Monday, July 25, 2016

Microreview [book]: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection by Mira Grant

Won't be rising anytime soon

Mira Grant, a penname of Seanan McGuire, has written a series of popular zombie apocalypse books (titled as a whole: Newsflesh). Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, which recently came out, is a compendium of all of the short fiction Grant has publihsed within the Newsflesh universe, as well as two never published novellas. Before jumping into this review, I should note that I have never read the Newsflesh series, though I have read work by Grant (and by McGuire, under her own name). This may have made me a harsher reviewer; however, arguably the problems I had with the collection would be ones I’d find in the series as well.

There are eight pieces in the collection, which clocks in at a hefty 644 pages, and many of them are of novella length. The stories primarily seem to concern characters that Grant wished to explore more fully, apart from the book series, and a few standalone pieces set during the zombocalypse of her series—one even takes place during Comicon. While most of the pieces are enjoyable on some level—Grant is skilled at pacing—they also all suffer from things I’ve found in her other works. The longer pieces all feel far more like fleshed out outlines rather than full works—action, action, action, with no sense of beauty in the story itself. This not only makes for flat reading, it also makes for flat characters. These are stories about people during a breakdown of the world and I desperately wanted to feel something for them—but they all felt like what they usually turned out to be: zombie fodder.

Of the pieces that work best, “Please Don’t Taunt the Octopus” was the most fun. It tells of an underground virology lab and has a decent sense of playfulness within it—particularly in how Grant pokes fun at some staples of the “mad scientist” image. However, it charts such a predictable storyline that I felt myself wanting to skim sections (something I refuse to do). Still, it does feature an octopus.

The story that was the most bothersome was one that should have been the most emotionally intense. “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” depicts one horrific day in the life of a first grade teacher—who tries to protect her students during a school lockdown filled with zombies. However, it came across as in such poor taste that I actually felt physically angry at the book. This could have been a deeply powerful story; instead, it felt like shock cinema.

If the book has a saving note, it is in the shortest of the stories, “Everglades.” This piece shows a single character making a choice while trapped on a zombie-filled campus. The writing is more graceful than elsewhere and I genuinely felt for the narrator. It’s possible that Grant’s style simply works better in short bursts.

Overall, this collection might be a boon to fans of the series who are looking for more character back stories and more time in the series’ universe. For anyone else, I’d suggest seeking your zombie-tainment elsewhere.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 3/10

Bonuses:+1 for octopi, +1 for fans of the series

Penalties: -1 for cardboard dialogue

Nerd Coefficient: 4/10 "
problematic, but has redeeming qualities"


POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.