Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

As a note, my review spoiler policy is now in effect. Since Feed has been out longer than six months I will be discussing spoilery bits from that story below but the major spoilers of Deadline, which only came out in June of this year, will be hidden behind a cut. You’ve been warned.

At the request of my wife, because she really dug the series, I started reading Mira Grant’s (aka Seanan McGuire) zombie series that started with Feed

The world of Feed, and later Deadline, is one where the zombie apocalypse has happened. One thing that I appreciate in these two books is the complete thoughtfulness for the world that Mira Grant shows. She is thorough in her reasoning, thinking of how a zombie uprising would impact pretty much every level of society. Her world-building in Feed, and its continuation in the sequel, is superb.

Both Feed and Deadline feature an aspect of how society has changed after the Rising, namely journalism. Blogging has become an established, and somewhat respected, part of journalism since the dead started getting back up and munching on brains due to the fact that it was bloggers, rather than traditional/corporate media, that told the truth about the Rising and, in many ways, were responsible for the survival of the human race. Bloggers posted information, videos, shared ideas, and spread communication regarding the situation to the everyday person that allowed people to do what they needed to survive. That allowed bloggers to become a much more accepted, and acceptable, form of journalism to the world-at-large. Georgia (aka George) Mason, the main character of Feed and whose perspective most of the story is told from, and her brother Shaun, who tells the story of Deadline, are both bloggers.

Deadline takes place a few months after Feed and we see the effects of George’s death on her brother Shaun. In short, he’s broken, something we saw at the end of Feed and she now is a voice living in his head. This split personality (or dementia or what have you) colors every aspect of his life now from his own thoughts not being his own to not truly being alone (while Shaun recognizes George is, in fact, just a voice in his head, he remarks about several times when she is gone) to his interactions with other people. Some people ignore him frequently talking to George out loud, others question it, others, still, confront him about it. In many ways Deadline is Shaun processing this voice living inside his head.

The story opens up with a character, a young female scientist from the CDC who we met at the end of Feed, showing up on the doorstep of Shaun’s new place (which he shares with some of the staff of his blog) with the conspiracy from the last book hot on her heels. Deadline takes us further into the exploration of this conspiracy and the world that Grant has created in general. We see more thoughtfulness in the exploration of the world in that everything we’re introduced to makes sense and the pace of the story, I think, moves decently well although there are a number of sections where it is filled with just exposition, the characters laying it out for us pretty bluntly.

For the most part I enjoyed this book. Like I said, the pace was good, the action was good, and there’s some nice doses of emotion brought to the novel. The introduction of a few new characters (including, finally, meeting Mahir) is great and seeing how the conspiracy continues to play out is very, very good. The ending, well, the ending for Shaun’s portion of the book, leaves off on a nice note that will lead very well into the third, and I believe final, installment of the series.

And then there’s…well…the other end.

I hate it and I don’t know if I’ll be reading the third book after it.

Here be spoilers because in order to discuss that ending, I must discuss the details.

Here’s the ending of Deadline: you find out that George is back. No, really, she’s back. Comes to in a hospital, probably in the CDC. What’s more is that her eyes, a major part of her character, are normal instead of holding a pocket of the live form of the K-A zombie-making virus.

How’d this happen? I mean, we saw her get shot in the back of the head by her brother in the third act of Feed, her death was a major part of the final scenes of that book and majorly impacted this one.

Easy. She’s a clone. Deadline introduced the possibility of full-scale cloning of people. And they brought back Georgia Mason as either A) a clone or B) the Georgia that died was a clone.

Either way, George is back and I hate it. Why? My huge issue with the ending of Deadline is that it completely, and utterly, screws up the vast tragedy of not only Shaun’s experience but also the tragedy that, in many ways, is such an integral and poignant part of Feed.

I would argue that a tragedy is a tragedy because it cannot be undone, it cannot be corrected. You must live (if you live) with the knowledge that what has happened can never be changed and so you are left with the sadness and pain of what has transpired. Consider Romeo and Juliet. It’s a tragedy because of the missed knowledge that Juliet is not really dead and Romeo kills himself needlessly, and is later followed in suicide by Juliet. Even though their deaths lead to the end of the feud between their families, arguably a happy thing, you the reader/audience are still left with the sadness that had the friar’s messenger gotten to Romeo or had he been just a few moments late to the crypt, he would’ve had his Juliet. It is meant to leave you with that ache.

Would Romeo and Juliet’s story be as powerful if they were able to be resurrected? Wouldn’t it be just happiness and kittens and rainbow-vomiting unicorns? Maybe, but would it be a tragedy? No, not in the slightest. If a story ends happily ever after, then it isn’t a tragedy.

And George’s death was a tragedy and, I’d argue, so is Feed. I thought Mira Grant did a superb job of making us care for her. From the very beginning we are drawn into who George is through the use of the first person perspective and I know that I was very invested in her. That is why the scene that ultimately ends with George’s death, and her final blog post, is so powerful, because I, at least, cared so much about her. Yes, they may get the bad guy in the end but at what cost in life and emotional suffering?

And the scene in Deadline where Shaun discovers that if they’d just let it be, that if George had just been given some time, her body’s natural defenses (which were responsible for her eye condition) would’ve fought off the disease and she would’ve recovered? That’s doubling down on that tragedy by making what happened, Shaun shooting her, even worse.

And so that’s why the end of Deadline feels like, to me, a betrayal of our experience in Feed. I’m all for tragedy, I think it can be great, and I thought George’s death, Shaun’s experience after, and the whole of Shaun’s life in Deadline (and the way that George’s death impacted the other characters in the story as well) was incredibly well done. But to put us through Georgia Mason, watching her battle for truth, watching her suffer and fear and growing to care for her, to see the dart in her arm and know what is coming, to read her final thoughts, and then see how that, in many ways, her death scars the people around her, and to think that all of that experience and emotion as a reader was for nothing because she’s effectively coming back from the dead in some soap opera/comic book fashion?

Yeah, that kind of upsets me really and not in a good way. It feels cruel.

For as good as I thought the entirety of Deadline was, those four pages at the end felt almost insulting and I’m not really sure I’ll be going back.

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