The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we unleashed something horrifying and unstoppable. The infection spread leaving those afflicted with a single uncontrollable impulse: FEED.
Now, twenty years after the Rising, a team of scrappy underdog reporters relentlessly pursue the truth while competing against the superstar Masons, surrounded by the infected, and facing more insidious forces working in the shadows.
Feed captured my imagination in a way I didn’t think possible. As someone who has absolutely zero interest in zombies, I didn’t expect to so wholeheartedly love a book set in a world filled with the walking dead. However, what made it so unique was the fact that everybody was used to living in an environment where they could be attacked and put down at any second. It focused on what happened after the zombie apocalypse, not during. To relive that experience from a different perspective… it intrigued me, so it didn’t take much convincing to pick up Feedback.
Feedback focuses on the team of bloggers who are covering the Democratic governor Susan Kilburn’s campaign: Ben, Aislinn (Ash), Audrey, and Mat. Once again, there’s a similar distribution of roles – Newsie (Ben), Irwin (Ash), Fictional (Audrey), and Techie (and also make-up blogger? Mat). Their relationships are a lot more convoluted than the Masons (which, after that third book, I didn’t think possible). Ash narrates the story – although once again, there are those blog posts from various characters at the beginning of each chapter – and she’s a fun narrator. I liked that a point was made into the showmanship of journalists in this brave new world – the fact that they create personas to cultivate a following. There are slight differences to the on-camera Ash and the Ash we see with her blogging team. I also really enjoyed the fact that we got to see the Masons in a less-than-flattering light. When they were the heroes of the story, we kind of glossed over their flaws. This time, they’re being highlighted.
Ash is Irish, and I have to admit that at times she felt like a bit of an Irish stereotype. Her turns of phrase didn’t always feel authentic, and sometimes it felt like an American imagining what an Irish person would be like. It was frustrating to have a character that came across as that inauthentic, and it would’ve helped the character a lot of Grant had had an Irish beta reader (if she did have one, they definitely didn’t do their job). This wasn’t just a problem with Ash, though. The characterisation just wasn’t as strong as it was in the other books.
Speaking of inauthentic, the fact that Mat was genderfluid felt shoe-horned in. As someone who is left-leaning in her politics and agrees with what Grant was saying about genderfluid individuals, I just felt like someone was preaching at me. When it comes to diversity, it should be something that’s treated as a non-issue. A character should be ‘the genderfluid character,’ they should be a character who just so happens to be genderfluid, and that definitely didn’t happen here. I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about Mat, other than that they were genderfluid. So much focus was placed on the characterisation, it took away from the plot of the story.
The main problem with this book is that it relies too much on the previous three. It’s advertised as being a new entry-point into the series, but if I were coming into this without reading the first three books, I would be utterly confused. There’s very little world-building, and I think that it’s assumed that the reader will have already read them. I was also left scratching my head a few times – certain events in the book were pretty big, and the Masons would’ve had to know about them. However, if they’d known about them, it would’ve changed the entire course of the story. No matter how badly either team wanted a scoop, ONE OF THEM would’ve had to reach out at some point, right? It’s life and death, guys.
Finally, because this gang was focused on figuring out a conspiracy theory that had already been solved… there wasn’t a whole lot of tension happening. When the story strayed from the original story, it was good. When the story unveiled events that we hadn’t been previously told, the stakes felt high. But ultimately, it led to… nothing. I wanted to love this, I really did. I just ended up with a bunch of lukewarm feelings about it.