Hmm. Alright, well, let’s start with what we already know. Parasite, also by Mira Grant, was easily one of the best books of 2013, no question. Somehow, tapeworms taking over the world made perfect sense. Feed, which I read earlier this year was very good, although not quite on a par with Parasite. Yay for well-thought-out zombies. Deadline is the book after Feed, and therefore the next in the Newsflesh series. Everybody with me so far?
Contains spoilers for Feed.
Plot summary: Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation 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.
Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.
These aren’t your typical zombie horror books, not are they the standard YA post-apocalyptic tripe. They’re not YA, for a start. The prose is very advanced and holds your attention, which isn’t an easy feat whilst explaining advanced immuno-biology. Secondly, whilst zombies are involved, it’s definitely more sci-fi than horror, as the novels go into great detail about the science of mutating viruses and the feasibility of a mass outbreak. It’s complicated.
Too complicated, one might say (and I do). At the risk of being patted on the head and told to run off and play with my toys… I massively struggled to follow this book. Parts of it just don’t make sense. We’re constantly given facts without the necessary explanation, like the conclusion/consequences should be blindingly obvious, only they’re not. I kept rereading paragraphs in case I’d missed something, but I rarely had.
Basically, it goes too fast. Not action-wise (we’ll get to that), but text-wise. It moves on to another topic before we’ve fully got to grips with one idea, which makes a huge difference considering the entire premise is psuedo-science based. It needs to take the time to explain itself and it doesn’t. I’m a normal person of average intelligence… yet I was confused with this. Either I’ve grossly over-estimated my own intellect or Deadline needs editing.
For example, there’s a whole thing about why it’s a big deal that Georgia had retinal Kellis-Amberlee (the virus mutation that causes zombieness) when Shaun didn’t, which I don’t understand because they were adopted separately… so of course they have different genes. And then somehow that makes Shaun a target and everyone’s nodding their heads sagely and going ”Ah yes, that makes sense…” but DOES IT!? *hyperventilates*
I’d have to say that Deadline is mostly just talking. I mean, I don’t object to that in a book necessarily but it’s a large contrast to Feed, which had a good mix of scientific theory and poking zombies with sticks. There’s a lot of travelling from place to place (and then back to the original place (via a different place)) in a van, while they talk the entire time. I never thought I’d say this, but I really just wanted them to shoot something.
And now for the point that irritated me most about Deadline: Georgia talks inside Shaun’s mind. Constantly. They have conversations throughout. I considered whether this might be mildly spoilery but it’s revealed within four pages, and I wish I’d known this before I picked the book up. Partly because it took me a while to understand what and why that was happening (which is never explained), but then I suppose we’re back to the lack of communication mentioned above.
Anyway. If you’re going to kill off a main character, COMMIT TO IT. You don’t get to have the reader’s respect for being ballsy enough to do it and still get to use them as a character in the sequel. She comes up with plans, discusses other characters with Shaun, points out pratical flaws in new ideas… exactly as she did she was alive, really. It just seemed like a lazy way to have Georgia feature in the book without that pesky problem of her being dead.
Just quickly… they are implying incest, right? Because they have a creepy-ass relationship if they’re not.
While, we’re on the topic of characters, I actually really did like Maggie and her epileptic bulldogs. There we go, I said something nice. Shaun, however, I did not like (aaaaaaand we’re back). He’s awful -he’s an arrogant thug and his entire team just kind of accepts it. It’s a first person narrative too, so we’re subjected to him calling people ‘bitches’ and talking about he constantly ‘wants to punch him/her in the face.’ I even hated his team for the way they just meekly took it. Get a backbone, people.
I struggled with seeing any of them as adults. I think I assume they’re all 17/18 so it’s odd when they have (reasonably graphic) sex and one of them is suddenly married. They act like teenagers and it’s asking my imagination to out-do itself in order for me to believe otherwise.
Finally, the end of Book IV would have been a perfect place to end the novel, but it doesn’t. It’s unecessarily dragged-out and I really didn’t appreciate the weak and obvious ending.
I know it sounds like I’m being overly harsh on Deadline, but I had high expectations so I feel frustrated and disappointed. I still barely understand what’s going on, who’s behind it or why. It’s dry and repetitive with incredibly irritating characters. I really hope Symbiont, the sequel to Parasite, is better than this.