“Feedback: A Newsflesh Novel” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)

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“And we’re back” says Mira Grant in her acknowledgments, as the bestselling author returns to her Newsflesh world after a trilogy and collection of novellas. Events essentially reset as we jump back in time to the beginning of Feed with the presidential race beginning in a world where zombies are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. While the main characters from the aforementioned book are joining the campaign of the Republican nominee, our new diverse group of characters find themselves being tapped to join one of the Democratic potential nominees and cover her run for president.

The story is told from the point of view of the Irwin Aislinn “Ash” North, who is Irish but now a recent citizen after having married Benjamin Ross for pure green card purposes and getting herself out of her native country for some very specific reasons. Then there is Audrey, the fictional, who is Ash’s girlfriend. Finally, there’s Mat, the requisite techie, who is gender-fluid.

Readers are no doubt excited to hear about a new Newsflesh novel, but hopes will be somewhat dashed when they learn it is a very similar story to Feed about a news team covering a presidential race with lots of zombie attacks thrown in for action. There are some new details and facts added about the world that open things up a little, but after the astounding ride around the world that was Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, Feedback is pretty much a disappointment in most areas.

Originally written on October 31, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)


It’s been a few years since fans enjoyed the last Newsflesh novel, and in that time the dark and twisted Mira Grant has written a number of novellas for various anthologies, which fans may have missed along the way. Thankfully, the wonderful people at Orbit have helped collect all these separate stories together in this mighty and magnificent tome, Rise.

After a thankful introduction from the author, the collection begins with “Countdown,” originally published as a series of blog posts, that helps document the lead up to the rising. “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the incredible story of the rising at Comic Con when thousands of fans were trapped inside with some amplified zombies and what some did to survive, and what others did to help those outside survive a little longer. In “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea” new head of After the End Times Mohinder travels to distant Australia which is different from the rest of the world in that the Aussies have always lived in a world where things were trying to kill them. The newsie travels to the Rabbit Proof Fence, a massive enclosure protecting the Australian people from amplified kangaroos and other marsupials that would love nothing more than to sink their teeth into some human flesh. “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” tells an origin story for a known Newsflesh character and is one of the most moving stories in the collection, as one teacher fights to keep her first grade class of children alive.

Rise also features two brand-spanking new novellas the world has never seen before. “All the Pretty Horses” is the powerful story of Shaun and George’s parents, Stacy and Michael Mason; how they survived the rising and found a new lease in life and ultimately made the decision to adopt two very special children. “Coming to You Live” continues the events immediately after Blackout, giving fans some much needed answers and story.

This collection is a delight and shows the true breadth and complexity of the Newsflesh world. And to add the icing on this delicious bloody cake: there is a NEW Newsflesh novel coming out in the fall called Feedback.

Originally written on July 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rise from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Chimera” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2015)


In what was originally planned as a duology, now comes to a close in the final, third volume of Mira Grant’s Parasitology trilogy, Chimera. Implanted tapeworms are rising up and taking over their human hosts everywhere, turning them into mindless, zombie-like mobs. The world is in a state of collapse.

The book opens where Symbiont left off. Sal is a “guest,” AKA prisoner of USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases). Her hope is that she will be treated okay because her father is the one in charge until she can come up with a plan to escape. But there are those below her father who see Sal as the cause of all this trouble and wish to take out some vengeance on her.

Eventually Sal escapes and joins her group with Dr. Cale. Then the next step is to work out how to neutralize the tapeworm eggs that another chimera and enemy, Sherman, inserted into the water supply. The water will affect everyone and anyone – chimera, human, sleepwalker alike, all with the goal of creating an army of superior chimeras like Sal and Sherman. They just have to save the world. No biggie.

Chimera moves through very similar stages to the first two books, and actually to Mira Grant books in general, making it feel pretty repetitive and uninspiring to read. While there are some twists, for the most part, things end as expected. A new character and type of chimera does add an interesting element to the mix, but overall the final volume is a somewhat dissatisfying conclusion, with a placid and unoriginal outcome.

Originally written on March 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Chimera from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Rolling in the Deep” by Mira Grant (Subterranean Press, 2015)


Mira Grant, of Feed and Parasite, is back with a great novella about mermaids, except these aren’t the beautiful sirens of the sea, but more the demons of the deep type.

The Imagine Network is known for producing quasi-documentary shows that are more a blend of fact and fiction, with some impressive special effects that viewers have come to expect and enjoy. And now they’re going to start filming their biggest and most expensive project yet: to find a real mermaid. Along with the standard film crew, there are a number of scientists, a full crew to pilot the mighty ship Atargatis, and a group of professional mermaids who pretend to be these fabled creatures. The Imagine Network isn’t going to stint on any facet of this production, and the entire group will be heading to the Mariana Trench, located in the extreme emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, at the deepest hole on the planet.

