Presenting the Deadline FAQ. All the questions about Mira Grant’s Deadline that you wish someone had asked before you picked up this book.
Q: Will there be spoilers?
A: SOOOOOOO many spoilers!
Q: This seems to be a direct rip-off of the internet-famous Transformers 2 FAQ. Why is that?
A: This book has the plotting and attention to detail of a Michael Bay movie, so I thought it’d be the most appropriate format.
Q: Ooooooh burn! But I assume that means we get lots of spectacular action scenes to make up for it!
A: It’s unfortunate you would assume that. One would think a book about zombies would have some excitement or terror in it at some point. Or maybe even a finale that happens to the protagonists. Instead, the awesome ZOMG-EPIC!! finale – a second Rising, a re-Apocalypse – happens entirely off-screen. Or rather, literally on a TV screen. Rather than involving the characters in any way, they just watch a couple news reports on CNN. That is the action-packed grand finale. It’s not quite as bad as listening to a radio report while stuck in traffic, but it’s close.
Q: Hold on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves – third answer and we’re already at the end of the book? Back up. This is a sequel so catch us up – at the beginning, what has Shaun been doing since the previous book?
A: Well it’s been about a year since Feed ended and his sister was murdered. Since that time Shaun’s been sitting around and thinking that he really ought to go and find out who was responsible for that. Unfortunately no convenient plot devices have dropped into his lap, so he hasn’t actually done anything.
Q: Why not? He’s a journalist! Shouldn’t he be out investigative-reportering all over this piece? Maybe setting down a lot of ground work off-screen so that the story can begin right as a crucial detail falls into place and the excitement starts?
A: He probably SHOULD, yes. But it seems Mira Grant doesn’t understand what journalist do. That’s a common theme in the book. Shaun and his team risk their lives to get crucial information that the public should know. Information along the lines of “the people you thought were protecting you are actually murdering US citizens, breeding a more deadly virus, and could have wiped out zombie-ism decades ago”. Forget Watergate, this is a 9/11 Truther’s wet dream. And Shaun makes sure this information is encrypted, hidden away, and not in any way released. Those responsible are trying to silence him, and the best way to stay on their hit-list is to make sure the truth dies with him!
Q: That’s staggeringly stupid. Why would he do that?
A: The book actually does a good job establishing that Shaun isn’t very bright. His main mode of interaction with other people is threats of beating/murder, and displays of physical violence. At one point he throws an incendiary grenade inside a building that HE IS IN. One that he believes is sealed and he has no way of getting out of. And that’s not even the dumbest thing he does.
Q: Woah. So… how does he uncover this vast conspiracy then?
A: A plot device falls in his lap. Technically, it knocks on his front door. To be fair, it is explained later as a trap by the villain to kill Shaun.
Q: Why would the villain bother to kill Shaun? I thought he was sitting around doing nothing and being a complete non-threat?
A: It’s because the villain is eeeeeeeviiiillllll. Seriously, he’s a moustache-twirler. Rather than save the world and cure the zombie plague he (and his cabal) are killing people who develop immunities and making stronger, better zombie viruses because that is Evilly Evil. It’s interesting, Mira apparently realized her last villain was an over-the-top caricature, and so explains that this was intentional so that everyone would focus on the Fake Evil Bad Guy and be distracted from the Real Guild of Calamitous Intent. However this is explained by a guy who is even MORE of a villain caricature. This information is literally revealed by the villain while he is Monologuing, as he is holding a pretty girl hostage. It’s hard to get any more clichéd.
Q: Hah!! I suppose they could have left the protagonists alone in an easily escapable room and expected an overly-elaborate death-trap to do them in, amirite? :)
Q: Oh you have GOT to be kidding me!?
A: Let’s just move on.
Q: So there have got to be some good parts to this book, right?
A: Actually yes, there are. This seems to be more of a relationship book, and the relationship in it is very strong. The whole dynamic of Shaun being crazy and speaking to his dead sister’s voice in his head works very well. His longing and pain is palpable and very touching. There are some truly great scenes of him pouring his heart out to her. The “Yup, they were sleeping together” reveal is exceptionally well done –
Q: I KNEW IT!!!
A: That’s not a question. But yes, all suspicions are confirmed, and it works very well. The scene when it’s revealed that Shaun didn’t need to kill her, she probably would have gotten better from the zombification, was also incredibly good. And some of the details – like him picking up her Coke-drinking habit after she dies even though he hates Coke – are also nice touches.
Q: Well why are you focusing on the bad stuff then?
A: Because there is so much bad stuff in between the few good scenes. This book is 600 pages, and should have been maybe 200. You can skim the majority of it, skipping whole paragraphs and sometimes whole pages, because the informational content of any given paragraph is so low. You know the first fifteen minutes of Manos: The Hands of Fate?
Q: You mean the movie often called one of the worst movies ever made? The first fifteen minutes of which consist of nothing but a car driving through a field while absolutely nothing happens?
A: That’s the one. A lot of the book is like that. Have you ever wanted to read about a loooooooooong road trip, through the middle of an abandoned country? Where uneventful rest-stops are described in detail? You can hear about every exciting stop for gas, and get a blow-by-blow description of the GPS unit re-routing our heroes along a slightly different path!
Q: But what would they eat on such a trip? What would they wear into the convenience store?
A: Fret not! You can read all about the outfits they change into as they made bathroom breaks. Thrill to the descriptions of meals of potato chips, donuts with bad plasticy frosting, seventeen bags of M&Ms, knock-off Everclear, and bottles and bottles of Coke!
