It will be very difficult to review this novel without spoiling events in, Feed, the first installment in the series, so reader beware…
The Zombies are dead and kicking and the After the End Times blog is still thriving and documenting the zombie apocalypse while trying to uncover the conspiracy at its heart in Deadline, the breakneck second installment in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. While Grant still employs the first person narrative, her muse in Deadline is Shaun Mason. The novel picks up a not long after the end of Feed with Shaun Mason at the helm, running the news / blog organization he founded with his sister whose voice resides in his head. Like the first novel, Deadline begins with an in-field zombie attack as Shaun reluctantly saves two of his employees.
It isn’t long before the conspiracy hinted at in the first volume comes to the forefront as a supposedly dead scientist, Kelly Connolly, from the CDC comes a knocking asking for Shaun’s help in unraveling the conspiracy that has killed many of the people Shaun loved and is controlling the world. In a world where the zombies are the result of the Kellis-Amberle virus, itself a combination of two virus cures – essentially a disease – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is the most powerful organization in the world. With that in mind, Shaun and his team, including Rebecca “Becks” Atherton, Maggie Garcia, Alaric Kwong, Dave, and Mahir are logically a bit skeptical about Kelly’s claims. She was after all part of the organization, and her death was faked with the help of some of her colleagues.
As Shaun and crew attempt to uncover as much about the conspiracy as possible, more casualties ensue and more shocks are revealed. Shaun’s sanity / post-traumatic stress syndrome are two of the larger themes running over the course of the novel. By adding Georgia’s voice as part of Shaun’s sanity slippage, Grant has given herself a great tool to use for internal dialogue, which keeps the tempo of the novel extremely brisk and allows an otherwise thick novel (600 pages) to flow with great pace.
This is most assuredly not a typical Middle Book and to sum it up, partly because of the superb pace, partly because revealing the deepening plot would cushion the impact of the novel’s power. What I found to be very impressive on Grant’s part was how, despite both novels in the Newsflesh Trilogy utilizing the first person narrative, she was able to really set Shaun’s voice apart from George’s. In that respect, Grant’s ability at giving readers engaging, believable and unique characters is superb.
As the layers of conspiracy are revealed, Grant examines the ethics involved in the medical profession, specifically those researchers involved in curing diseases, the power of government, and how those two – when at absolutes – can lay the foundation for an apocalypse. The ethical dilemmas were handled, I felt, very well and engaging through the characters of Dr. Connolly and Dr. Abby. Dr. Abby is introduced in the early stages of the novel as a rogue scientist with a giant mastiff immune to the Kellis-Amberle virus who is in constant hiding from the CDC. Reading through their ideological positions and their conflicts with each other, which was punctuated by the matter of fact and almost cold dialogue between Connolly and Maggie was some of the more ethically thought-provoking science fiction I’ve read in quite some time.
The Newsflesh Trilogy is turning into one of my favorite SF stories and one that is continuing to surprise me – up until the very end of Deadline. This second installment raises the stakes considerably and brings new players into the game, while maintaining the blistering pace of Feed, its predecessor. I can’t say enough good things about this novel, which has made the concluding volume Blackout, quite possibly my most anticipated novel publishing in 2012.
© 2011 Rob H. Bedford