It is here each of the scientists will be conducting their studies and research, while the group of fake mermaids frollick in the waters, and the film crew does their thing. Only no one is really sure what that green light is deep in the water and when something comes up to say hi with all its teeth, everyone starts to become a believer.

Rolling in the Deep is Mira Grant at her best, turning a conventional story completely on its head and giving you some great horror to boot, along with some fun scientific research that will make the reader think. While Grant seems a little fancy free with some of the nautical research, overall the story is just a lot of fun with great characters and a plot that will keep your interest piqued until the last bloody page.

Originally written on January 1, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rolling in the Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Symbiont” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2014)

Symbiont
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The good news is that while Parasite and Symbiont were meant to be a duology, the Parasitology series has now been expanded into a trilogy; the bad news is that things are not getting any easier for Sal.

The SymboGen implants are now getting out of control, as the tapeworms move up the body and eat themselves into the host’s brain, turning the person into a “sleepwalker” who will lash out and start attacking at any moment. It’s snowballing out of control and the world is starting to fall apart.

Sal is going to have to work with her team to find out how these tapeworms are being triggered and what they can do to try and . . . save the world. It’s going to require a journey to her old home where this all began, SymboGen headquarters where, even though the world is falling apart around them, is somehow running business as usual.

Symbiont definitely feels like a “bridging” book between Parasite and what will be the concluding volume, but Grant keeps the reader interested with some introspective questioning, as well as pulling at the reader’s heartstrings, as Sal is a chimera – a tapeworm within a human – and yet is also our hero who were are hoping will somehow save the day.

Originally written on February  11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Symbiont from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Parasite  Feed  Deadline  Blackout

“Parasite” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2013)

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With the completion of the Newsflesh trilogy that has earned Mira Grant some dedicated readers, she turns to a new series, this one a duology called Parasitology, leaving the zombies behind for now and taking on a perhaps more frightening and realistic subject: parasites. The time is the near future and the concept is what if we kept a tapeworm in our intestines, known as the Intestinal Bodyguard, which could help cure sickness and prevent things like allergies? Sounds great.  But what if these tapeworms became sentient and intelligent?

Sally came back from the dead; she suffered a horrible accident that essentially killed her but thanks to SymboGen she was brought back to life along with her Intestinal Bodyguard. She’s a different person now, changed from who she was; calmer, quieter, less likely to anger. She’s living with her parents again, still getting used to being alive and being a person once more. She has monthly visits with SymboGen as they continue to check on her and perform their experiments to make sure everything inside her is working fine. She works at an animal habitat center and she has a boyfriend; life for Sally now ain’t too bad.

Except things are starting to get weird; some people are starting to act not like people. They’re acting as if someone else is in control of them, turning violent against other people, really violent, and then falling into a sort of catatonic state. It’s seems totally random and no one really knows who’s going to get hit with this weird state next. And SymboGen isn’t saying if they know anything about this. But Sally knows they have to know something, and she’s going to need to work out what exactly is happening to these people and what can be done about it; because if it’s to do with the Intestinal Bodyguard, then this could happen to her too, at any time.

Grant uses a vaguely similar template for Parasite as she did with Newsflesh, and the reader can’t help but think of these people acting weird as being “zombielike,” but she presents plenty of fun surprises and explores some interesting concepts that leave the reader questioning just about everything, plus one gets to learn way more than they wanted about parasites, Mira Grant style.

Originally written on September 23, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Parasite from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Feed  Deadline  Blackout

Bookbanter Column: The Only Zombie Books You Ever Need to Read (May 25, 2012)

If you’re a reader and a fan of the horror genre, then chances are you’ve read a zombie book of some sort; maybe more than one.

In case you haven’t noticed, this living dead sub-genre simply won’t go away, as more and more zombie books are being churned out, to the point where most horror authors have now tried their writing hands at bringing an unlikely character back from the dead.

In an earlier Book Banter Column I discussed the short history of the zombie genre, which you can read here.

The big problem I find with most zombie books is that that’s all the story is really about: zombies attacking humanity and how humanity fights back, kills them for good, and ends up winning.  End of story.  This is fine as a story premise, except that it’s been done so many times, not just in books, but in movies, comic books, as well as various other forms of media.

For me the unique zombie story is one that has an interesting, captivating story in a world where there are zombies.

Enter Mira Grant.

Mira Grant is the pseudonym of Seanan McGuire.  Seven years ago she came up with an idea for a zombie book that was a small idea that became a big one, then a trilogy.

The first book, Feed, was released in 2010 and was nominated for a Hugo Award.  The second book, Deadline, was released in 2011 and received just as much support and good press as its predecessor.  The final book in the trilogy, Blackout, was released just this week and has already been getting lots of coverage and hurrahs from fans.

So the complete trilogy has been released, and it honestly feels more like one long book, making it the perfect time to check this series out and give it a read.

Here’s why you should read Feed:

It is the future, the year is 2039.

