By Mira Grant
It’s amazing what you can use for a ramp, given the right motivation. Someone’s collapsed fence was blocking half the road, jutting up at an angle, and I hit it at about fifty miles an hour. The handlebars shuddered in my hands like the horns of a mechanical bull, and the shocks weren’t doing much better. I didn’t even have to check the road in front of us because the moaning started as soon as we came into view. They’d blocked our exit fairly well while Shaun played with his little friend, and mindless plague carriers or not, they had a better grasp of the local geography than we did. We still had one advantage: Zombies aren’t good at predicting suicide charges. And if there’s a better term for driving up the side of a hill at fifty miles an hour with the goal of actually achieving flight when you run out of “up”, I don’t think I want to hear it.
The front wheel rose smoothly and the back followed, sending us into the air with a jerk that looked effortless and was actually scarier than hell. I was screaming. Shaun was whooping with gleeful understanding. And then everything was int he hands of gravity, which has never had much love for the terminally stupid. We hung in the air for a heart-stopping moment, still shooting forward. At least I was fairly sure the impact would kill us.
Most zombie stories have a spawning point that either isn’t known (“The dead are rising!!! WHY GOD WHY?”) or isn’t quite credible (“There were these chemicals, see, and it sort of rained…”). In Mira Grant’s corpse-topian society, however, the cause is all too frighteningly plausible. Two independent sets of scientists in totally different labs hit the jackpot when they came up with a cure for the common cold in the form of a modified rhinovirus — Dr. Alexander Kellis — and a cure for cancer — a team in Colorado working with the Marburg-Amberlee filovirus. The Kellis rhinovirus gets spread to everyone through an act of bioterrorism; no-one gets colds anymore. Marburg-Amberlee comes along a few years later and cures cancer, which is great until it combines in the blood with Kellis, and everything goes haywire. Now everyone has some of the resultant Kellis-Amberlee (or simply KA), and likely always will, because it passes to the next generation through the womb. Most of the population’s infection remains dormant, but there’s no telling when someone will amplify. And that’s on top of the already amplified that are shambling about, the ones we know as zombies.
So begins the Rising. As a race, humans survived because they’d watched enough zombie movies to have some idea of how to save themselves, but the mainstream news media lost a lot of its credibility when it tried in vain to squash the story of what was really happening. The world has turned to bloggers to get their real news; what used to be the mainstream news outlets have now all become various incarnations of E!© rather than reporting on hard facts.
Bloggers are now required to obtain varying levels of licensure (with gradually more serious weapons, tactics, and medical training) in order to go anywhere that things might be happening, and Georgia and Shaun Mason are ready, willing, and licensed to go just about anywhere. These two are in the thick of it, with Shaun poking dead things with a stick and Georgia reporting facts and occasionally spitting some venomous op-ed along the way. The duo are as close as twins despite their only familial link being adoption by the same couple. Together, they make a fantastic team, with a constant stream of snarky banter that’s entertaining but is always aware of the dangers that lurks and shambles among them.
You wouldn’t expect a book that’s laden with so many technological details (the genesis of the virus, the virus’s after-effects, biological scanning equipment, and the various gadgets that the bloggers use) to be a gripping, fast read, but it really is. Grant is so skilled at weaving these things into the story that you don’t realise how much information you’ve picked up — it becomes as second nature to the reader as it has to the characters in the book. Her skill here, as well as her ear for dialogue, make it so that there is no break. Even at chapter end, I did not want to put this book down, and it barely left my hand until it was done. It was with me at the dinner table, on smoke breaks, in the bathroom. I was up until sunrise with it. There is hilarity, there is heartbreak, and Grant handles both with aplomb.
As a matter of fact, there is a lot of emotion throughout this book. The desperation, anger, determination, and grit are all communicated thoroughly here, and Grant finds a way to make you care about all of the characters she presents. Their victories are ours, and so are their defeats. When the Masons land a huge gig, we are celebrating with them. When they’re dealing with an outbreak, we feel their panic and despair. It’s been a long while since a book has made me weep and laugh out loud, but this one definitely did both of those things. Of course, this isn’t her first trip around the block, either. Mira Grant is the not-secret-at-all nom de plume (or, since this is a zombie book, perhaps it’s an OM NOM NOM de plume?) of urban fantasist Seanan McGuire, who has a bit of a reputation for strong female characters, among other things. All I can say is thank heavens that I’ve got the next book in the Newsflesh trilogy (Deadline) in front of me, because it simply can’t end here.
Buy It. RIGHT NOW. Run to the bookstore. Knock over children and old ladies if you have to. Just get your hands on this book!
Orbit, Mass Market Paperback $9.99,
Kindle E-Book $7.99, 574 pages