Continuing with my Hugo novel reading, I finished Deadline a few days ago. I’m a big fan of zombie movies, and some of my favorite short stories in the last few years have featured zombies, but this was my first zombie novel. It’s a great first zombie novel.
The thing that grabbed me about this book immediately was the voice. First person narrative with blog excerpts at the beginning of each chapter, this novel is the voice. Shaun, the narrator, is a fantastically engaging hot-tempered zombie-hunter turned news site manager in the wake of his sister’s death. Just to keep things interesting, he’s dealing with her death by hallucinating her in his head. The hallucinated character thing has been a pretty popular trope over the last few years, but this one doesn’t mess around with silly ambiguity. Shaun knows he’s nuts, embraces it, and the people around him roll with it.
There’s a ton of action, good suspense, fun world building (the zombie hunters are called Irwins!), and basically everything you want for a fun, quick read.
It’s not perfect. I feel like it was perfect, and then a critiquer or editor told the author, “You do realize that readers are morons, right?” There were several points where I was confused because there’d been a line about a thing, I’d followed the implications of that thing all the way to their conclusion, and then spent the next chapter or two wondering why the characters weren’t reacting to the Big Important Reveal only to discover it was because they needed it explained them in excruciating detail. Given that the meta-conspiracy was neither new in the realm of conspiracy zombie plots, nor particularly interesting, having it derail a couple chapters at a time when it came up was tragically annoying. Also, Kelly the CDC scientist failed utterly as a character; she was never particularly sympathetic or made much sense, and when confronted with science things did not behave like a scientist.
That said, I really did enjoy this book a lot and recommend it to everybody. It’s the middle book of a trilogy, but you don’t need to have read the first book; given how much time Deadline spends filling you in on what happened in Feed (the first book), I’m happy I hadn’t.
Embassytown still has my vote, but if Deadline wins, I won’t feel it was undeserving.