Twenty-five years ago the Kellis-Amberlee virus was released and began turning humanity into zombies.

The world is now a very different place: many people rarely leave their homes, or the protected confines of their neighborhoods; many places have been overridden by zombies, while the government does what it can to feebly protect its people.  Georgia Mason (named after someone who understood zombies very well) and her twin brother Shaun are bloggers.  When everything went to hell a quarter-century ago, the media denied what was happening, mocking the bloggers who were purportedly telling the truth.  Now the bloggers have become the media, for they are the only ones brave (or stupid) enough to get close to the zombies and report what’s happening.

It’s an election year and Republican Senator Peter Ryman is running for president, looking to change the country, to make the American people feel safe and protected once more.

George and Shaun and their techie Buffy have been picked as members of the media to cover Senator Ryman’s campaign, launching them into journalism stardom.  But then something terrible happens, at one of the Senator’s events; zombies attack and people die.  As the Senator’s campaign continues, George, Shaun and Buffy try to put the pieces together and work out exactly what’s going on, and why the Senator is being attacked, in an attempt to ultimately find out who is behind it all.

Mira Grant is not simply telling a good story about zombies; she is instead telling a fantastic story about a group of young bloggers covering the campaign of a hopeful presidential candidate in a world where there are zombies and fear is a part of everyone’s everyday life.

And as the book comes to a close, the reader realizes there are things in this world that are worse than zombies.

They’re humans.

Here’s why you should read Deadline:

Shaun Mason is in a very dark place.

In a world where every person wakes up with the fear of zombies in their minds, as well as the terror of somehow amplifying at any moment, Shaun doesn’t really care anymore.

When he had to shoot his sister and kill her before she fully amplified, it was definitely a turning point in his life.  And now he has very little to live for; his sister was everything to him, and had always joked about what she would do when he was dead, because he was the risk taker.  There was no scenario for when George was killed and Shaun was left all alone.  Though there is one little light in this dark, dark tunnel and that is that Shaun still talks to his sister . . . in his head.  She’s alive and well in his brain and he talks to her, has conversations with her, even argues with her.

Fortunately, anyone else who spends time with him knows that Shaun is now pretty much crazy and they all just deal with it.

But the world must go on and Shaun has a news organization to run, along with an experienced team, he makes the decisions when he has to and lets the talented people he has working for him do what they do best; while the former daredevil who used to fly in the face of danger for the chance to get some great zombie footage is no more.

And then a member from the CDC drops into their laps with an incredible story to tell.  A story that has everything to do with the Kellis-Amberlee virus, how it might have got started, and where the CDC is on the cure.  She’s also faked her own death and appears to be off the radar, and then a devastating outbreak coincidentally happens right where Shaun and his team are currently hanging out.  Some make it out, while others are incinerated, as outbreak protocols are followed.  This event awakens the spark and drive that has been missing in Shaun for some time.

Now he has something to go on, a clue that will lead him on the trail to finding out who had his sister killed and how this virus got “accidentally” released and destroyed the world.

And here’s why you should read Blackout:

We last left George apparently somehow alive and well, living the life of a clone in a CDC lab.

She slowly puts things together as time passes, but for every answer there are fifty more questions.  Also is she really Georgia Mason?  She doesn’t have the reservoir condition anymore; she’s a lot thinner that George ever was; and her hair is annoyingly long and bleaching with every shower.

Then she finds out she might have an ally or two on the inside, but she isn’t sure if she can trust them.

Meanwhile, as Shaun continues to talk to Georgia in his head and act all kinds of crazy, he keeps the gang of After the End Times on the move.

After spending some time with Dr. Abbey in her secret lab, as she takes copious daily amounts of his virus-immune blood, he thinks about where the trail is leading next, where he can get more answers, and find out just what this whole conspiracy is all about.  It will involve possibly going on a rescue mission to Florida, which has been designated a zombie-ridden loss for the country; meeting with his parents who he hates, to ask for help; and tracking down the best I.D. counterfeiter in the business to start their new lives.

Mira Grant skillfully switches between the George and Shaun storylines with each chapter, making the characters appear as distinct and complex as they were in the first two books, as she slowly but seamlessly brings them together, building the tension and thrill.  The reader knows the step-siblings are going to meet up again at some point, but will Shaun be able keep his sanity or will he just be pushed over the edge?  Then there’s the question of which clone of Georgia Mason will be there to greet him?

Blackout is the perfect, satiating finish to the trilogy, making the three-book series feel like one long, epic story.

No reader will be disappointed, with a worthwhile ending that will leave him or her sad that the wonderful journey is now over . . . but just like when the end of Harry Potter was reached, or the final page of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, how many of us turned back to the first book and started reading that first page once again.

Having reread the first two books, this trilogy will be one I will continue to reread constantly throughout my lifetime.

(Originally published on Forces of Geek)