Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Deadline (Newsflesh #2)

Mira Grant, 2011, Orbit
(Warning: the following review contains spoilers for the first book in the Newsflesh Trilogy, Feed.)

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has. But when a researcher from the CDC fakes her own death and appears on Shaun's doorstep with a horde of ravenous zombies in tow, Shaun finds a new purpose in life; because it seems that, while the man who murdered Shaun's sister is dead, the conspiracy behind that act is far from buried...

Deadline is, of course, the highly-anticipated sequel to the spectacular Feed - and I'm truly overjoyed to report that Mira Grant has delivered a novel every bit as brilliant, engrossing, and downright terrifying as its predecessor. Shaun Mason provides a fascinating replacement as narrator for the ill-fated Georgia, being a deeply damaged, self-destructive and, frankly, mentally ill character (holding animated conversations with his dead sister, among other things). The plot gallops along at breakneck speed, through numerous twists and turns, to deliver a twist that - while perhaps not as shocking as that which concluded Feed - is nonetheless superbly powerful, and will whet the appetite of any reader for the final installment of this series.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Deadline is how Grant, as in the first book, maintains an atmosphere of 'mundane dread' - the feeling that the terrors of the tale are part of everyday existence for her characters - while keeping actual zombie appearances to a minimum; her perfectly-extrapolated future society is one in which everything the characters do is in some way regulated by the constant threat of death and/or zombification. It's emotionally exhausting to read at times, yet absolutely riveting, and one of the most rewarding pieces of zomfic to hit the shelves since...well, Feed.

I'm not going to ask you to go out and buy a copy of Deadline. I'm telling you. Do it, and do it now. And pick up a copy of Feed also, if by some miracle you've not done so already. This is not negotiable.

And if you don't...well. I know where you live. And I'm real hungry...

Review: Zombiesque

Ed. Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Bassett & Martin H. Greeberg, 2011, DAW Books

DAW have always done a fine job of tapping into emerging and resurgent trends in speculative fiction with their anthologies, as evidenced by recent collections of space opera, steampunk and Lovecraftian short fiction. Zombiesque is certainly no exception, being an anthology not merely of zomfic, but of tales told specifically from the zombies' point-of-view, which is just now becoming a popular trope within the subgenre.

The sixteen original tales comprising Zombiesque are all, without exception, highly entertaining, and run the full range of cross-genres from humour, to horror, to romance, drama, and everything in between. Of particular note, for me, were Nancy Collins' 'At First Only Darkness', which really does take the reader inside the head of a creature driven only by hunger; Tim Waggoner's 'Do No Harm', which uniquely posits the sort of society zombies might evolve in the relative absence of humanity; Richard Lee Byers' 'Zombie Camp', in which holidaymakers actually pay to briefly experience 'life' as zombies; Jim C. Hines' 'In the Line of Duty', in which intelligent zombies are successfully (kinda) integrated into the field of Special Ops; Del Stone Jr's 'Zero', which draws emotive parallels between zombies and the homeless; S. Boyd Taylor's 'A Distant Sound of Hammers', which hideously depicts the ultimate fate of those who survive the inevitable zombie uprising; and Laszlo Xalieri's 'The Confession', a terrifyingly creepy and gruesome piece of fiction that will have you checking the locks tonight...

In short, Zombiesque is a rather brilliant little anthology showcasing some brilliant authors, some of whom will be familiar to fans of the genre, others not. This is definitely a publication to be read and cherished by zomfans of all stripes, and is available to Australian readers through Penguin Australia.