“Feed”ing Time at the BookBanter


In a recent post, I mentioned some of the great things about a new zombie book by Seanan McGuire, Feed, written under her pseudonym Mira Grant, due out April 27th.  I’ve been trying to hone in on what exactly it is I like so much about Feed, and in a recent post from McGuire, she reported one of the first negative reviews for the book, which essentially summed up Feed with this: “I didn’t want to read about a bunch of politicians having tense meetings in board rooms. I wanted to read about zombies.”

And it was while reading Feed today, with about a hundred pages to go, that I realized the big why.  In my review for the great zombie anthology, Living Dead, I obviously didn’t discuss every story in the review, but the ones I did talk about were stories of incredible, moving events that involved zombies in some way.  There have been many stories, movies, and probably plays, written about zombies, and very little else: blood, gore, and zombies.  I’ve read a number of these — and yes, there are some in Living Dead — and feel I’ve had my fill of direct and specific stories involving just zombies.  Now, I know many others will disagree with me on this, for they can’t get enough of zombies.  As a matter of fact, I believe Seanan McGuire is also one of those people.

Feed is not just a book about zombies, running from zombies, being afraid of zombies, killing zombies, and all that zombie jazz.  It’s about a changed world that has had to deal with a zombie invasion, and how life for every living person on the planet is now totally foreign to the reader.  Add to this a person who wants to become the next president, to try and make things better for the people, so they don’t have to be terrified of ever stepping outside of their homes.  Finally, tell it from the viewpoint of a kickass protagonist, Georgia Mason: a professional blogger who sees the changed world very much in her own way — and because it’s told in the first person, you get to hear every thought and idea of hers — who is being attacked and threatened — as well as the rest of her team — by an unknown group, and you’ve got a story that is not about zombies, but is an incredible story with zombies in it.

In the world of Feed there are zombies, and they are terrible and terrifying and it’s very easy to become one and end your life.  But as the book comes to a close, the reader realizes that there are things worse and more terrible and more terrifying than zombies.  They’re humans.

If You’re Going to Read One Zombie Novel This Year, Read “Feed”


In a little over a month, Feed by Mira Grant will be published at the very affordable price of $9.99.  Feed is the first in the Newsflesh trilogy penned by the October Daye series author, Seanan McGuire.  Why is she using a pseudonym?  Because Feed is such a departure from Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation that McGuire felt the need to publish it under a different name.

It is almost the middle of the twenty-first century and zombies have taken over a significant portion of the Unites States (presumably the rest of the world also); Alaska has been abandoned to them; people live in constant fear, not wanting to leave their homes, and it only takes a small amount of the Kellis-Amberlee to turn you.  Feed is told from the viewpoint of Georgia Mason (in this world, after everything went to hell, George and Georgia have become popular names, after a certain director), a professional blogger.  When the zombies rose, the media ridiculed the reports and stories as jokes and fakes, while the bloggers told the real story of what was happening.  Georgia is a strong female character who runs the blogging site, along with her brother Shaun and their necessary techie, nicknamed Buffy — a reference that only certain characters can barely remember.  The team is looking to make it big after getting to cover the presidential run of a governor who wants to make America a better place, more than a glowing hint of the shining beacon it once was.

McGuire delivers a stunning, deep, complex, and moving 600-pager that goes way beyond your average zombie novel.  If the rising dead and blood and gore were surgically removed from Feed, it would be a work of important fiction, with realistic, complicated characters that affect the reader on a number of levels.  But then Feed is made all the better with the zombies; and the technical details, the blogging terminology, and the important medical references that makes it a compelling novel you won’t want to put down.  Think Michael Crichton — at his best — meets the world of World War Z, but in a unique and realistic setting of the future filled with gadgets that we will see in out lifetimes, which only could’ve come from the mind of Seanan McGuire . . . or is that Mira Grant?

And Feed is available for preorder right now on Amazon, and this is a zombie book you’ll want to own, so that once you’ve read it, you can lend it to each of your friends.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Galileo’s Dream”

Galileo's Dream

I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but since every contact I make with anyone in publishing bounces me back a “see you in the new year” response, it’s to be expected that we’re all operating at a slower and less frequent pace this time of year.  Though I promise to start it all rolling come the new year.

