and those tacky little jewels some women wear on their nails, and can be activated through motion, but voice recognition software doesn't recognize idioms--even really popular ones. Which is strange, since we're having success training our current voice recognition software to recognize idioms. Why this should spend 28 years backsliding, I don't know.What about cell phones? Those appear to have stagnated circa 2008. Shaun strikes me as the kind of dude to sit around playing Angry Zombie Birds on his Smartphone when he's bored, so why doesn't he? And how about cars? One would think that lightly armored cars would be standard in the market these days. Not to mention, where are the hybrids? What alternative fuel sources are we using? How come we still seem to be using gasoline? Sure, a lot of people are housebound, but on the other hand, you can't bike or walk to your friend's house anymore either. I don't think zombies are going to make the fuel crisis disappear. So basically we can have pages and pages of the same old security checks, but not a sentence spent on fuel sources? During a presidential campaign? I don't even know how to feel about that. And where's the social media? Where are the sites like Facebook, which one would think would be even more popular now that meeting face-to-face has become so dangerous. For that matter...Where the fuck is Twitter? Do you know what moves news across the internet faster than Twitter these days? Exactly nothing. Remember that awful thing in Arizona that happened to Representative Giffords, and how afterwards Sarah Palin was all "I totes did not say anything that could be construed as encouraging people to use physical violence against my political enemies"? And how Twitter proved that was a total lie practically before she even said it? If anything is going to be the forefront of news spreading during the zombie apocalypse, it's Twitter. And yes, that's ignominious as hell, but sometimes that's just the way the zombie explodes, guys.Where did the Whedonites go, by the way? This is the internet, it never forgets. You mean to tell me that George spent like her entire life on the internet and never managed to encounter a single Buffy meme? Not a single macro? And just how do George's family eat goose and turkey on holidays if most of the world has abandoned eating poultry? Can Shaun hunt wild turkeys as well as zombies?If this book had been around 300 pages I don't think it would've bothered me as much. But it was over five hundred and way too much of that was repetition of shit like security checks. What's the point of reading a 500 page book set 28 years in the future if it feels like it's set tomorrow?Georgia - Yeah, I disliked her so much, she gets her own section. I don't think I've wanted to reach into a book and slap a character this badly since I read Mockingjay. I mean, I didn't like her before her nasty, misogynistic comments about Wagman, but that really did it in. Georgia is a hypocrite, first of all. She complains about people living in gated communities and being all paranoid that the zombies will find them and eat them, for cripes sake but at the same time, she's against keeping pets because the family dog nommed on her parents' original kid. Never mind that her parents are exploitive assholes and George knows this. She'd still rather abandon species to mass extinction, and would sit idly by as whole ecosystems collapsed. Because of a kid she never met. And parents that use her.While we're at it, George is horribly dishonest. She makes a lot of noise about being a Newsie, "just the facts, ma'am", but this is an outright lie. She doesn't rely on opinion or spin? Bah. The only blog posts we see of hers are opinion. And as for spin, if there was any more spin in those posts, her blog would have its own gravitational pull. It's one thing to admit to having biases, but George acts like those biases rarely affect her work, and this is demonstrably untrue. Also, she lies to people as well. Nice.Characters - Suffice it to say that I didn't hardly like any of them. Shaun is a dick, Buffy is a nitwit, and the presidential candidates. Hoo boy. The only reasons there was three dimensions involved is because they each had one apiece. Tate was a puppy kicker, Ryman was Republican Jesus, and Wagman was an excuse to say some really horribly misogynistic things about women with nice bodies. And when Ryman brought Tate onto his ticket, it was just so dumb and contrived. It was like a Puppy Rescue Organization hiring Cruella deVille.Premise - Really? Really really? Now, look. Narrow this down to a city, maybe a state, and fine. Government shutting up the media? No problem. The media refusing to believe in the zombies? Fine, I can suspend my disbelief that far. Humans are amazingly dumb and malleable at times. But the entire world? A zombie pandemic breaks out worldwide and I'm supposed to believe that the media everywhere stuck its fingers in its