Q: Couldn’t this narrative be spiced up with some automated blood tests?
A: Indeed! You will get to read about hundreds of blood tests! Every few pages will be another description of more blood tests, usually several at once! On multiple occasions we go directly from one blood test to ANOTHER blood test! How many times will the lights flash red/green? Only one way to find out!
Q: Actually, getting serious again – what do you mean potato chips, M&Ms, and Coke? Isn’t this a post-zombie-apocalypse novel?
A: Yeah, it’s weird. Despite the descriptions of abandoned rural areas and empty fields, there’s no food shortages. Cell phones are still cheaply available and there’s plenty of gasoline – it seems there hasn’t been any significant international trade disruption. It’s like the world didn’t even notice that a signification fraction of it was killed not that long ago. I suppose that’s not impossible a couple decades after the fact, Europe was well on the road to recovery a couple decades after WW2, but that took lots of support from the US, and they weren’t simultaneously flooded with the refugees of all of India. Much of the book didn’t seem well thought out or researched.
Q: I think you’re being a little too critical. It’s a zombie book, why go all deep-Stross on it?
A: OK, but even a lot of the surface-level plotting was simply nonsensical. A lot of the non-roadtrip action is breaking into CDC offices. Let’s play a game. You want to get into the guarded compound of the most powerful organization in the world. Go.
Q: Um… how would I do that?
A: Unspecificed! Let’s simply walk up to a front/side door and see what happens.
Q: Why am I doing this again?
A: We don’t know! Could be interesting. Maybe poke some extremely powerful people with sticks to see what happens. BTW – congrats, you made it into the world’s most powerful and evil HQ without a hitch.
Q: I did? But, aren’t these guys extremely powerful and scary? They sound kinda incompetent….
A: Yeah, it’s a bit hard to take them seriously. No matter how many times the narrator says “Big, Scary, Evil! World-spanning Bad-ass Organization of Doom! Be Afraid!” it simply doesn’t make an impact when the actions we see from them are all weak, stupid, incompetent bumbling. It doesn’t evoke a lot of tension when you realize the villains are even dumber than the “let’s ride my motorcycle through a countryside infested with zombies instead of riding inside the armored van just a few yards ahead of me” hero.
Q: I’m not even going to dignify that with a comment. OK, so now that we made it inside without any opposition, what should we do?
A: Let’s just walk in and see what we can see. Hey, their entire plans for world domination via their hand-made super-zombie-virus are written out on this chalkboard? How handy!
Q: ARGH! My poor abused suspension of disbelief! It hurts!! But now how do I get out again?
A: You just happen to know about a “super-secret” passageway that comes standard in all CDC buildings and is never locked or guarded!
Q: I… what… NO! Screw this – I quit.
A: K, bye. Oh, BTW, George is resurrected at the end.
A: Yeah, I know. :/
Q: OK, so despite my better judgement I went ahead and read this book. Can I ask a few follow-up questions?
A: Fire away.
Q: When Shaun says that the dog sniffed his crotch in the universal greeting of all dogs – how does he know that? There hasn’t been a dog big enough to reach his crotch alive in his entire lifetime.
A: Genetic memory…?
Q: And why the hell do they keep going back to Maggie’s place over and over? There’s absolutely no way the CDC hasn’t tracked them to it by now, it should’ve had a bomb dropped on it halfway through the book. And it completely removes any sense of danger or fear in the novel to have an impenetrable fortress you can fall back to at any time, rather than hiding in the ruins and praying you aren’t found. It makes the world-spanning extremely-powerful government agency feel like a kitten instead of an army of Terminators. Seriously, Maggie’s place was several times more secure than the CDC facilities. A rich kid’s mansion should not have security that makes the shadowy overlords of the country look feeble in comparison. The building housing the Ultimate Plans of Virus Purification was a tree-fort compared to Maggie’s place!
A: Think of the book as a video game (the author does, and specifically mentioned it a few times). After every level there’s a safe zone during which you can save your game and take as long as you need to rest, go to the bathroom, or finish your homework before you get back to it.
Q: Love that realism. Why did Dave have to die? I get that he had to hold down a button to keep a gate open, but that seems kinda dumb and contrived.
A: Motivation for the other characters, maybe? Since exposing the truth obviously isn’t a priority, and Shaun’s already been doing nothing about exacting revenge for his sister.
Q: Speaking of death – does his death really matter anymore? This is a world with resurrection tech now! We can bring back Buffy, Dave, Kelly, everyone! Huzzah!
A: Yup, death seems to be solved. Kinda makes that absolutely INCREDIBLE death-scene at the end of Feed pointless now, eh? And while it was certainly touching to see Shaun struggling with loneliness and survivor’s guilt, the entire first 98% of the book is now also less meaningful. It’s like a book about a family dealing with cancer in which on the last page it’s revealed that – good news! You don’t actually have cancer after all! The impact is muted. And it really changes the entire nature of the setting. This is no longer a zombie horror, it’s a post-mortality transhumanism story. Except I strongly suspect that the third book will continue pretending to be a zombie horror.
Q: Doesn’t solving death make the CDC the heroes of all humanity?
A: Well, I suppose it depends on just how much evil they did to get there. It’d certainly count as mitigating circumstances though. But I suspect they’ll somehow suppress it and use it only for their nefarious purposes.
Q: Which they would do… why, exactly?
A: Same reason they’re perfecting the zombie virus and murdering tons of civilians – they’re love being eeeeeeviiiiiilll!
Q: Of course. Why did I even ask?
A: The FAQ format demands it.