For the moment I just wanted to make the following comment:

I love science fiction!

The reason I’m making this comment is because I’m about a hundred pages into Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book, Galileo’s Dream (which comes out today) and am loving it so far.

The story begins with Galileo, in his time, doing his thing: making incredible inventions, discovering incredible things, and changing the world.  With the development of what comes to be the telescope (and the help of a stranger) he sees the moon in a clear form that has never been witnessed before, and then turns his sights to Jupiter and its moons.  The Stranger then whisks him away to the moon Europa in the year 3020.

That’s all I’m going to say for now, as I don’t want to give too much of the story away, at least not until the review.  As I plan to interview Robinson for BookBanter, I look forward to finding out how he came up with this book, what it was that made him want to write it in such a way.  Because only in science fiction can you have a wonderful story of Galileo from the seventeenth century, and then be transported away in the matter of a second to a moon of Jupiter in the fourth millennium, over a thousand years from our time.

It does remind me a little of Dan Simmons’s Ilium and Olympos, which was another incredible science fiction epic set in our distant future.

Suffice to say, I look forward to what the rest of the book shall bring.  But if you can’t read for the review, and have to get the book right now, then just click here.

The Importance of Voice

Mage of None Magic

I’m currently working my way through A Mage of None Magic by A. Christopher Drown and enjoying it in certain ways, and it gives me the chance to talk a little about voice.

While the story of A Mage of None Magic isn’t incredibly compelling or fascinating to begin with, and at the moment is an ordinary fantasy tale with a cast of familiar characters — magicians, apprentices, sailors, inn keepers, the usual — the voice of the book is thoroughly entertaining and interesting.  If it weren’t for the voice, I probably would give this book another fifty pages and then stop reading; give up on it.  But the voice of A Mage of None Magic keeps me interested and enthralled enough to wonder what’s going to happen next.

Voice is important in making a story stand out and separating books from being like all the other similar stories out there in the same genre.  A good voice will be unique and immediately capture the reader’s attention.  It may be something the reader latches onto and enjoys reading; or a strange voice that the reader may not love at first, but want to keep reading due to curiosity.  In some cases the voice may be too unusual or jarring to turn a reader off the book, but at least the writer has done their job of making their story stand out.

The voice in A. Christopher Drown’s book is keeping me reading and entertained, not too slow to make me bored, or too fast to make me confused, or using a complicated vocabulary or sentence structure that I might find jarring.  Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, at the moment the voice is just right.

“Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove

By Blood We Live

I’ve begun reading By Blood We Live, edited by John Joseph Adams [who also did The Living Dead and Wastelands (both of which I’ve reviewed)] which kicks off with a wonderfully dark, sexual, and twisted story by Neil Gaiman about Snow White, called “Snow Glass Apples” followed by a boring story from Anne Rice (the only short story she’s ever published apparently) called “The Master of Rampling Gate.”

The third story in the collection — “Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove — kind of blew my mind, as all good stories should.  When I’m done with the book and eventually review it, I will certainly mention the story, but won’t be able to reveal the big twist of a tale behind the story, because you can’t do that in book reviews.  The point of a book review is to entice the reader to get the book, and not spoil the ending and surprise.

So instead I’m going to reveal the ending for this story in this particular blog post.  Since it’s just one story in the collection, it’s not that big of a deal to reveal it as there are plenty more enjoyable tales in the rest of the collection.

And if you don’t want to find out how this story ends, stop reading now and you’ll be just fine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Under St. Peter’s” begins with the induction of a new pope deep within the heart of the Vatican.  The former cardinal is now very happy to have been promoted to such a high position, knowing he will now be remembered forever.  He then is informed of a secret order that has existed since the beginning of the papacy that very few know about.  The pope is to perform an induction ritual with this order, as has been done with every pope since the very beginning.  He is led through a hidden door in the floor down deep beneath the Vatican.  He is led down many steps, going deeper into the dark underground, being led by a member of the clandestine order.

