Meanwhile, here's my Cronin and Grant piece - zombies for the win - from the Indy, with a couple of jokes reinstated that Boyd took out.
THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin (Orion 766 pp £20.00)
FEED by Mira Grant (Orbit 571 pp. £7.99)
Reviewed by Roz Kaveney
Clearly, those who make the more dubious bits of public policy need to be better acquainted with the works of George Romero and Stephen King. The powers that be in Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE clearly have no idea of how to avoid being in one of those stories that does not have a happy ending. Sending expeditions to cursed South American temples in search of immortality is never a good idea; nor is injecting new viruses into death cell prisoners and little girls. It’s probably not a good idea to stretch your FBI stooges’ consciences by having them get tough with nuns.
And so, of course, the aforementioned experimental subjects turn out to be biding their time AND THEY EAT US ALL. Cronin has made the interesting decision to combine the current obsessions of popular culture – his creatures have the sharp teeth and near invulnerability of vampires, but wander round shambling and infecting people like zombies. After a century passes, the few enclaves of humans finally get around to fighting back and have far less information than the reader to go on…A group of maverick heroes and heroines go traipsing across the US in a variety of fast vehicles and try to save the world – you know the drill, you’ve seen it before, but Cronin does do it really rather pacily and well.
This is a very self-conscious blockbuster written by a literary gentleman who has applied his considerable intelligence to understanding the underlying structures of Stephen King novels and does you a very neat line in pastiche. He has mastered such important and counter-intuitive rules of pulp as when to go into the ducts, how awesome is your heroine when… and the rules of comic-book death ( no body, no death; body, maybe they’ll get better). About the only thing that could stop this being the summer’s success is that Cronin’s foray into glorious tosh is a bit on the bleak and dour side, and his background in literary fiction makes him even more prone than King to long streams of the consciousnesses of people who are about to die horribly.
Whereas Mira Grant’s FEED is less well-written but has a can-do brio that Cronin would regard as whistling showtunes in the dark. Grant’s zombies are the result of experiments gone wrong – everyone is infected and everyone might turn in a moment. Yet civilization does not collapse, and there are even elections; business as usual. Actually Grant isn’t writing a horror novel at all – just an sf novel with zombies in it. And bloggers – her heroine would die, or become undead, for a scoop.
Scoops follow her around – hardly have she and her brother and their team been embedded in a Presidential campaign than a saboteur tries to get the Candidate eaten or turned. Georgia and Shaun are supremely irritating young smart-arses, but FEED is a perfect antidote to Cronin’s gloomier excesses; sometimes after a well-cooked heavy meal, you really need a tub of ice-cream, with sprinkles.