Feed is a story about what happens after a zombie apocalypse, but it isn't post-apocalyptic as such. Instead humanity has retrenched behind sealed doors, protected by blood tests and automated systems. It's a world where many of our current issues have lost their salience but security threats and perhaps security theater are everywhere. It's a tale told to us by the bloggers that venture out into this world and thus has an innate appeal to those of that send our thoughts out into the net.
The story focuses on siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason, respectively a reporter ("newsie") and a daredevil ("irwin"). Together with their tech genius story writer, a "fictional" nicknamed Buffy, they get the story of their lives when they imbed with a Republican candidate seeking his party's nomination for the 2034 election. On the whole it's a good premise and a neat world. The writing was reasonable, the characters could be fun, the plotting a bit predictable at times, and the politics perhaps a trifle naïve. If the premise appeals, I think you'll be satisfied if not necessarily blown away.
Starting with the parts I found a bit less satisfying, I'm not quite sure I see media evolving into collections of "newsies", "irwins" and "fictionals". Print and television journalism now has any number of people willing to risk extreme danger to bring home stories and who too often die in the pursuit. The lack of risk aversion of the bloggers and the licensing process were all interesting but didn't quite work for me as media critique. The overall media environment had elements that rang true - an obsession with ratings, the management of support staff, the jump from an existing website to independent operation - all of which gave the characters' jobs more solidity although I'm not quite remembering how the business model was detailed.
Slightly less plausible was Sen. Ryman's campaign. He had some good speeches and a strong staff support but I don't quite buy his rocketing to political prominence. The bloggers were accurate enough in seeing through much of the artifice of the campaign, but with one notable exception I didn't really see the horse trading or rhetorical tradeoffs that seem as relevant to the world of 2034 as the world of 2014. Amusingly, though, one of Ryman's opponents appears to be a version of Texas Gov. Perry, which has made his official announcement for President all the more frightening.
I think the strongest of the political elements was the focus on security measures. The bloggers were a bit more necessary for investigations than seemed plausible to me, but the range of security measures, often redundant and obnoxious, all rang true. To a fair extent the zombie-terrorized world does work as our present day fears taken to a logical extreme. The best political issues of the book, like the question of how to handle animals that were large enough to zombie, stemmed from these issues. I don't think the first novel of the series full explores that theme, but it's a good start and at some point I think I'll pick up the sequel.
Origin: Gift from Kate, a particularly well-targeted one.
Image from Mira Grant's website.