When they reach their destination, they find an old, emaciated form that shocks the pope to his very soul when he sees who the man truly is.  This person bears wounds upon his palms and feet, by his side; familiar wounds that have become synonymous with his depictions on a crucifix.  He also bears a pair of small wounds on the side of his neck, which are never shown in any of his images or carvings.

It is Jesus, who has remained beneath the Vatican for a very long time.  And each time a new pope is elected, he is brought down to this hidden chamber where this man drinks of the new pope, for he is a vampire who can never die of hunger, satiating himself with each new pope.  Once he even drank too much of one pope, killing him, and a new one was immediately needed.

It puts that whole story about being raised from the dead by Lazarus in a much clearer perspective.

“The Breathers” by S. G. Browne

A couple of months ago, during the middle of summer, an author stepped into the store, met with me and signed his stock.  It was S. G. Browne, author of the zombie romantic comedy The Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament.  We started chatting and now he’ll be coming up to do a signing at the Borders store on December 19th from 1PM-4PM.

I also received a review copy of the book and am about a hundred pages into it and really enjoying it.  It’s a book about a world where zombies have existed for some time, but in very small populations.  No one knows who will turn into a zombie when they die, it seems to be random.  The problem is the zombies are treated worse than hated animals, and have no rights or respect from anyone.  And while they can’t necessarily feel things like pain, they do still have feelings.  The story is told from the viewpoint of a recently made zombie, Andy Warner, and how he deals with this life change, or rather undead change through coping mechanisms like seeking rights and recognition for zombies, as well as attending weekly meetings for the Undead Anonymous group.

So far its a very entertaining read that puts a whole different spin on the zombie story which is still be written and rewritten and published.  Zombies are still very much in, the good thing is Breathers is a refreshing twist and chance to the usual zombie romp.


If things go as planned, I shall also be interviewing S. G. Browne for BookBanter to see what he has to say and thinks about his book, how he came up with it, and what he’s working on now.

John Irving’s “Last Night in Twisted River”

I’m just about to reach the halfway point of reading Last Night in Twisted River; John Irving’s latest release.  Knowing how Irving works in writing and constructing his novels — starting with the ending, planning out the entire book, then writing the whole thing, and then spending literally years editing it to perfection — I was a little surprised with Last Night in Twisted River.  It begins with a long opening chapter on the history of logging in New England and the different types of people that do it, and the type of work that is done, the sort of accidents that can happen, which would be perfectly fine for any novel, but with John Irving, he has a very specific style and way with his characters, which didn’t show itself until the second chapter, when all of a sudden it was like: “Ahh, here’s the John Irving I know.”

After getting deeper into the book, I can’t help but feel like the first chapter felt like a clear “set-up piece” for the book, which is very common in writing where you begin a story or a book and you need to set the scene and get the ball rolling to start the whole thing off, then you find your place, pace, and rhythm, but once you go to editing, all this early, set-up stuff is usually cut out.  That’s what the first chapter felt like to me: something that should’ve been lost at the editing stages.  And for a writer who spends actual years editing his novels, I was surprised that this first chapter stayed, and apparently there was something in it that I missed, and that made Irving keep it.

As for the rest of the book so far, I’m certainly enjoying it, and it’s definitely better than Until I Find You (which was just too much), and the terrible thing known as The Fourth Hand.  It is feeling a little unoriginal in that Irving is pulling from The World According to Garp with his main writer character writing about his life, and from A Prayer From Owen Meaney in that the main character is going to be a writer, and the omniscient narrator likes to point this out with beating-over-the-head foreshadowing and set up.  I didn’t enjoy this with Owen Meaney, but I know many other readers did and it’s their favorite Irving book.  (Mine’s The Cider House Rules).

But I’m not making any solid and certain decisions about the book yet until I make it to the last page, because there’s still a lot of story and manuscript to be read.

At the moment, it’s a decent Irving novel, but not one of his best.

Flesh by Richard Laymon

I’m currently reading Richard Laymon’s Flesh.  I’ve read a number of Laymon’s books before and enjoy him for his classic horror writing style of slowly giving out details of whatever horror the particular book is about and not holding back on anything really grisly or disturbing.

