on January 20, 2012
I think it's important to distinguish really early on that this book is not really about zombies. Sure, the aftermath of the zombie outbreak is paramount to the story, but zombies themselves are not really the focus. Rather, the book is about conspiracy, politics, intrigue, and humanity's good intentions gone horribly awry.
As other reviewers have gone over the plot in great detail, I'll skip the bulk of the summation, but in short, the book is about a future where we've cured cancer, cured the common cold, and accidentally unleashed the hell that is the zombie "apocalypse." The world isn't ended, but it's certainly changed. Our story follows a group of bloggers who get their big break -- Following a presidential campaign in the wake of "The Rising." In this future, blogs are the last bastion of the Truth with a capital T, and the group of bloggers we follow is led by Georgia "George" Mason, a "Newsie" who takes this truth very seriously. With her is her adopted brother, Shaun, who is an "Irwin," bloggers who take serious risks to get a great story. As I'm sure you can guess by the length of the book, the plot thickens in a huge way.
I'll start my feedback with "The Bad," which is a pretty small complaint. The book is a lot longer than it needs to be. A good chunk of the book is in the form of blog entries from either George, Shaun, or Buffy, their "Fictional." (It's just what it sounds like.) This format is pretty cool, and definitely lends us some depth to the characters, but it really isn't necessary to the extent it's presented. Shaun and George, especially, are very well fleshed out without these entries, and I feel like they could have been used more effectively in short bursts. There were a few really excellent blog entries (especially one near the end... No spoilers, but it made me cry on the bus home, and I'm an adult woman. It's pretty powerful.), but for the most part, they only add a small amount, and really take away from the movement of the story.
However, I am pretty happy with the book overall. For one thing, it has enough little references to make it read somewhat like a love letter to the zombie genre in general, ie : the popularity of the name George/Georgia/Georgette in the wake of the Rising, George Romero's zombie being used to further research. There's enough subtlety to this that those not into the genre may miss things -- For example, Shaun may seem like a common name, but I mean... Shaun of the Dead? Yes? That pleased me. It also takes what is wrong and simplified in the zombie genre and really ramps it up a notch. Zombie outbreak caused be a virus? Not exactly -- It's caused by two antiviruses combining to create a horribly virulent strain of a brand new virus. It's a pretty cool twist, and while I'm sure it's been done before, it's incredibly well put together. Granted, that probably added to the length in a big way, but in this regard, I don't mind the extra reading. It's interesting to see the epidemiology in this case.
I loved the character development. People have criticized Shaun and George's somewhat unbelievable relationship, but if you consider that these are two adopted kids that have grown up with, really, just each other to truly rely on and truly form a connection to in a world where every day means the potential for a horrible death (or undeath, as it could be), it's not all that far-fetched. Another noteworthy connection was that between Rick and Lois -- I won't spoil it, but it's incredibly touching and sad.
I don't think the book is perfect -- It did drag a bit, and, if you're looking for a lot of action, this isn't necessarily for you. The action that exists is great, but it is relatively sporadic. I've been hearing that the second book in the series has more zombie related action, and I plan on starting it soon. However, the overall feel of this book is just really great. I really did cry on the bus, and I felt physically sick and tense at a few parts. I highly recommend reading it if you're into realistic "outbreak" scenarios, or if you're a fan of the zombie genre who isn't really feeling like a straight book o' violence. Definitely recommend borrowing it from a library to start, but I know I'll be picking it up for my personal library.