I have acquired and read FEED, a novel of a political campaign and its media coverage a few decades after the zombie apocalypse. I enjoyed it and probably could have read the entire trilogy in a row quite cheerfully, as long as I didn't have to walk in the dark after that. I recommended it to my best friend without reservations and with a large amount of squeeful joy. He doubts my assertion that the author likes the Evil Dead musical more than he does, but I have met them both and ... yes, my dear best friend is more generally quiet than Seanan, and I know him far better... but ... I still think she likes it more. :-P
For the rest of you, I have a few questions before I would recommend it. While it might be a beautiful world where I could say "Read this! You will love it!" to everyone, the sad fact of the matter is that there are some people I know and love, like Mama, who would not enjoy this.
What are your thoughts on the undead?
Will you be overly upset that this is not actually the RSS wars, just bloggers covering the ongoing zombie wars?
Are you particularly attached to any large cities with a particularly dense population, and/or [spoiler]?
Have you recently lost a loved one to cancer or the common cold (or complications caused by same)?
Are you against vaccination?
Will you be upset that this is not the book that talks about the outbreak itself, but deals with the aftermath about two decades down the line?
Do you have any mammalian house pets 40 pounds in weight or larger, and/or unsecured glass windows that something of this size could get in? Do you have to regularly walk past any large friendly dogs?
Are you open to a zombie book that is light on the zombie encounters, and heavy on the political intrigue, but with the serious complications including the undead?
Do you require romance/shippiness in a story?
Do you have a sense of humor?
Senator Ryman, are you soft on zombies?
My recommendations and commentary, which contain mild spoilers:
If you do emphatically do not like reading about the undead, do not read this book. It is not an unending gore porn festival like many forms of zombie fiction, but there are zombies; they are technically still alive, just horribly infected, and they do bite and feed and need killing. If you wanted a gore porn festival with a game of Zombie Survivor where you watch to see which one or two of the party make it back to an uninfected zone alive, this is not what you are getting; this is the civilization of the post-zombie times, not a survivalist picnic. (Ask Shaun how he feels about the military's recommendations on what to do in case of zombie attack sometime.) I would not give this book to my mother. I might leave this book where my father could find it, but I would not tell my father that he should read it. I would (and already have, quite enthusiastically) tell my best friend that he should read it (as soon as possible).
There is a lot of worldbuilding. Bloggers are the new news media, and have organized themselves into some fairly rigid categories, and built physical, social, and legal infrastructure to better do their thing. (Be on the watch for some of the new types of Creative Commons licensing.) These are the adventures of siblings Shaun and Georgia Mason, who were just accepted to cover Senator Ryman's Presidential campaign, a plum assignment.
During the Rising, cities, countries, and social events with particularly dense population were lost due to sudden amplification and then BAM, whole place is gone. Some of them are named in the book; some of them are not. I'm very sorry, San Diego.
The cause of the zombie apocalypse involves experimental live-virus cures for cancer and the common cold, and some epic, spectacular dumbassery involving same. In the chatter at the party, there were some more details on how epic the dumbassery actually was -- the common cold cure was being extensively tested, with very very stringent precautions being taken to avoid releasing it while they didn't know quite what it would do; basically it was still in beta, and they were working the bugs out. Also, the creators had given thought to the possibility of trans-species infection, and something like an equine supercold mutating into something that would jump the species gap, and then they'd have to START ALL OVER AGAIN. So, if you recently lost someone to cancer or a cold/complications therefrom, this may be a bit too much salt-on-wound.
If you are against vaccination, for your personal safety, do not tell this to the author. The author's hobbies include studying disease for fun, not just for research. If you say something stupid like "It's not like anybody's ever died from smallpox! It's a PERSONAL CHOICE!" ... punching you may be the author's PERSONAL CHOICE. I hope you don't mind.
The main action of the book takes place during the campaign for the 2032 election. The outbreak was in 2014. It's been a while. Georgia Mason, our narrator, has grown up with the reality of zombies, and has never known a different world. She and her brother are the same age (roughly: they're both adopted, and one of them is a few weeks older).
Any mammal over 40 pounds can convert. If you have a pet dog of that size, or have to regularly walk past one, are you entirely sure that is a cheerful waggy panting, or is it the glazed stare of amplified Kellis-Amberlee?
Again, this is not a survivalist-with-zombies tale. This is a fully built post-viral world that inherits from our own, but accounts for OMG ZOMBIES. You cannot turn around without encountering a difference, but you can turn around without encountering a zombie. Usually.
