Friday, October 28, 2011

Thinly veiled messages and you. A "Feed" review.

Music of the post.

I just recently finished a book called Feed. It's a supposed zombie book, lacking wholly in zombies. A political intrigue plot featuring characters that would rival Col. Immabadguy from Avatar and main characters that probably couldn't pick Hunter S. Thompson out of a lineup, but at least one of them claims to be a Gonzo style journalist.

This book was handed to me by the bossman here at work where I sit typing this in the downtime. He said the setting had potential and asked what I thought after finishing it. I agreed, the setting could be amazing, but the writing was poorly edited, the characters regularly passed the idiot ball around when they weren't being super-duper reporter-sues. (Mary Sues are pretty easy to research and worth a laugh if you do any sort of reading beyond the occasional best seller.)

It was a bit telling, I still can't tell you the two main characters' names, which normally I would chalk up to my shoddy memory, but I can remember other characters who actually had a personality past a sarcastic bitch and a retard. 'loid. Whatever the PC term is now. But, with that in mind, let's examine our implied incestuous twins.

The sister and the main character for 90% of the book claims to be a newsie, a reporter who only looks for the facts and follows Thompson's reporting style. She could have been interesting if the author actually knew anything about approach. Louis Theroux's a good example there and a few of his documentaries are online and free, I suggest America's Most Hated Family or the Black Nationalist Movement. Or you know, just reading excerpts from the original, you're already reading books or this overly long post anyway. Very rarely does she actually investigate, she's got the situational awareness of a deaf-mute in a sensory deprivation tank and the critical thinking skills of a sugar addled child. All in all, she had a few good moments, but it's not until the end that her character becomes tolerable. Roughly.. 30 pages from the end, which I'll gleefully spoil at the end of this post, you've been warned. And now that I've written all of this, I suddenly remembered her name as Georgia, which I initially thought was a reference to Dead Like Me, not George A Romero. That thudding noise was in fact my head hitting my desk.

The brother, Shaun or something like that was an idiot and his reporting style was 'Irwin'. Poke it with a stick and piss it off. This of course means he won't die because it would be too obvious an outcome, though we're already hitting negative sides of tropes anyway with the book so... Anyway, he's very rarely brought up as anything other than Georgia's safety blanket, they sleep together (though apparently not in the way that's implied. Word of God (Troper reference) says as much anyway.) When he's not being a complete assclown in a setting with a super infectious disease of doom where being exposed to the live virus is deadly. You know, like being grabbed by a zombie, he's in the background as a piece of scenery. Again, much like Georgia, his character becomes tolerable at the end and funny enough it's for the same reason.

Buffy. Georgette or.. something. She's a background blonde super computer nerd with quasi-mystical powers over electrical systems. Well, I'm calling it that since she's 20 years old and she's better than veterans in the field in the book. If you can't tell she's expendable, she's expendable. I'll spoil a few things about her here in a paragraph or three as well. Again, you've been warned.

So we also have a fairly limited number of stock characters, the Boy Scout politician, surprisingly a republican. We never actually see his politics and they never uncover anything bad about him. Flaws aren't needed right? A central background character?...

We also have Col. Immabadguy. I swear to god this guy was so one-note I've entirely forgotten his name. I know he's your stereotypical right wing fundy military vet. The only mystery in this book involving this guy is how the editor didn't laugh the author out of his/her office or how the author thought making him so obvious was a good idea in the first place. His preferred weapon, I shit you not is easily traced, plastic darts full of the zombie virus. The stuff's virulence is so high that less than 10 active cells are needed to kill you by the way and they don't even recover the darts afterword. The book's explanation is that the scenes of outbreak are too dangerous to investigate and they torch it to the ground after bleach bombing it. I guess in the future biohazard suits went away. I blame it on lazy writing and reusing plot macguffins.

Rich, the other boyscout. He's.. um. He's there and he's a guy and he works with them in vaguely defined ways. He's sort of like the voices on the internet, but he's actually there. You can largely ignore him, he doesn't add anything to the plot. At all.


Speaking of plot, let's tear it to shreds shall we? It starts out in an abandoned town.. city place where they're on a dirtbike and the brother is poking a zombie with a hockey stick for his 'news hungry fans'. I assumed immediately his fans were more like nascar fans who watch races for the crashes instead of the race. (Chanting EAT HIM! EAT HIM! to get his annoying ass off the internet) His sister bitches some, setting her one character trait in motion, they escape from the zombies by jumping over them on the bike (Seriously) and then going home. They get added as a presidential campaign's news team, their less than two-dimensional parents use them as a photo op, then they're promptly ignored for the rest of the book. You get a little world building here, like outdoor restaurants being rare and always surrounded by big fences. Laws being put in place to ban ownership of large animals (40 pounds or better) because they can zombify and how people have become more and more isolated because of the risks involved with the outside world. Sounds fairly promising actually, at least as far as a setting and plot go. Too bad it's rarely used.

