Deadline by Mira Grant

June 3, 2011

Please note if you haven’t read Feed, part one of the Newsflesh Trilogy, this review contains some spoilers. Also it’s brilliant and you totally should.

Nothing stays buried for long…

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the new organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a researcher from the Centre for Disease Control fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun’s relieved to find a new purpose in his life. Because she brings news: the monster who attacked them may be destroyed, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

Feed was hands down one of my favourite reads of 2010. It brought new life, if you’ll pardon the pun, to the zombie novel. Pitched somewhere between The West Wing and Day of the Dead it was a terrific read and I have been looking forward to the arrival of it’s sequel, Deadline, since I finished Feed’s last page.

Since the death of his sibling, Shaun Mason has been going through the motions, merely surviving rather than living. He has been biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to track down the source of the conspiracy that ultimately led to Georgia being killed. Their website, After the End Times, has gone from strength to strength and Shaun finds himself in charge of a team who are all keen to help him learn the truth.

I always thought that dispatching the main protagonist toward the end of the first novel in a trilogy, was a rather gutsy move. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see why it was the right thing to do. George is still a strong presence in Deadline, but only as a disembodied voice in Shaun’s head. He has learned how to cope with her death by having an ongoing internal conversation with her. This back and forth nicely illustrates the distinct differences in their respective characters. All of Shaun’s motivations are driven by George and her absence. He is uncomfortable with being in charge, and comes to rely on the spirit of his sister to fill the void she left behind. She helps him to continue to function and make the right decisions.

Deadline seemed initially, to be a slower paced affair than it’s predecessor. It takes more time to gather momentum due, I felt, to a distinct lack of zombie action in the first half of the novel. There were a few isolated incidents, but personally, I wished that there had been just a few more. However, now that I’ve finished the novel, I can see why the zombies had to take a back seat to begin with. This is a novel that is more concerned with revenge and conspiracy. Shaun is driven by his need for answers, and quite early on you get the feeling that things are going to get a damn sight worse before they get better.

There is a rather spectacular WTF moment towards the end of the novel that caught me totally unawares. Kudos to Mira Grant for making me do a double take and exclaim “Whhhaaaat?!” (in the style of Moe the Bartender from The Simpsons). There is nothing I enjoy more than reading a novel and being thrown a truly unexpected curveball by the author.

Deadline is an intelligent, gripping read, with the same skilful writing that so engrossed me while reading Feed. If you are looking for zombie horror with brains, (sorry I couldn’t resist) then this is the novel for you.

The good news is only a year or so till the final part of the trilogy, Blackout, is published. Who am I kidding – I am going to have difficulty waiting that long.

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