Though one big thing I’m noticing with Flesh is I have to constantly remind myself is that it was originally published in 1987, which is quite some time ago now.  So the book certainly feels dated in the unusual clothes people are wearing (like a jumpsuit), the language they’re using (like “far out”), and I need to remember the different technology in existence: no cellphones, MP3 players, decent computers, and a whole number of other items that just haven’t occurred to me.

It’s almost like reading some archaic, historical text from a bygone time, since with how quickly technology changes and society easily adapts, I guess in some ways it is exactly that.  So not only is it a fun, enjoyable horror novel, but it’s also an insight into a now long past way of life that many people have likely forgotten about (or chosen to forcefully, and permanently ignore).

Goal Achieved

Some people think that I have a problem: I’m addicted to reading.  This would be completely true and I do read, every day, all the time.  I was a c-average kid until I was about 12 when my teacher introduced me to Willard Price, and I began reading, going on to lots of different kids books — including Christopher Pike — then on to Stephen King, and then onto everything else.  I’m 30 now, and since then there hasn’t been a single day where I wasn’t reading a book.

Nowadays I tend to read about 3-4 books at the same time: there’s the audiobook I’m reading (at the moment Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer), when I’m traveling, or walking to and from work, or when I’m doing something simple where I can listen to the book at the same time (this even includes cooking!); the book I’m reading at home (at the moment Flesh by Richard Laymon), usually whenever I have a free moment, or when I’m in bed; the book I’m reading at work (at the moment Canticle by Ken Scholes), which I read on breaks and lunch breaks.  Sometimes for my “home reading,” I’ll do a fiction book and a nonfiction book; it really depends on the particular books and what I have to read.

For the last couple of years I’ve been keeping track of how many books I read and what exactly I’m reading.  Here’s the 2007 list.  And the list for 2008 can be found here and here (it’s in multiple parts as it’s pretty long).  At the end of 2008 I ended up getting 91 books read, which I had a chance to brag about in an interview.  I knew it was a pretty impressive goal, but I subconsciously planned to beat it for 2009, and now I’ve thankfully more than done this by recently finishing my 100th book for the year, with lots more time to go (and this includes the 1000+ page Under the Dome book by Stephen King).

And if you’d like to get an idea of what I’ve exactly been reading, you can check out the book reviews on BookBanter and see which reviews are up for 2009, and you can also check out my Good Reads page for 2009 to see some of the books I’ve read but didn’t end up reviewing.

Level 26: Dark Origins

Not that impressed so far.

Level 26: Dark Origins is the first in what is referred to as a “digi-novel.”  Written by the creator of CSI, Anthony E. Zuiker (along with Duane Swierczynski), it is the story of a serial killer who cannot be caught.  Murderers and criminals of various sorts are listed on a scale.  So far the scale has only gone to 25.  With the advent of Sqweegel — as the killer is referred —  he knows no bounds of depravity and torture, pushing himself to a whole new level.  26.  And the problem is whoever is working on the case ultimately ends up dead, often by the killer’s hands.  So no one wants to touch it.

The digi-novel aspect is pretty interesting.  It involves being directed to the Level 26 website at the end of certain chapters in the book, as well as being provided with a keyword.  On the website — where you naturally have to sign-up for an account — you can enter the keyword and then can watch a 3-5 minute clip that relates to the book.  Zuiker, in conjunction with writing the book, has also written and directed scenes, some with known Hollywood b-actors, others with nobodys.  While the scenes do tell a little more of the story, they are ultimately really over the top dramatically (I think it might have a little to do with the actors not being able to get fully immersed into the roles as all they have are these one-off scenes)  and tend to not provide too much information, and readers can in fact enjoy the book just fine without having viewed them.

As for the book, it features short, numerous chapters with a slowish pace, garnering it, barely, 3 out of 5.

We will have to see whether the story gets better, the pace improves, and the video scenes become more watchable.

But for now, not very impressed with the supposed “first digi-novel.”