OK muffins, gather around. On your best behavior, please. Stand up straight. Are your hands clean? Good. We have a very special guest today on APR, our dear friend Ysabet MacFarlane. Ysa and I go way back on twitter where she is one of the monsters that keeps making me read Mira Grant books. You know how much I love Mira and her Newsflesh world, so when Ysa got an advanced copy and asked if anyone would like her to guest post it? You'd better believe I fell at her feet. So be good, leave comments, and don't scare her off. Without further ado:
Author: Mira Grant
Series: Newsflesh #4/standalone
Pages: 489 (printed ARC)
Published: October 4, 2016
A new beginning for Mira Grant's New York Times bestselling NEWSFLESH series!
There are two sides to every story...
We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we unleashed something horrifying and unstoppable. The infection spread leaving those afflicted with a single uncontrollable impulse: FEED.
Now, twenty years after the Rising, a team of scrappy underdog reporters relentlessly pursue the facts while competing against the brother-and-sister blog superstars, the Masons.
Surrounded by the infected, and facing more insidious forces working in the shadows, they must hit the presidential campaign trail and uncover dangerous truths. Or die trying.
Feedback is a full-length Newsflesh novel that overlaps the events of the acclaimed first novel in the series, Feed, and offers a new entry point to this thrilling and treacherous world.
I am, to put it mildly, a hardcore fan of Mira Grant's original Newsflesh trilogy, and a fan of her work overall, so I was 100% prepped and ready to love Feedback; on the flip side, I was scared of it not living up to my hopes, which is always a risk no matter how much you love an author's work. But I came away from it delighted, and I hope other readers will too.
Let me say up front that, despite the cover copy's description of Feedback offering "a new entry point" to the series, it should be approached with a bit of caution by anyone who hasn't read the original books. Does it stand on its own? Yes, I would say so. And if you haven't delved into the Newsflesh world before and want to check it out without committing to a trilogy, then go for it, because this is a great book. My qualm is that Feedback, for good reason, gives away a major plot development from near the end of Feed (the first book in the original trilogy). If you're totally blase about spoilers, by all means, proceed.* (And there are tons of things in the trilogy that Feedback doesn't touch on, so it certainly won't spoil the whole plot for you!) But if not, my strong advice is to pick up both Feedback and the trilogy (which is available in a convenient box set) and read the original books first.
The main cast of Feedback is an entirely new group of characters. Our narrator, Aislinn "Ash" North, is an Irish expatriate and new American citizen working as an action news reporter--an Irwin--in a close-knit team of four internet journalists. Like plenty of other blogging teams, Ash's team applied for a job as the official reporters for one of the potential Republican candidates in an upcoming presidential election, and they came close to getting it, but lost out to Georgia and Shaun Mason, siblings whose family is already a household name thanks to their parents' fame in the first wave of post-Rising reporters. Another chance comes knocking when one of the aspiring Democrat candidates decides to hire a reporting team of her own and offers the job to Ash and her coworkers, who seize the opportunity.
Feedback spends less time focusing on the details of the political campaign than you might expect, even before the plot thickens and the team starts to realize what they're up against. As an Irwin, Ash's job has little to do with writing exposes and in-depth articles; instead, her role involves going looking for trouble with zombies and broadcasting her thrilling escapes. But in this post-zombie apocalypse world, an eye for danger and a gift for getting out alive are priceless when anyone can become a threat once the virus in their system wakes up...and equally valuable in the face of other types of danger.
The writing in Feedback is engaging and the book flows by quickly despite clocking in at nearly 500 pages. The plot is solid and offers a fresh take on a situation we saw through a very different lens in Feed, as well as on a few characters who readers of the trilogy and novellas have met in other circumstances. (To those who've read Feed: as Grant indicated when Feedback was announced, no, the Masons are not involved in this novel at all. We do get some insight into how they're seen by other members of the blogging community, though, which I'd been hoping for and was glad to see.) The basic starting premise of "bloggers get hired to report on a political campaign/candidate" is fairly similar to Feed's, but Feedback's twists and turns make this a very different story.
But while all of that is great, it's the characters who make Feedback shine. I loved getting to know Ash and spending some time in her head. She's smart, quick-witted, and practical, and has complex relationships with her team--and not just because the team includes both her husband (a dear friend who married Ash to get her into the United States, rather than because they were in love) and her girlfriend. The friendship and camaraderie are intense and real, down to the strains and frustrations that come with any long-term personal or professional relationship. The main cast is also very diverse, with nary a straight-white-cisgender dude in sight.
There are some small but significant ways in which Feedback is in conversation with its predecessors, especially Feed. After Feed, the impression given of a minor character was a source of some criticism from readers, which Grant seems to have born in mind here--in Feedback, that individual is given added nuance and a bit of explicit (but not jarring) commentary on how she's often perceived. And some of the assumptions the Masons make in their trilogy about how the world works are influenced by an upper middle class upbringing, and those views aren't necessarily challenged; Ash, as an immigrant with fewer resources and a very different living situation (and the benefit of being in her late 20s compared to the Masons at age 22-23), has different insights into how ordinary people go about their lives after the Rising.
All in all, I'm thrilled with this full-length return to the Newsflesh world, and I hope everyone else will be too.
And finally, thanks to Danielle for letting me borrow a corner of Ageless Pages. ^_^ ( Anytime! - D)
*I'd be quite interested to know what reading Feedback is like for someone with no prior knowledge of the series, and if such a person were to then go read the original trilogy, I'd also be very interested to know how experiencing Feedback first affected their take on Feed and its characters.