This book has no onscreen sex, not much onscreen canoodling, one definite thing that would have been a fade-to-black if the narration focus was different, a few married couples, and a decent number of people awkwardly shuffling around something that looks like it might be fairly socially inappropriate but isn't discussed enough to confirm or deny. I did come out of the end of the book with a ship which can best be described as "hurt/comfort", heh. But if you look at something that looks like it might be shippiness and it's a shippiness that's a common squick, rest assured that it's not confirmed.
There is a decent serving of humor in the books, although a good amount of it is very dark. It's unlikely to cause mood whiplash, since it's the sort of jokes that people make when they're in a world infested with zombies, but if you dislike the occasional bit of witty banter while being pursued by zombies, this is the wrong book for you. This is not "Ooo tra la, zombies are attacking and I am counting daisy petals!" humor, this is "What the fuck took you so long to get here?" "Sorry, *blam* I was fixing my *rat-tat-tat-tat* NAILS!" sort of humor. If they're not just too busy with the, you know, *zombies*.
There are no miracle cures. If someone gets themselves infected, they're gone, and everybody's really sorry and will probably show up to the memorial service if they're the sort of person who attends them, but meanwhile they can't be allowed to go on like that. Bring tissues if you cry over books.
I arrived about an hour in; the first hour had involved reading. There was already a crowd. I had run into a lady selling flowers on the way, and the temptation to pick up a few red roses (Seanan brings the dead things, I bring the red roses) was too much. Tif arrived a bit later.
One of the things about an event with Seanan is the "Yay!!" factor. Things happen at these events, and there is cheering, often the arms-upraised-in-glee sort of cheering, either just from the elbows or a full \o/ extension. At the party for her first book, pretty much everything got a cheer, even things that shouldn't. This got tested. At this event, the cheering was still "Yaay!" rather than the hooting, hollering, clapping, and stomping that reigned at the MythBusters event, but there were fewer instances of cheering for things that didn't really warrant cheering (except random destruction-by-zombie, because that generally warrants cheering when Seanan is involved).
In the general confusion of the signing, a familiar-looking person wearing a MythBusters shirt mentioned the fun she'd had on Thursday. I hailed her; she thought she'd recognized me. This turned out to be Our Meg. I recognized her not only from the myth, but also from the A Local Habitation party, once she had accessorized with the tiny "My favorite color is DIRTY" toddler with all the blond hair.
There were people, and conversation, and naked cats, and general good times. Seanan read "Gimme A 'Z'!", which involved the Fighting Pumpkins cheerleaders, and zombies. Of course. There were also CUPCAKES, from Cups and Cakes Bakery, in flavors including candy corn, YOUR BRAIN, carrot cake, red velvet, and goodness knows what. These are tiny tiny little cupcakes about an inch in diameter, in different exciting flavors. The BRAIN CAKES had grey-pink almond frosting, and a surprise cherry at the top of the cupcake just under the frosting. The cherry made me giggle so much, so very much.
There was talk of a possible anthology, once the trilogy has wrapped up, where Seanan asks all her friends-who-write if they would like to contribute -- no guarantees about making it in, but if people want to destroy something... Our Meg bounced, and asked if she could pretty please destroy Anchorage. I later volunteered my services as 20 year Alaskan, in a note with my email address, a reminder that I am notable by my purple hat, and a helpful illustration of a virus-maddened bull moose charging.
At one point, Seanan related how the publisher or someone asked if anything unforgivable had happened. "Well, sort of, I destroy India, and ..." "Oh, that's all ri... You DESTROY INDIA!?!?" Large population living in close quarters in large parts of the country, check. And she also shared the story of how the testing kits developed: a doctor in India who happened to be diabetic and therefore had things on hand modified his blood testing kits to check for suspiciously elevated levels of white cells, and he was in a multi-story building, and he basically let people move up between floors as time went by and they continued to test clear. He died after slipping into a diabetic coma, but his widow dealt with the various health organizations, because she had his work and his notes. I'd like to read that one in the anthology, if she or anyone feels like writing it. :D
There were many publishing-related adventures, including the tale of Ghost the homicidal cat. Basically, Seanan is hilarious and has hilarious stories, and proves "there is no such thing as *halfway* in the frog pond" more often than I do.
As things shut down, Tif and I headed out; we got dinner and talked characters, then I went home. I was finally able to finish reading the book Sunday; this did lead to a twitter update pretty much consisting of D,,,: at some ungodsly hour of the evening. But the ending restored my faith and hope. Yay!