My wife frequently goes to the library for books, although this concept has never really sunk in with me. If something is worth reading, it’s worth owning. If I actually go to a bookstore, I wander around in confusion until I find a particular author I am trying to collect all the works of. George Orwell comes to mind. I for one am already missing Borders, the defunct chain which tended to be pretty comprehensive with Classic author’s bibliographies.
Anyway, my wife’s taste in books is less, how shall I say, Draconian. She knows what good literature is, she just mainly chooses not to read it. She reads new authors. She has “discovered” some really good new books, even great ones I never would have found, but let’s face it-she reads a lot of garbage.
She brought a book home last week that caught my eye, being of the Zombie genre, at least ostensibly. I am leery of picking up her books, because I will read literally anything, if I get past the first paragraph or so. Let me preface this- I invested and lost no money in buying FEED, by Seanan McGuire (Myra Grant). I didn’t even invest the effort to thumb through and find the book at a bookstore or library. It simply materialized on a large wooden cabinet she keeps her library books on. This review is about time-my time. I’m not so egotistical to think my time is overly valuable. After all, it was over Thanksgiving. so I had some time off anyway. I don’t even like the idea of reviewing a book which didn’t blow me away. So what’s my beef?
This is precisely the point. I didn’t lose much, but still feel called upon to review this book. Partly because it’s a Zombie book, but mostly because the book annoyed the hell out of me.
McGuire is a good writer. It was a successful book, in that it made a lot of money, she won a Hugo Award, and got one hundred and thirteen 5 star reviews on Amazon. I liked the central premise, and thought the idea itself was creative. It doesn’t bother me that the book was primarily about blogging and her political beliefs. I’m cool with that. Good Zombie books are never about Zombies. They’re about human beings dealing with being human beings while distracted by Zombies.
What bothers me is this could have been a really good book. She did everything necessary to create a really good product, but never seemed to consider her place in the pantheon of writers at all. I suppose you could say she wasn’t swinging for the fence. Why not though? She’s young? Fitzgerald had written Gatsby by 28, to name just one writer who wrote a classic book young. Toole, Wolfe, and Hemingway could make similar claims.
The book is set in the year 2040, and came out in 2010. Thirty years ago, people thought Atari was pretty neat, and wow, check out those VHS tapes. Yet, thirty years into McGuire’s future, technology hasn’t changed that much, nor the terminology associated with it. McGuire boned up on some Virology courses, but I was left unsatiated by her explanation of how two viruses combined to make a Zombie creating amalgam. If super killer viruses formed so easily, we would all be dead. There’s a reason why AIDS and Ebola won’t fuse in a mud puddle. Also, why would Apple make the best test kits, if only companies around today are existant in the future? Why not science companies like Waters, Millipore, or Hewlet-Packard?
I’m left with too many logical gaps and unanswered questions by this book. Why, precisely, was Alaska surrendered to the Zombies, and not, say, North Dakota? If society has become so enlightened in the future they see the death penalty as no longer an effective deterrent, then why is terrorism still a capital crime? Since Malthus no longer applies, might abortion be restricted? After all, the value of a healthy baby to society would go up proportionately to the amount of death and mayhem caused by Zombies.
This book simply reeks of P.C. Thuggery, in the Marxist sense. The only acceptable form of bigotry is against Fundamentalist Christians. In fact, Ms. McGuire succeeded in annoying me so much I actually checked out her website. I remember when the LGBT Community used to accuse Hollywood of killing off gay characters. Not only does Ms. McGuire kill off all the Christians, but also the only characters who engage in heterosexual sex, or any sex at all for that matter. The only sin the book mentions is “The Sin Walk” Buffy does after a night of heterosexual fornication, revealed by her wearing the same clothes two days in a row.
For all the crusading bravado of her blog, none of her characters are openly gay (preferring to hide behind the beard of incest, which was definitely a little creepy). I suppose she’s saving this for Part Two and Three of this epic, in order to rope in that Young Adult market share.
What else? These “licensed bloggers” pride themselves on being like Hunter Thompson, yet do things like order sparkling cider at restaurants so their adoring fans will think they’re drinking beer. The main character actually seems to support gun control, against all the rationality of dealing with 2040 reality. In a world when anyone can go Zombie at any time due to literally everyone being infected, who would ban the most effective form of self-defense? Yet, this writer’s personal Cultural Marxism won’t allow her to give up the desire to ban guns, The Holy Grail of the totalitarian statist. Hunter Thompson invented a sport called “shotgun golf”. Maybe if they’d left Hunter out of it, I would have avoided writing this review.
The book was too humorless. There were some rare glimpses of comedy. One was when Buffy went Zombie, and the main character’s twin brother offers to shoot her to spare his twin sister the pain. “I hired her, I’ll fire her,” was his sister’s response, which amused me. The other witty banter throughout never even made me smile, and grew incredibly tiresome, as did the inevitable descriptions of blood tests, her eye problem, and her arching one eyebrow to show disdain. These three alone probably accounted for one hundred pages of this book, and that’s lowballing it.
The other comedy was tragically inadvertent. The main character was turning Zombie, and was writing her last blog about it while her twin brother held a gun to the back of her head. The writing here tickled my funnybone. Something like, .”..as I write this, I’m turning Zombie….arghh”. I couldn’t help laughing.
Other flaws-if you do read this, your first and most obvious guess at a villain will be correct. Tate does everything but tie somebody to train tracks while wearing a top hat. There’s no valid explanation given for the fact that most Americans hide in their homes all day, but starvation and social collapse aren’t real problems. In fact, the shut-ins are lucky, because it gives them more time to admire the online antics of those intrepid bloggers as they go out with their parents (or rents as they and every spoiled suburban white kid I ever met called their parents) for fish tacos and sparkling cider that looks like beer.
This book could have hit genius level if it had been an indictment of these incredibly shallow and emotionally jaundiced poseurs whose only acceptable emotional connection with the world would need to come in the form of accolades from the amorphous blogosphere. The book could have been a subtle satire about obnoxious people with poorly thought out political opinions. It could have been, but it isn’t, and I’m guessing part of the problem, after reading Ms. McGuire’s blog, is that she writes about what she knows, but not about what she understands, or has the capacity of critical self-examination for.
If I had payed ten bucks for this, I would have been suicidal after reading it, though at the end I did resort to skimming it, just to see if there was a surprise or shocker ending (there wasn’t). In summation, don’t pay ten bucks for this, and don’t read it if you can’t bear to not finish a book you start. I’ll probably wind up reading the whole goddamned trilogy, which should weigh out to about 1700 pages, because my crystal ball says my wife will probably procure the other installments, if only to annoy me.