Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Devouring the News

I'm well aware Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, but since Feed reads nothing like her fiction published under her real name, I won't be using the "Seanan McGuire" tag with the Newsflesh trilogy. Which honestly doesn't matter to anyone but my inner organizer, but hey...

I've been hearing about Feed for quite some time, but it was always something I was putting off. Recently, though, I ran across a display copy at the library, realize the TBR pile was low, and grabbed it. I'm kind of glad I waited as long as I did, since it takes on new meaning in the current state of affairs.

So, where do we start with this? Probably the best place to start is with the Kellis-Amberlee virus, two manmade viruses with great benefits, but which managed to combine into one really nasty superbug. See, the original two viruses killed off the common cold, and the other cured cancer. Combined, they have the side effect of making those who die while infected rise up and start eating those nearest to them. (Only mammals over 40 pounds, which means most house pets are safe, but it makes things like beef come closer to Apocalypse Cow.) While this does lead to such nifty things as George Romero entering an almost Saint like status, it does mean that most of humanity now lives in tightly secured hazard zones, rather than risking exposure to getting eaten by going outside a safe area.

As it happens, mainstream media wasn't particularly inclined to report on grandma snacking on her closest relatives, which lead to the rise of bloggers as journalists. Which sort out into three groups, who can be further classified by their specialties. We have the "Newsies", who report the news and op/ed pieces, "Irwins", who go out and poke things with sticks (which helps people live vicariously through them), and "Fictionals", who write stories and poems about the post-Rising world.

Most of the book is narrated by Georgia Mason, a "newsie", who works with her brother Shaun (Irwin) and Buffy (Fictional) on the "After the End Times" blog site. The three are tapped early on to report on Senator Ryman, a Republican running for president in 2040. Ryman is a fairly moderate Republican, and seemingly Libertarian in his leanings. He's also one of the only candidates allowing the press corps to include Bloggers.

His main competitor for the nomination, Governor Tate, is one of the folks who thinks the rising would abate if the world flocked back to Jesus. He's a bit further out on the Authoritarian branch than Ryman.

Ryman's campaign seems to be plagued with problems, such as a seemingly random outbreak in Eakly, Oklahoma, following a rally. We come to find out that most of the security measures were sabotaged. A problem that repeats at Ryman's Wisconsin ranch following Ryman receiving the nomination.

By the end of the novel, our protagonists have changed quite a bit (some more than others), and the person behind the sabotage has been revealed, although there's a large hint that there's more behind the main villain.

As I stated at the outset, this setting and writing style is a much different beast from McGuire's normal writing style, being a lot less intimate with the narrator. It's still a fine read, and very engaging, but going in expecting Urban Fantasy will disappoint those seeking it.

As a side note, there's evidently on alternate ending on the author's website that changes around the climax and the after effects.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Golden Apples of the Sun

A couple "bookkeeping" notes before we dive into this one. As mentioned previously, Columbus Metropolitan Library's decision to rebuild ALL the branches has lead to a distinct lack of a place to go wonder the stacks. Which has allowed me to get through some of my backlog of books I own that I want to read/re-read. However, my current plan got sideswiped by two reserves showing up, so rather than my original intent, there will likely be 2 reviews coming up that won't fit the pattern.

Last September, someone put all 5 volumes of Kelly McCullough's WebMage series (autographed, no less) into a silent auction where I was camping. Having read the series 6 years ago, I spent a bit more than I had planned on, but I won the auction. Now it's April, and I finally had time to read book 1.

WebMage introduces us to Ravirn, a student at the University of Michigan, although not the one on the prime locus reality. Ravirn also happens to be a grandson of Lachesis, the measurer of the threads of life. (There's a few greats in there, but grandma works for our purposes.) Ravirn is assisted by his webgoblin laptop, Melchior. When we first look in on Ravirn, he's breaking into his Aunt Atropos' (she who cuts the threads) domain looking for her "Puppeter" program, one which would essentially erase free will from the cosmos. (In this setting, the 3 fates represent one end of the order/chaos continuum. Eris, Goddess of Discord; and Tyche, Lady Luck, lie at the other end.)

Atropos wishes for her nephew to find the problem in the code causing Puppeter to fail. While he hems and haws about it, she places him under a similar restriction to the aegis Cassandra of Troy labored under. If he talks about what his Aunt is up to, no one will believe him.

In his quest to destroy Atropos' program, Ravirn manages to annoy quite a few people, which isn't particularly helped by Fate's ability to make up evidence. Thankfully, Ravirn has allies in Cerise (Clotho's [she who spins the threads] granddaughter) and her webgoblin, Shara. Also, as we come to discover in a realm well off the main loci, Ahllan, one of Atropos' discarded webgoblins. Ahllan is one of the first webtrolls to discover free will, and runs something of an underground to protect the webbeings, who are mostly looked at as non-sentient equipment.

And about two thirds of the way through, out in the primal chaos, as part of a plot to clear his name, we enter Castle Discord, meeting the Virgin Goddess Eris who has her own unique agenda.

Mind you, this happens not long after meeting Alecto, Megara, and Tisiphone, the three furies.

The first time I read through this, it took me a while to get my head wrapped around the multiplicity of realities operating off of Fate's mainframe, particularly since I'm rather sure there's a really big comparison to how the internet actually works. (Some of it comes off as a bit dated, since there's a large discussion of packet loss in there...) However, the mixture of magic and technology is quite facinating , as arcane magic exists side by side with using code to make changes to reality.

By far the one thing I absolutely loved in here, that made me forget all the rough patches, has to do with Eris's servers. Eris, who in the original myths comes off almost like Maleficent, in here is a bit less spiteful, although she is chaos incarnate. However, she runs her own set of servers, that just happen to be Macintosh servers of a metallic yellow hue.

Having read through the series before, it's a bit odd to go through how it all begins again, knowing where everyone ends up. But, his take on Greek mythology here is quite well conceived and a joy to read.