I’ve been eagerly waiting for the launch of this novella since reading about it from the author: her highly successful Newsflesh trilogy left me wanting for more and this shorter offering promised to be just as gripping and terrifying as the parent work.
Well, it went way beyond my expectations, in more ways than one. Mostly, I thought that being familiar with the post-Raising world, that familiarity would somehow… cushion me from the worst side-effects of the story, but I could not have been more wrong, because Mira Grant chose to focus on the innocent by definition – on children. And this raised the emotional stakes in a way I would never have foreseen.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about this future Earth where the Kellis-Amberlee virus brings the dead back to life (sort of) and transforms them into murderous flesh eaters; about the constant blood tests and the constant vigilance; about the fear that has gripped the world and transformed it to the core. But there are so many aspects about life after the Rising I had not thought about: the school system, for example, and the special means required to teach young children. The innocent.
It was a chilling realization to focus on the fact that many of the early childhood incidents I consider normal – a skinned knee, a bloody nose – represent a grave danger in this changed world. That common kindergarten or first-grade activities need to be strictly monitored lest they lead to a lethal outbreak. Yes, because if these children are too small to “amplify” (i.e. turn into zombies), their blood contains the dormant virus all the same, and it can infect an adult just like a bite. This is exactly what happens in the school where the action unfolds: the scraped wrist of a curious kid results in a bloody massacre, the innocent act of an innocent creature causes unending grief and destruction.
Mira Grant being the amazing storyteller she is, she does not focus on the more gory aspects of the drama – she never does – but rather on that violated innocence, on those children that will never know the carefree abandon that’s the prerogative of our early years, and who have to learn fear from the very moment they become aware of what’s around them. This is the real tragedy of this story, even more than the senseless, bloody deaths: I have no children of my own, but still I kept cringing every time I read about their tears, their screams of terror; I felt my heart constrict when I saw them cling to heroic teacher Elaine Oldenburg while she did everything in her power to preserve her charges, keep them safe as much as she could. There were times where I had to stop reading because the strain was too much to bear, so I can only begin to imagine the effect of this story on actual parents…
I knew, going in, that this would be a chilling read, as I knew that no matter the setting, things were bound to go bad in a short time frame. It was never a matter of when, but rather of how – and once more Mira Grant delivered a gripping, harrowing tale that will remain with me for a long time. Once more she showed me how she can keep her readers enthralled and terrified at the same time – a rare gift indeed…
My Rating: 9/10