ears and went "Tra la la la la, we're not listening"? And it was bloggers who came to the rescue?Fascinating. So apparently the zombie apocalypse eliminated trolls from existence. The bloggers were all reliable and honest. Pfft, yeah, I'm so sure. And now 28 years later, despite this, and despite the fact that everyone goes to blogs for their news (and, for some reason, really god awful stories and poems) bloggers still can't get no respect from the traditional media? You mean like, the traditional media, much of which is online and many of whom already have their own blogs? Taking bloggers with you on your presidential campaign is some big, strange thing? Lady, you do realize that President Obama is on Twitter, don't you? Feed ends up reading like it was written by someone who loves blogging and is convinced it's still like the early 2000s when everyone thought blogging was a joke. This gets even weirder when you consider that my copy of the book has an interview with the author in which she acknowledges how big a part of news reporting blogs have become.And while we're on the subject of stupid premises...the only source of information for how to fight the zombies in the year 2014 was George Romero's movies? You mean like Night of the Living Dead, which is roughly half a century old? Ohh, do you mean the remake of Night of the Living Dead? The one that's only a quarter century old. How about Dawn of the Dead? Hmm, nope, the original was made in the seventies and the remake would still be twenty years old. I know Romero is still doing movies, but it seems strange to me that this would be the primary source in this day and age. You'd think at least Max Brooks would warrant a mention.Also...the entire world relied on Romero's movies? Gosh, I guess Britain figured 28 Days Later just wouldn't be helpful enough. It's really too gosh darn bad that there haven't been dozens of zombie movies made in countries all across the world. But oddly, the thing that got to me the most (and this is odd because I've never watched Romero's movies) is that Georgia continually refers to them as "bad horror". Which is funny, because from what I've been led to understand they are generally a) very good and b) actually a vehicle for social commentary. Which makes me wonder if Grant and many other zombie writers these days truly understand the origin of zombies in modern storytelling. Science - The science (please understand that I use the word loosely) in this book often brought me to a screeching halt. My poor husband almost didn't make it through the first part. I know, I know. It sounds good. It looks good. From a distance. Let's start with the Kellis virus, shall we? Part of what makes the cold hard to cure (I mean, outside of using bed rest and chicken noodle soup) is that it moves fast and mutates at an alarming rate. Therefore, the idea that someone would think to make a cure based on just that virulency leaves me scratching my head. Dude honestly went "Eureka! I will make a cure for the cold by using the cold!" Ahm...I just...it's really hard to see this as a good plan. And I guess the version that got out was still in testing (that detail got lost in the myriad of other ones, I admit) but still. It doesn't sound that smart to me, but I suppose I could live with it.The real problem is Marburg Amberlee. When I told my husband they'd used an engineered form of Marburg to cure cancer, he stared at me like I was insane. Now that I know what Marburg is, I can see that. Marburg is related to Ebola and causes high fever and bleeding. Usually to death. Some outbreaks can reach 70% fatality rates. It's a biosafety level 4 agent (to understand the severity of this, there is no established level 5). Why the ever loving fuck would you even attempt to cure cancer with that? How do you go from "potentially fatal fever and hemorrhaging" to "cure for cancer!" ? What the bloody hell could Marburg even do inside the human body that would cure cancer? No idea, and Grant never explains herself. It just works, like magic. In fact, it's so effective that people smoke like chimneys because they can't get lung cancer anymore. Which proves that humanity hasn't gotten any fucking smarter, because lung cancer is not the only fatal problem smoking causes.And then...and then! Marburg Amberlee and Kellis meet up, fall in love, and make zombie virus babies. Dawww. How do they do that? Magic, I presume. There's no explanation of why the viruses mutated to cause zombies. Nor any explanation of why they can both lie dormant in the human body, doing exactly what they were originally made to do until someone goes zombie. Yes, these two diseases mutated together to create a zombie virus but neither one stopped doing what it originally did. Somehow. Don't ask me how. Magic, probably. And they make zombies by...MAGIC! It must be freakin' magic, because zombies require either magic or some effect on the nervous system to work, and neither