They go to a rally, appease the religious old lady without actually stating anything, piss off an old-school news guy and then have a zombie attack take place. Again, great start, especially with the idea that the zombies are obviously not a random occurrence and they don't know who did the sabotage thing. There's a plot hole here, but it's gone for now. They find out the 'screamers' basic scanners that detect advanced stages of the virus by checking body temperature since active infectees have a lower body temp. Again, great idea, rarely touched upon past this plot point. Speaking of which, Buffy is our badguy here even though the plot made a point of showing that she was either with the incestuous siblings or with the other people on the campaign trail and certainly wouldn't have had the time to stealthily open up a sensor 20 feet from security, cut wires and seal it all back up without being spotted. But, she gets a lot of people killed.

Then we go on the trail some more and the repeatedly mentioned horse ranch and daughter are the next scene of a tragedy. Unfortunately this comes after meeting Col. Immabadguy who already established that he's.. well the badguy. This is where they find the first virus dart, then the military shows up, does your typical "Hurr we're meathead badguys too!" and get shouted down by the presidential campaigner, who just so happens to pick up Immabadguy as his Vice President on the ticket.

Fine though, we'll go over Immabadguy's background. He was a soldier, fought the zombie hordes and pushed them back into Canada. Was upset that we didn't flush the rest of them out and take the world back, nevermind that most soldiers would probably get overrun by running zombies, zombie moose, zombie raccoons and so on. You'd bleed far too many troops, but that's not how he sees it as those dirty commies are clearly up to steal our precious bodily fluids. Shit, wrong badguy. Oh and his motivation is that a fresh wave of zombie outbreaks would bring God back to the USA and that's his goal. Seriously. Deranged military religious fanatic, he's our badguy and our first major thinly veiled message. He's supposed to be what Republicans are, not what they should be like our boyscout, hence why he was almost the Presidential candidate rather than the vice... Oh and no one in book thought he was deranged so much as just an extremist.

Then Buffy is killed by a sniper blowing the tires out of their van, thus causing an accident, killing and zombifying her fuckbuddy (She's supposed to be catholic) and getting bitten, causing Georgia to put a bullet through her skull. After cheering the removal of dead weight in the plot, the CDC Shows up, ignores standard procedure and takes them alive even though they were all reported dead and zombified. They're released, sent on their way and then act all weird for a while as they compile evidence against Immabadguy after conveniently hearing him explain all of his plans in a room he was sure wasn't bugged by our tech-sue Buffy. Just after they get access to her systems even! Yeah, I was banging my head again. They confront the boyscout with this information, but don't bring the evidence with them and he blows a fuse, accuses them of being sneaky fucks and sends her out, telling her to go to their trailer. And now they're running full out with the idiot ball to the endzone since they know Immabadguy is going to kill them without subtlety, he said as much in more or less those words. So, they find the cat dead (And I'm reminded of Heinlein's "What sick bastard kills the cat?") and then their trailer explodes and Sister is shot with the virus dart.

Again, it's supposed to be a surprise, she's the main character and you probably saw this coming the minute you were introduced to Sister, Brother and Bimbo. She writes her last story, then her brother shoots her. Again, I cheered as more useless weight was removed. Then we get introduced to the brother actually gaining an interesting character trait as he snaps and starts talking to his dead sister and she responds. And other characters notice! Too bad this was 30 pages from the end of the book... Oh, he storms into the hidey hole the presidential campaign was hiding with the security goon, points a gun at Immabadguy and no one takes his fucking head off. Immabadguy stabs himself with the zombie virus... at a political event. Where people would search everyone. No I don't know where he was hiding it.

The book ends more or less on that note. Two dimensional characters proclaiming the evils of republicans, the death of new media and how old people can't possibly keep up with young people in the field of reporting are about all that I really pulled from this book. The editing was.. sporadic. The pacing was bad, the characters made me long for the depth Avatar had and overall I actually had more fun examining the world after I finished reading rather than with anything actually in the book. I then went to the store and promptly bought another Dresden Files book as a palette cleanser. Maybe I'll review something by one of my favorite authors next instead.