Audiobook Review: Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella by Mira Grant

25 10 2011

Countdown by Mira Grant (A Newsflesh Novella)

Read by Brian Bascle

Hachette Audio

Length: 2Hrs 15 Mins

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/ Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Countdown is Mira Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

Grade: A-

2011 was one of the best years ever for Zombie fiction on audiobook. In 2011 I have listened to 24 Zombie novels, a significant upgrade over 2010, where I listened to 6. The first zombie novel I listened to this year, back in January was Mira Grant’s zombie/political conspiracy thriller, Feed. Since reading Feed I have become an utter Mira Grant fanboy and evangelist, constantly recommending her Newsflesh series to everyone from hardcore zombie fans to those tentative about the genre. The Newsflesh Series has some of the most fascinating zombie apocalypse world building I have ever experienced, full of great characters, and intriguing concepts. So, of course, discovering that Mira Grant has a new novella available for download on Audible, that this novella was a part of the Newsflesh world, and it was on sale, well, after the paramedics revived me, I ran right to my computer and downloaded it.

Countdown is the story of the events leading up to The Rising, and acts as a prequel to the series. It tracks the scientists working on cures for cancer and the common cold, and the events that lead to these two seemingly wonder cures being released into the world, merging and becoming the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which upon full amplification, revives the dead into zombies. Countdown is full of characters only briefly mentioned in Feed and Deadline, and fills in much of the back story that sets the stage for these novels. You also see a few peripheral characters from the series, and get a glimpse of what they were like before the tragic day that changed the world forever. Yet, none of these characters are the true stars of this tale. The true star is the science of the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Unlike much hard science fiction that presents the science as hard theorem and datum, Mira Grant does what she does best by presenting the science in a beautiful, almost poetic way that allows the reader to do more than simply understand, but to experience it. Grant turns the actual viruses into characters, allowing us to see the transformation from helpful to world destructive in a vivid fashion. Yet, despite being a cautionary tale, Grant never demonizes the science or those involved in the development of the viruses. Instead she just allows us to see them for who they are and what they were hoping to accomplish. Countdown is Mora Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden of forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.

This was my first experience listening to Brian Bascle and thought he did a good job. For the most part, he just allowed me to enter into the story and stay there, presenting Grant’s words as they lead me where I needed to go. He has a nice narrative voice, and handled most of the characterizations well. The only characters he struggled with were adolescent girls, which is not strange for male narrators. My only real complaint about the audio production was that the transitions were presented with no real pause letting us know we were moving to another point of view. This would pull me out of the story a bit, when I realized we had switched characters or story arcs.  This small complaint wasn’t enough to really detract from a wonderful listening experience.

Seven Questions with Mira Grant

19 05 2011

Mira Grant is the author of The NewsFlesh Trilogy. Feed, the first book in that series, has been nominated for both a Hugo Award for Best Novel, as well as an Audie Award for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Audiobook. Her latest addition to the series is Deadline, which. in my humble opinion, is a brilliant follow up to Feed.  The Print version from Orbit Books, and the Audio version from Hachette Audio are available June 1. You can check out my review of Deadline here.

Ms. Grant was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule of writing kick ass novels, taking care of her cats and sharpening her machete to answer a few questions.

Bob: You are one of the few female author who has embraced the Zombie genre. Why Zombies? How did you fan base and colleagues react when you told them you wanted to write, not just a zombie novel, but a series of them?

Mira: “Hey, now.  Zombies aren’t as much of a boy’s club as some people think.  Cherie Priest’s fabulous steampunk zombies got her on the Hugo ballot last year.  Kelley Armstrong has done some fantastic things with zombies in her Women of the Otherworld setting.  And Madeleine Roux wrote an interactive horror-comedy zombie novel called Allison Hewitt is Trapped.  It’s not just me!  But it was zombies for me because it was always zombies; they’ve been one of my favorite monsters since I was a kid and got in trouble for sneaking out of bed at midnight to watch Night of the Living Dead.  There’s something beautifully appealing about the dead that walk.

“My fans and colleagues mostly reacted with relief when I said I was finally going to buckle down and write a zombie novel, rather than talking endlessly about how much I wanted to write a zombie novel some day.  And then they all laughed at me when, midway through the process of writing Feed, the big zombie boom hit.  They were all, see?  You, too, can predict future trends.  And then they stopped laughing when they realized I had the CDC on my speed dial.  By the time I was midway through Feed, most of them were invested enough in What Happens Next to be really, really glad that I was planning a complete trilogy.”

Bob: In my review of Deadline I remarked how, based on the events of Feed, Deadline had to be a decidedly different book. How tough was it to find the right tone for Deadline? How anxious were you about the reaction you may receive from it?

Mira: “It wasn’t as tough as you’d expect, largely because a lot of the things that make Deadline so different were a natural evolution of things I was already doing in the last quarter of Feed.  I had already done this with the training wheels on, so to speak.  I’ve been pretty anxious about a lot of aspects of the book’s release.  People loved Feed so much (except when they didn’t) that it’s a little nerve wracking to be all ‘great, now here’s the sequel, have fun.'”