cancer nor the cold affect the nervous system, so why the actual fuck would the cures for cancer and the cold affect the nervous system? I don't know, it's simply never explained. And it doesn't make a lick of sense. It doesn't make sense, either, that you can go zombie by being exposed to live virus, randomly amplifying, or dying of old age in your bed. The zombies are alive. I don't care how much she refers to them as dead, they move and they breathe. If sentience was needed for something to qualify as alive, we'd be about the only living things on the planet. Considering what death does to the body, how the frack does that work? Was it really necessary to crib the idea directly from Romero's work? And how did people survive a virus so virulent that meat has to be completely charred to be safe to eat? This thing should have wiped out humanity without much effort. And finally...I fucking hate zombie viruses that affect animals other than humans (or primates) when they're not made for other animals. Ever notice how you've never caught a cold from your pet rabbit? There's a reason for that. Of course, the virus seems to be airborne and therefore should affect anything with nostrils. But only mammals over 40 pounds can turn. Why 40 pounds? George gives some ridiculous explanation about an "imbalance" between brain and body mass which is basically bullshit. A more likely explanation? It's an arbitrary number Grant picked when she realized that if she didn't do something, her world would be overrun by zombie rats. Though why zombie raccoons keep getting mentioned, I don't know. They max out around 20. Also, cheated out of zombunnies again. The world is cruel. It's not that I need my zombies to make sense. Hello, they're zombies. But just say "It was X-Virus" and move on. Grant did not move on. She kept throwing more science and more ridiculous explanations at the problem, drawing my attention to the fact that none of it made sense. I could keep going, not just on science but on various bits of research. There's a half-assed attempt to sound like she knows a damn thing about horses that fails for any of us that actually do. But I won't talk about that, because it makes me ragey. The Ugly:Animals - I'll keep this as brief as possible: George's attitude towards animals fucking pissed me off so much, and I hate that humanity gets a free pass on not taking responsibility for its actions.Wagman - Fucking....ARGH! Speaking of rage. Wagman is the one female candidate in the race and such an offensive caricature that thinking about her makes me feel downright violent. She's pretty, dumb as a brick (of course, what else could pretty women be?) and has gotten so far in her campaign by promising to remove another piece of clothing each time she gets further in the race. Yeah fucking right. I don't have much faith in my fellow Americans, but yeah, fucking, right. Not only does Grant use this to say some really vile things, including comparing the woman to a stripper (because women, especially stupid ones, should always be shamed for their sexuality) but um, yikes? If after 28 years and a zombie apocalypse we still have not made strides in curing our world of all its sexism and rape culture, then really, I wish the zombies had won.The Villain - Can you say obvious? Like as in, an obvious sundae with obvious hot sauce, obvious whipped cream, and an obvious cherry on top?The Accident - I suppose you can argue there's more than one of these, but I'm referring to the one that kills Buffy. To be more specific, I'm referring to the fact that Buffy betrays her friends for the sake of religion. Something about Buffy always felt off, like somehow despite her being extremely tech-savvy, Grant did everything she could think of to make her otherwise naive and stupid. Which I guess was her exact intention, because otherwise why should we believe that Buffy would sell out her friends to some nameless dude who makes the GOD WHARGARBL argument? Or were we supposed to go "Oh, she's religious and religious people are idiots, so she would totes sell her friends out to someone whose name she doesn't know even though she knows it's wrong"? Whatever, it grated on my nerves. Another shallow stereotype in an ocean of shallow stereotypes.The End - Not the very end, but George's death. Since I a) already knew it was coming and b) hated George anyway, it doesn't bother me in that sense. What bothered me is that it's such a cheap tactic. It's not brave. It's not a gut punch, it's a sucker punch. I'm really tired of authors being praised as brave for this sort of shit. No they're not. They're just completely hard up for ideas on how to wrap the reader's heart around their little finger without jerking on the drama chain. I could keep going. There were tons of little things in Feed that annoyed the heck out of me. Hell, half the fun of reading it was complaining about it. But really, isn't that half the fun of bad horror anyway?