There are several question I have to ask myself:
Why did I read this series out of order?
And what the fuck possessed me to read about zombies?
Of course, the answer to the first is that it was one of the first books I read on my friend's Kindle, and I had no wireless access to find out which was the first in the series, and couldn't figure out where the hell the publication dates were, so picked one and went with it.
So that meant that I read the second book first, and some of you may remember that I wasn't enthralled with it. If I remember at this remove, I thought it was okay, but nothing special. While fully recognizing that that might be because I plunked myself in in the middle of the story.
Now I really wonder what it would be like if I went back and read the second one with the first under my belt, and how much that would change. Maybe it isn't as good as the first. But maybe I didn't have the emotional investment I would have now.
On to the second question. I am a huge wuss when it comes to horror. More so when it's TV or film as opposed to books, but still, I avoid it as a general rule. I have a slightly higher tolerance for horror in the written word, as my lack of thinking visually means that the words don't convert themselves into terrible pictures in my head. But the second book, when I read it, didn't get under my skin that much, so I thought I was safe going back to the first.
I was wrong. This book has haunted me all the time I've been reading it. It seriously freaked me the fuck out. And yet, I didn't put it down. Because I couldn't. Because, guys, despite all the reasons (such as that I like to sleep) that I shouldn't have been reading this book, it's really damned good. And I couldn't stop. Despite the dreams. And the waking up in the middle of the night all stressed about it. And the wonders it probably wasn't doing for my blood pressure.
If I wasn't enthralled with the second book, I couldn't put the first down. It hit all the right notes, even when I was getting a little too freaked out to continue, and yet had to know what happened next. And keep in mind that this is given that I'd already read the second book, and so more or less knew the ending of the first. Didn't matter. I had to get there myself.
So, Grant starts the book (yes, I know all about the pseudonym, etc.) in a world 20 years after zombies first attacked. She's gone to great lengths to trace the epidemiology of the disease, how it's transmitted, all the repercussions of a viral zombie plague. It's pretty terrifying.
Into this world, with its hyper-security awareness, constant fear, and constant monitoring, we're introduced to two adoptive siblings, adopted, that is, by parents who were courting the reality blogosphere limelight both before and after their son fell prey to a zombie dog. (The zombie animals - particularly the notion that anything over 40 kg. would become a zombie upon death - were also nervewracking.)
As much as they don't like their parents, they have both grown up as bloggers as well - Georgia (George) as a Newsie, dedicated to factual news, and Shaun, hellbent on putting himself in danger as much as possible as an Irwin. They, along with their friend Buffy (who named herself after the obvious), are tapped to be the first bloggers to accompany a political campaign, that of a senator making a run for the Republican nomination.
Despite holding fast to their journalistic ambitions, the Masons like the senator. But things on the campaign trail suddenly start to go nasty - and I don't mean negative campaign ads. One early campaign stop ends in a zombie outbreak, and that's all I'll say about that. But what happens at the Republican National Convention is devastating. And from a book about zombies that was freaking me out, this added on the layers of stress connected with political conspiracies, and those who are willing to do more than break the law to mold the results. But because the zombie virus has been so well explained it lingers in the background, and you just know that at any moment, everything could go to shit. And it's stressful!
So this is mostly a pulse-pounding political zombie thriller. But it's also got some thoughtful stuff about a surveillance society (although I think the second book delves into that territory even more deeply) and living in fear, and the real stress of trying to be an honest journalist when no one wants you to be.
And the ending devastated me. Even knowing it was coming, knowing what was going to happen, didn't lessen the impact. I actually cried at one point. Devastating.
So I come out of reading a book I would normally never read, one that freaked me the fuck out, and all I have to say is this: it's really good. I mean, really good. Far better than I was expecting. This hit all the notes that I'd been missing from the second one in the series, and now I'm going to have to find out if that was simply missing the emotional attachments the first book created, or whether it really is not as good.