by Mira Grant

Cover image

Series: Newsflesh #2
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 0-316-13426-0
Format: Kindle
Pages: 608

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Buy at Powell's Books

Deadline is the sequel to Grant's excellent Feed, the book that, in my opinion, should have won last year's Hugo. All of the emotional groundwork for the story is laid by Feed, so I wouldn't recommend reading them out of order.

And a further caution: if you've not read Feed, avoid any information whatsoever about this book. Feed is extremely easy to spoil and likely will be spoiled by the slightest summary of Deadline, including back cover text. While sometimes this doesn't matter too much, I think that, with Feed, it matters a great deal and would significantly undermine one of the best moments I've read in fiction. So please be careful. I'm going to try to avoid spoilers in this review, which means that it will be a bit shorter and more circumspect than normal.

Those of you who have read Feed will be happy to know that Deadline is indeed more of the same, although with less of a focus on the details of blog sites and ratings and much more of a focus on the larger political and scientific questions underlying Grant's zombie-filled future. (This may be a plus for those who had suspension of disbelief problems with how blogging fit into society in the first book.) Expect much less journalism and investigation and many more explosions and chases through building corridors. While Feed did wrap things up in a reasonably neat conclusion, there were strands hanging loose, particularly concerning the motivations and resources of the villains. Deadline pulls at those strands and unravels a much larger picture than was previously apparent, with plenty of accompanying tension and frightening choices.

Grant also continues her solid characterization from the previous book, but it's not as much the centerpiece of Deadline. While Feed was, at its core, a story about friendship and about family more than a story about zombies, this is a story about zombies, politics, and epidemics. Personal relationships are somewhat ancillary to the action and suspense of physical danger. The positive side of this is that Deadline opens new depths under nearly every angle of the story, including a revelation about the hissable villain in Feed that casts the conclusion of that book in a new light. I still don't quite buy the motivations of the villains, but I came closer, and I suspect there are more revelations to come. The political dynamics of the world have become much more interesting and believable.

The negative side is that those personal relationships were the heart and soul of the previous book, and that heart is somewhat missing here. Not entirely: relationships continue and find new balances, and there are a few great moments of bravery and loyalty. The best new character is Maggie, a fictional and a recluse who lives in, of all places, Weed, a town in California that I have driven through many, many times (and Grant does a great job with locations). She provides much-needed balance to the gung-ho poke-it-with-sticks attitude of most of the other characters and helps the book find an emotional center. But I fear all this falls short of the amazing interpersonal dynamics of Feed that made it such an exceptional book. (Admittedly, that's a very hard act to follow.)

Those who didn't like Feed because they couldn't believe in the political campaign or thought the writing bogged down in description may enjoy this one more. The background and organizations are more in conventional thriller territory, resulting in some loss of quirkiness (for both good and bad), and there's more atmospheric tension and less loving description of gear. But I really missed some of the social dynamics, and got a little tired of Shaun's somewhat repetitious self-analysis.

Deadline is a good book and a solid sequel, and the epilogue makes me very eager to read the next book, although be warned that this is partly because it ends on a hell of a cliffhanger. Unlike Feed, it's not a great book, but it's well worth reading.

Followed by Blackout.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-07-06

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