Gather ’round, my dearest little chickens. Once upon a time, I thought that I had retired from reviewing books. Indeed, I thought that I had retired from even semi-serious blogging. Life has a way of Happening, you see, and it has been Happening to me in great, terrible quantities for the last six years. I broke in 2019, in ways that wouldn’t let me write or review with any kind of reliability. So I stepped back.
I’m not entirely sure that I’m un-retired. This is a special performance; I’m one small voice, but if even one person is inspired to read the book that I’m about to discuss, then it will be something. That might be enough.
I’m here to talk about Mira Grant’s Feedback.
Not nearly enough of you have read this book. I know this, because of something that I found on Twitter. Here, just take a look:
Further digging reveals that Into the Drowning Deep has done well! Feedback, sadly, still needs to catch up.
So I’m here to contribute to the cause. Let me see if I can remember how to do this…
Written by: Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire)
Pages: 525 (mass market paperback)
Series: Book Four of Newsflesh
Why I Chose It:
Originally, because it was the newest entry in one of my favorite sets of books ever. I was excited to read the “other side” of what was happening during the events of Feed. I was deep in the middle of a re-read of the original trilogy when this book was published.
Why You Should Read Mira Grant’s Feedback, if you haven’t already.
The first reason: simply put, this is an excellent novel. I missed that during my first read-through. I read it smack in the middle of re-reading the original Newsflesh novels. This was a mistake. I was too close to the original novels at the time, and I wasn’t able to distance myself enough from that work to fully appreciate Feedback on its own merits. I was wrong, and for this I apologize. At the time of my original reading, I don’t think that I was mature enough or educated enough to appreciate what this novel attempted to do. Again, I apologize. The plot moves lightning-quick; the characters grab you and refuse to let go; the ending is the kind of bittersweet-leaning-towards-hopeful that I appreciate in fiction. All in all this is a skillfully written story that sinks its hooks into you and refuses to let you go. I’m so glad that I read it a second time; as with any re-read, I picked up on details that I was oblivious to during my first go-round. I even picked up on some possible foreshadowing involving a zombie raccoon. Neat, right?
Anyway! Another thing that I noticed during my this read-through was how furious this novel is. I missed it during my first read. It’s subtle, this anger, but when you realize that it’s there, you wonder how you ever missed it in the first place. It howls its rage against the unfair world that it is exposing the readers to. If Feed gave us a look at the way that people continued to live normally, Feedback shines a light on just how so-called normal life was able to continue: privilege. Shaun and Georgia Mason, and their colleague, Buffy, come from a place of extreme privilege. I didn’t fully appreciate that until very recently, when I tried to re-read Feed in March of 2020 (bad plan, Casey; very bad plan). You don’t need me to tell you that the world has changed a great deal since 2016. I have changed a great deal since then. I fancied myself cynical five years ago; I had no idea how innocent and hopeful that I still was. You never know until it’s gone. I thought that I understood the darkness and inequality in the world, at least a little. I was wrong. I am not sure that I have ever been so wrong about anything in my life. The world events of the last five years have proven to me that I knew nothing. Maybe I still know nothing, but I am trying to do better.
So there’s your second reason: read this book because it is angry. It shouts about inequalities that plague the future, and it will make you angry, too. You will wonder, how are these kinds of problems still around in a future where there are actual, hungry zombies that want to eat your face wandering around? You will run the gamut from mildly annoyed to blindingly furious before you have finished the last page. That is a good thing. Staying angry means that you care enough about the serious social issues that the book shines a harsh light on. Somehow, in 2040, when there are actual zombies, who again, want to eat your face, class inequality, gender issues, body autonomy, and rampant poverty are still huge problems. How has the government not decided, hey, maybe we should try to make sure that people are equally safe and taken care of, no matter what tax bracket that they happen to fall within?
Silly, optimistic Casey.
There are so many quotes that I could pull from the book to highlight my point. I’m going to choose two that I feel highlight the disappointing way in which the future society of Feedback fails (among the obvious).
If there’s not room for lesbians, there’s sure not room for people who refuse to settle down and be good little members of whatever sex the doctor called out when they were born.page 58
We say we want to be the land of the free, yet we quail at the idea of extending that freedom to the poor, who are expected to spend proportionately more of their budget every year on safety accommodations that have not been proven to increase personal or public safety. We say we want to be the land of equality and opportunity, yet we do not tax the rich to make up for those citizens who cannot pay to improve roads, schools, the infrastructure on which we operate.page 173
I want to re-emphasize that this book was published in 2016. People who aren’t experiencing poverty and oppression like to either ignore it, or congratulate each other on how much progress has been made! Look, they say. Look at how open-minded we are! Look at how woke our culture has become!
You don’t need me to tell you that this is bullshit. There is too much that’s completely wrong for me to lay it all out for you. Take body autonomy. The government is still doing its damnedest to legislate what we can and cannot do with our own bodies. It’s causing immeasurable damage You can look up the statistics for yourself. I’ll leave you with a place to start:
More than half of transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent of respondents stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.“New Study Reveals Shocking Rates of Attempted Suicide Among Trans Adolescents”
Human Rights Campaign
So, absolute fury. Read it because if you’re not already angry, but you want to understand why so many people are, this might give you a place to start.
Reasons the third and fourth:
These characters are just as excellent, lovable, and fully-realized as the stars of the original trilogy. Let’s talk about Ash, who is an utterly delightful narrator. She’s cheerful, witty, and quick to act. Unfortunately she’s also been through some shit prior to the beginning of the book. That goes into spoilers, and while they’re spoilers that you learn in the first fifty or so pages of the novel, I’m going to avoid them. Ben, who is Ash’s green card husband, is a genuinely kind, hard-working man who starts this story as a someone who’s grieving for his recently deceased mother. Mat is a creative soul, who has seamlessly blended the news with makeup tutorials, perhaps predicting the “get ready with me” trend. Ash’s girlfriend, Audrey, writes pre-Rising era detective fiction that we learn has a greater purpose than simple entertainment. This found family of four sticks together, takes care of each other, and truly loves each other so deeply that I am a little envious. It’s an excellent example of one of my favorite tropes.
If you are familiar with Grant/McGuire’s other work at all, then you absolutely do not need me to tell you that this book is wonderfully diverse. It’s something that the author actively strives for in her work. She goes out of her way to make sure that the entire world can find a place in one of her stories. Most notably we have a non-binary character in Mat. Their presence is a blessing. I only wish that we got more of them, as Mat is very much a second-tier character.
Reason the final:
Did you read Into the Drowning Deep and want more killer mermaids? Because helping this little book grow is how we get more killer mermaids. As you saw from the tweet at the top of this review, Feedback and Into the Drowning Deep are joined at the hip in a single, multi-book contract. Kristin Nelson, of the Nelson Literary Agency, wrote the following about this back in 2010:
First off, what is it? Basically, it means that the multiple titles sold are linked in the accounting. Let’s say an author does a 2-book deal. It’s not a series so each title stands on its own. Let’s say the advance was $30,000 (15k per title). In joint accounting, the author would not see any monies beyond the advance until both titles earned out the 15k because of the linked accounting (even if book one has already earned out).One Possible Peril Of A Multi-book Deal
So there you have it. Don’t get me wrong, I have criticism. But that’s not what this post is for. It’s to try to get your attention and get you to pick up a copy of Feedback. Tell your friends. Tell your families. Spread the good word of this book far and wide, so that one day we can all indulge in more of Mira Grant’s delicious fiction.