>> Monday, October 17, 2011
EVERYONE HAS SOMEONE ON THE WALLIn 2014, it looked like there was nowhere to go but up. Scientists had managed to cure the common cold and cancer. But on that year, the viruses engineered to do that combined, and the results were catastrophic. For people infected with the combined virus (and this quickly came to include everyone on the planet), death triggered a process called amplification. The result: the dead person would "rise", becoming a mindless being bent on feeding on other humans and on spreading the now live version of the virus rampant through their body. Yep, zombies.
Shaun and Georgia are orphans of the Rising, the cataclysmic event which left the world reeling in the aftermath of the zombie uprising. Adopted by the Masons and raised in the strange world of the post-Rising media, they've spent their lives chasing the next big story, the one that will allow them to break into the big leagues once and for all. Now, in Senator Peter Ryman's run for the Presidency of the United States, they've finally found it.
All they have to do is survive until the election.
In a world filled with the constant threat of both the living and the living dead, it will be all that Shaun and Georgia can do to keep themselves in one piece. Accompanied by the rest of their blogging team, Senator Ryman's staff, and a whole lot of caffeine, they might succeed…or they might finally answer the big question of their post-Rising world: When will you rise?
It is now some 25 years after the Rising and society exists in an uneasy balance. Zombies haven't been defeated so much as contained (it's not even theoretically possible to defeat this particular threat, when any unattended death will end up in the deceased turning zombie in a matter of minutes).
Georgia Mason and her brother Shaun have grown up in this world, having been born after the Rising. They are bloggers, in a world where the traditional media's failure to properly report the Rising, causing much unnecessary death, has lost it a great measure of trust. News blogging has grown to fill the void. It's a competitive, very structured world, where bloggers are divided into objective, factual Newsies, devoted to the truth; thrill-seeking Irwins, focused on the action and danger of reporting in what's effectively a war-zone; and Fictionals, who concentrate on writing fiction reflecting the world they live in. Ratings are everything, with blogs competing against each other for visitors and attention.
As the book starts, George, a Newsie, and Shaun, an Irwin, together with the Fictional in their team, Buffy Messonier, are selected to cover the campaign of a presidential hopeful, Peter Ryman. Ryman is the first presidential candidate to have grown up after the Rising, so he'll the first to accept a blogging team embedded in his campaign, allowing them access that has previously only been granted to traditional media outlets.
George and her team start out determined to be objective and detached, but at the same time, they soon come to like Ryman and believe he's the real deal (which doesn't compromise their determination to be truthful and not betray their readers -they all take this very seriously). But as the campaign advances and Ryman's candidacy looks more and more possible, tragic "accidents" start happening around it, and it's soon clear that someone is willing to stop at nothing to derail the campaign.
Now, the plot here is serviceable enough, a conspiracy story with a denouement that did not particularly surprise me, but which was quite readable and entertaining, nonetheless. Similarly, the characters were interesting and I liked their interactions (even if I found George and Shaun's closeness a bit strange), but they weren't the most amazing characters I've ever read.
The reason to read this is for the fantastic, amazing and mindblowing world-building. Can great world-building be enough to save a book that's otherwise bad? Probably not. But it can certainly elevate one that's otherwise average into excellence, and that's exactly what happened here.
What's great about it is how detailed it is, how Grant has really clearly thought hard about things. She's not only come up with a really coherent explanation for how the zombies originated and how they behave, she has also gone all the way in understanding how society might change due to their presence. This is not set in a world where people are and interact just like today, only with better technology, since it's the future. No, society has changed massively. For instance, there's the constant and neverending care and vigilance that need to be sustained in order to prevent an outbreak. There's the fact that this is a world where a gathering of a large number of people, all in the same physica space, is seen by many as an accident waiting to happen. There's the powers that government agencies have taken on, arguing that they're needed to keep the country safe.
It wasn't a surprise that I loved the deep level of world-building, but I was actually amazed that the techniques Grant used to explain to us what this world was like didn't annoy me. The world-building was just not seamlessly integrated, like, say, Meljean Brook's in the Iron Seas books, where you only find out thinks organically. You get quite a few infodump-type sections here. There are some sections which are excerpts from our characters' blogs which were fine, but the main narration, from George's point of view, read as if she was explaining her world to people just like us, from before the Rising. These sections were very good infodumps, chock-full of fascinating stuff and written beautifully, in George's very individual voice, but I still should have found that a bit annoying. I just... didn't. I loved it all.
Even if you're not particularly interested in zombies, this is one to read.
MY GRADE: B+
PS: How cool is it that the zombies are the George Romero type, so much so that he has become a national hero? Yep, that's who Georgia (and half the kids in her generation) was named after! And I guess we've got Shaun of the Dead, as well.
PS - 2: The cover is fantastic, too. The RSS feed symbol, but written in blood combines horror and blogging perfectly, and so does the title.