Bob: In most Zombie Apocalypse books and films society is almost entirely eradicated, except for a few enclaves scattered about. Yet, the Newsflesh world is different. Your society has found away to adapt itself to the Zombies, yet, this adaptation seems mostly based on fear. I can’t help but think this is a reflection of out post 9/11 world. What about the world you created fascinates you?

Mira: “If I can be completely honest…the science.  I am an old school horror girl and I have a machete collection, but when you ask me about what I like best in this setting, it’s really and truly the science.  I love the squishy reality of it all.  I love that it functions.  The fear is definitely a reflection of the world we’re living in today.  Humans make surprisingly good boiled frogs.  We chip away at our liberties and our freedoms one little piece at a time, and as long as we take it slow, we’ll give up more than you could ever dream.  Look at how we live now.  Look at how we lived twenty years ago.  Ask yourself…would we ever, ever have given up those freedoms for security in a single lump sum?

“My big social fantasy that’s expressed sort of behind-the-scenes in the Newsflesh world is universal and comprehensive medical care.  This is a reality that has learned the value of strengthening the general population.”

Bob: My site is basically dedicated to Audiobooks. Have you listened to the audiobook versions of your books, and what do you think of them? Were you involved in anyway with the production process?

Mira: “I’ve listened to part of Feed–I didn’t even realize the Deadline audio book was finished until I saw your review.  I thought the readers were awesome, and that Orbit made some very smart choices with the production.  I couldn’t listen to the whole thing, because I needed to be focusing on writing the next one.  I’m not involved with the production process, apart from occasionally explaining how to pronounce a word, but I totally trust them.”

Bob: Now some fun questions. If you were going to go Irwin for the day, what weapons would you choose to take with you?

Mira: “I would like a tank.  A nice, big tank that fires depleted uranium bullets and can crush anything which happens to step into its path.  I will then roll my tank around, flattening zombies in my wake, and making Tank Girl jokes until everyone wants to slap me.”

Bob:I find it suspicious that cats fit nicely under the weight threshold for Kellis-Amberlee amplification. More proof of their evil plot for world domination?

Mira:“Science again.  When I was designing the virus, we needed a weight threshold, or else it’s zombie squirrels and the end of the world.  Forty pounds seemed like a good cut-off point.  Some dogs and most livestock can amplify, most cats and babies can’t.  Also, no zombie rats.  I am opposed to zombie rats.  They would be bitey.”

Bob:Finally, there is this other author out there named Seanan McGuire. Tell me, what would fans of the Newsflesh novels discover if they checked out her work?

Mira: Seanan McGuire is my good twin–I’m the evil one–and she primarily writes urban fantasy, with occasional forays into science fiction and horror.  Fans of the Newsflesh novels might find that her work is surprisingly familiar, especially the short fiction, which deals with vampires and psychotic muses and hitchhiking ghosts and buckets of mad science.  Plus her website is updated a lot more regularly than mine, and her bibliography tends to list the things I have coming out.  Funny thing, that.”

A big thanks to Mira Grant for answering my questions… and for not creating zombie rats.

Note: You can find the images I used for this post on Mira Grant’s Website. Icons and Wallpapers available.


Audiobook Review: Feed by Mira Grant

13 01 2011

Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy, Book 1) by Mira Grant
Read By Paula Christensen and Jesse Berntein

Hachette Audio

My mom used to tell me that there were two things you should never talk at the dinner table, politics and zombies. OK, that’s not really true, but if said mother declares such fictional restrictions on dinner time conversation, then Mira Grant’s Zombipolithriller Feed would not be open to discussion between bites of meatloaf.

Which is too darn bad for that fictional situation, because Feed is a fun thriller. Unlike many Zombie books, Feed looks at what our world would look like decades after the Zombie uprising. We witness this world through the eyes of two bloggers, Georgia and Shaun Mason, who are tapped as part of the press coverage following a Republican Presidential Candidate.

Mira Grant gives us an interesting take on the zombie world, without the focus being on blood and gore (although there is plenty of said blood and gore) we examine how the basic freedoms of our country would be altered willingly or unwillingly when the dead rise. Grant adds some twists to the zombie tropes that are unique to the genre, while still paying homage to Romero’s flesh eating shamblers.

All in all, Grant’s novel does what good zombie novels do. Using the undead as a mirror to ourselves, allowing us to decide what truly is human. She shows how sometimes it’s not the monsters hiding in the shadows we need to be afraid of, but the well dressed, handsome man shining in from our TV sets telling us what we think we want to hear. She accomplishes all this, while still giving us thrilling chases, zombie outbreaks, political intrigue, and a bunch of twists I didn’t see coming.

As far as the narration for the book went, I had mixed feelings. I really liked Paula Christensen’s voice for Georgia, but at points she has a bit of a distracting lisp that I think would become annoying to some people. It is most glaring in the beginning of the reading, and becomes less noticeable as the book progresses. Jesse Berstein handles some of the narration, particularly that of the male POV, and it was serviceable, but I think a bit distracting as well. I think Christensen’s male voices were pretty good for a female narrator, and the few changes in POV could have been handled by her without hurting the overall production.

Grade: B+