As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media—books, comics, movies, and television—to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way to Halloween.
Before we start this review, I’m going to tell you the ‘bad news’ first so we can get it out of the way and go on with how awesome this series is. But you have to promise not to leave after you hear it, okay?
The Newsflesh Trilogy (and its various tie-ins), written by Mira Grant (the sci-fi/horror pen of author Seanan McGuire) is a zombie book series.
*Grabs your arm as you try to flee*
Wait! Just hear me out! This isn’t your average story within the currently oversaturated undead fiction genre.
For starters, it primarily takes place twenty years AFTER humanity was nearly wiped out by zombies—which were created via a successful cure for cancer and the common cold.
You’d think that’d be a halfway decent tradeoff, but when both people and animals over a certain weight can transform into mindless, flesh eating monsters…I mean, can you imagine a barn full of infected horses getting loose (which totally happens at one point, by the way)?
Humanity manages to recover, but with some heavy duty safeguards in place to protect themselves—along with the ever present threat of localized outbreaks looming over the populace.
The first book, Feed, introduces us to a small team of reporters as they follow a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. Humanity’s close call with extinction has greatly changed the game for both politics and journalism, resulting a march toward the White House that is equal parts fascinating and dangerous.
Imagine if The West Wing and The Walking Dead television shows had a book baby. Now imagine if the person writing said book baby was so good at internal dialogue that the main characters felt brilliantly authentic. That’s what you get with entire Newsflesh series.
Yes, there is a good deal of zombie action (which McGuire/Grant writes exceptionally well), but the political machine and how it’s covered by our intrepid bloggers is what will really hook you. As conspiracies and back door dealings are uncovered, things turn predictably chaotic, but never unravel to a point that the overarching story dissolves into standard zombie-fare. Grant also gives us a world where the characters are fully aware of the tropes and history of fictional zombie media, making for some excellent (and often hilarious) meta commentary. It also helps ensure that the narrative is never driven by stupid decisions.
Speaking of the narrative, Newsflesh is chock full of great stuff: Political maneuvering, dark conspiracies, smart technology advancements, genetic research (both of the legal and not-so-legal variety), backwoods militias, small gunfights, big gunfights, military engagements, Secret Service operations, information suppression, information leaks, and of course, zombie animals.
Seriously, why aren’t there more zombie stories out there with undead animals? A bear charging towards you becomes ten times scarier when its flesh and fur are hanging off scabby clumps. But I digress…
This book series has something for everyone. It also has some fantastic novellas and short stories attached to it. Countdown succeeds where Fear the Walking Dead completely failed, guiding us through the origins and opening days of the zombie almost-apocalypse. San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats relays the horrifying and tragic events at San Diego Comic Con during what eventually become known as The Rising (and does some fan service to one of the best television shows ever made).
You don’t have to read these supplemental stories to follow the events of Newsflesh, but they definitely add a great deal to the already rich and wonderful mythology that Grant has created.
What Doesn’t Work
There’s a scene at the end of the second novel that made me roll my eyes. To Grant’s credit, she does set it up well. She also makes it pay off in a big way in the third book, but the revelation still takes away from some of the overall narrative’s impact. Also in the third book, there’s a scene in I jokingly “called” that actually ends up happening…and felt kind of icky. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you read it.
Fortunately, these are both minor issues that actually end up becoming decent/good story threads.
I know that we’re all sick of zombie media, but the Newsflesh series is so much more than that. It’s got great characters, a fantastic story, and some of the smartest use of undead pseudo science you’ll ever read. The only downside to devouring this series is that once you’re done, early every other zombie book you ever read will pale in comparison.