Third book! Wooo!
Let's see if we can avoid spoilers in this review, even though 1) I've been drinking and 2) I don't even know how that is possible.
The first two books in this series have two distinct first person narrators for the whole of their narratives, and this one finally goes for the alternating narrator thing. Sometimes I eyeroll about this - it's a little commercial-break-y - but given that Grant has a knack for driving one section into the next in a way that keeps me turning pages well into the night, even when I'm irritated with her narrators, the mini-crisis of one voice bleeding into the other made for a very compelling read. Just on a technical level - the novel-construction level - this one outstrips the last two, with feeling. Which is totally saying something, because I call a ton of bullshit on at least half of the ideas presented here.
Oh, f**k it, here comes the spoilers. So, phew, here I am under the spoiler tag. Hi! So, in these books, a massive global conspiracy has been slowly uncovered by our intrepid heroes at After The End Times, a blog that is somehow both a blog and a serious journalistic enterprise. I mean, it's not like I think those things are incompatible, just that I don't think the hard line between blogger and journalist would be so...hard whatever 30 years in the future. I've already complained about this, so.
This is really my problem: the zombie novel (in the general) is ultimately one of exceptionalism - possibly even American exceptionalism - where we pit the Lockian Übermensch up against the unwashed hoards and then watch him brain his way out of it. Add into that the nihilistic stew of the conspiracy theory - seriously, one's incomplete, drudging existence can always be made more meaningful by the fact that an entire shadowy global conspiracy is holding you personally down, son. I suspect my logic train is a little fuzzy, due to the drinking, but I think your average conspiracy story is narcissistic - in the sense that no one person is ever that important - certainly not important enough to clone to the tune of $40 million dollars for the sketchiest of reasons ever - while I completely respect an individual's feelings that they might be that important.
I mean, I'm the protagonist of my own life. (Amusingly, I just wrote "I am the protagonist of my own lie", before I corrected it, which hahaha.) I'm going to respond like crazy to a narrative that pitches the individual self-importance in a way that makes an armageddon bending to the needs of the protagonist - to the convenient truth-telling of involved characters - work out in a way that goes beyond trite into...fuck, I don't even have an adjective here.
Which, I'm sounding like I hate this book, which isn't accurate at all. I'm noodling a little about narcissism and nihilism in the zombie narrative because it comes up a lot in zombie fictions, which is why I love them so. The old saw goes that the personal is the political, and zombie stories run that equation with teeth and blood, with infection and duress, in a way that makes me sigh with it all. Clone Georgia, the reasons for clone Georgia, those are bullshit in a hundred thousand ways. But the experience of clone Georgia - the pulpy, John Carpenter The Thing era experience of being clone Georgia - now that was the shit. One of the reasons I was hook, line, and sinker for the X-Files is that the first episode I saw was "Ice", which ran the clone/body snatchers plot so amazingly. We are not who we are.
However, there's a certain pulp laziness to the way Georgia's cloning is treated. Clone Georgia is 97% the same as Dead Georgia, and, while it's fun to run the whole "are you really who you think you are", "is what you remember who you are" thing, it's not actually either a) original or b) saying anything. Which, it's not like I give a shit about originality, it's just that it would be sweet if Clone Georgia were only 75% like Dead Georgia, or that the whole concept of putting percentages on personality concordances of clones were questioned at all. Fifty something percent Georgia is mentioned, and I'm pretty sure conveniently killed off (though I can't really remember - and she's like a number of dropped threads, like the Parents Mason). But even if she isn't dead, there's mos def a lost opportunity there to meet yourself, and try to make the thirty-odd percentage points align.
Ultimately, the way Clone Georgia is almost identical to Dead Georgia felt a little too much like wish-fulfillment, where we give Asshole Shaun a consolation prize or something because his grief is SO MUCH GREATER THAN EVERYONE'S EVER. That's where the narcissism comes in in this narrative - because in a zombie novel, literally everyone has lost literally tons of literal friends and family, and why Shaun gets to be the only one whose grief matters, that's a literal puzzle. Literally. I know I had a ton of problems in the way the Parents Mason were characterized, though there was at least one good scene with them here - but the specifics have slipped, a month from my finishing this. But, in a half-assed manner, I will say that their grief style is derided, and Shaun's rewarded, and I wonder what is up with this. It's not that I don't believe that people can be be self-involved calculating assholes, it's just that the calculation seems to be the sin, because Shaun has the self-involved and asshole part down pat. And, really, he's fairly calculating, so, and? Finish this thought for me. Moving on.
I did heart the whole Shaun/Georgia incest deal, because who does that? There's probably something smart I could say about, what? the tendency of Americans in crisis situations to seek the familiar? And how incest is a hilariously awesome metaphor for narcissism? Something like that. But I'm not smart at the moment, and I think it's just a cool, funny, pulpy trick of this series in the aggregate - ho, hum, there are walking cannibal corpses OMG, WAIT, UR FUCKING UR SISTER GROSSSSS. That's wonderful.
So, I'm sorry, that spoiler tag is mostly not spoilers, but I'm too lazy to fix it. I should probably wrap up out here in the open. There's a ton of stuff in this book, in this series as a whole, that will make your head explode if you're picky as a reader. And when I say picky, I mean if you care about basic motivations and logic. I am a picky reader, but still, this book, this series was fun as hell to read. I read the crap out of this series. I think it has great hooks - rise up while you can! - but it's maybe not as deep as it is reaching for, and maybe it wasn't even reaching for deep, so that's a thing. I think I said before this is great summer vacation reading, and that holds. This is full-on, under the covers with a flashlight, staying up way too late reading fun. Maybe it can't stand up to scrutiny, but while you are reading it's OMG RUN AND STUFF ALL DAY, so the scrutiny waits for a month later when you can't even remember what happened and how much fun it was when it was going on. That kind of book. Yeah. Wooo!