Rise is a collection of eight novellas and short stories that are set within the world of the Newsflesh trilogy. (See my wrap-up post about Newsflesh here. Short version: Amazing.)
So what’s inside Rise? And should you read it? Read on for mini-reviews of each story… and as for whether you should read it, my answer is an unqualified YES… but only after you read the complete trilogy, or at least, enough to appreciate the context of these stories.
The first few stories in the Rise collection are set at the very beginning of the Rising – and this is something we never see in the main books of the Newsflesh trilogy. Newsflesh is set decades after the onset of the initial Kellis-Amberlee outbreak, and while we learn through the characters’ conversations and memories what happened at that time, it’s something quite different to read the author’s stories set during the Rising. These stories are awful in their inevitability – we know what’s coming, and we know that nothing will stop it.
It began nowhere. It began everywhere. It began without warning; it began with all the warning in the world. It could have been prevented a thousand times over. There was nothing that anyone could have done.
A chilling timeline of the end of the world, showing the last of the pre-Rising days and how the disaster came on step by step. In the Newsflesh novels, the events of 2014 are almost 30 years in the past. Here, in Countdown, we see first-hand what actually happened that awful summer, from the optimism of a potential cancer cure to an irreversible act of ecoterrorism, all leading to the mutation and spread of a pandemic that changed the world forever. We meet some familiar characters, and also see the people who are basically the founding fathers of the Kellis-Amberlee virus – the creators of the Kellis cure, meant to cure the common cold, and Marburg Amberlee, an engineered virus that can defeat even the most dire of terminal cancer cases. Countdown is scary and dramatic and gave me the biggest case of dread. We know what’s going to happen, but watching it unfold and knowing there’s no chance that it won’t end the way that it does is still somehow crazily fascinating and terrible.
The shortest piece in the collection, Everglades is a view of campus life in the first days after the reality of the zombie apocalypse has hit home, as seen through the eyes of a young grad student who recognizes the cruelty of the natural world. It’s a short, sad, and even beautiful story.
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats
As Mira Grant points out in her introduction to this story, San Diego Comic Con is almost a perfect place to stage an outbreak. You have thousands of people crammed into a confined space, many costumed or so heavily made-up that it’s impossible to gauge their actual condition. There’s little to no cell reception inside the convention hall, so once disaster strikes, communication between those trapped and the outside world effectively ceases. And as we know from countless zombie TV shows and movies, all it takes is one infected person locked inside with everyone else to start a chain reaction. This story shows how the very last Comic Con turned from geeky delight to bloody mayhem, and the bravery of the assorted fanboys and fangirls who made a last stand.
The stories from this point forward take place after the events in the Newsflesh trilogy, or at least, close enough to them that a knowledge of those events is needed – and people who haven’t read the trilogy will end up with massive spoilers. That said, the next batch of stories are:
How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea
Before the Rising, guns were verboten on airplanes, carried only by government agents and representatives of local law enforcement. Now most passengers flew armed, and the flight attendants carried more weapons than your average Irwin. It’s funny how the world can change when no one’s looking.
In which our beloved head Newsie Mahir heads off to Australia to get a first-hand view of how that country and continent made it through the Rising. Australia is still Australia, meaning that it’s a country full of people who are used to living alongside deadly wildlife, and their approach to security in the post-Rising world is vastly different from the paranoid, fear-based approach adopted everywhere else.
“Why would someone who didn’t like the law live out here?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be easier to move into the city, where there’s less risk of surprise zombie kangaroos?”
The story is entertaining and presents a view of a very different mentality, in a land where animal conservation still matters, even when those animals may amplify, turn into zombies, and eat you. A story that includes zombie kangaroos and wombats can’t help being a blast to read.
The Day the Dead Came To Show and Tell
It was a small, claustrophobic space. The shelves were packed with basic school supplies: paper, crayons, extra ammunition, formalin, bleach.
This story was the hardest to read in the collection. It just hits way too close to home right now. This story is about an outbreak in an elementary school, and unfolds moment by moment as the infection spreads, the school goes into lockdown, and one first-grade teacher faces the unthinkable as she tries to save her children. It’s awful. Fascinating and so well written, but awful just the same. With the seemingly never-ending wave of school shootings in this country, reading this story is just heart-breaking and way too relevant.
Please Do Not Taunt the Octopus
Dr. Shannon Abbey is one of the many great side characters in the Newsflesh trilogy, and in this story, we get to spend a little more time with her in her secret mad scientist lair. Dr. Abbey is smart, a little crazy, and lots of fun, and her story here collides with another character seen in an earlier piece in Rise. Plus, we get to see Joe the massive mastiff and Barney the octopus – two big plusses.
“I’m a mad scientist, aren’t I? We all have master plans. Without them, we’d just be faintly disgruntled scientists who think we really ought to form a committee to discuss our grievances.”
The next two (and final two) stories in Rise are new to this collection, the only two not to have been previously published either in anthologies or stand-alone versions.
All the Pretty Little Horses
All the Pretty Little Horses takes us back once again to the early days of the Rising. The year is 2018, and we’re back with Michael and Stacy Mason, who’ve become famous for their radio broadcasts giving survival tips and offering encouragement during the really bad years. Now that the world is starting to find a new normal, Stacy is plunged into depression, desperately mourning the young son lost in the early days of the Rising. This story shows how the Masons became the people we meet in the Newsflesh trilogy, hardened stars of the blogosphere who’ll do anything for ratings. And while this story didn’t truly make me like them, at least it shows a bit more of the desperation that turned them into the people they became.
Coming To You Live
This is it. The story we’ve all been waiting for. It’s about Shaun and Georgia, and… well, I’m just not going to say a word about it. No matter what I say, it’ll be spoilery. Let’s just say that it was a perfect end piece for the collection, and it left me just as in love with the characters and the overarching world of Newsflesh as before, or may just a smidge more.
And that’s all, folks!
Rise is essential reading for fans of Newsflesh – and if you’ve made it this far in my lengthy post, I’m assuming you’re a fan too! I’m a little bit heartbroken to have reached the end. Yes, I know there’s still the 2016 novel Feedback to read, but it’s not about the characters I know and love, and I’m just not ready to go there yet. I’ll read it eventually (or maybe even later this week), but for now I just want to bask in the glory of all things Newsflesh, and the amazing stories in Rise, just a little bit longer.
Title: Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection
Author: Mira Grant
Publication date: June 21, 2016
Length: 816 pages (mass market paperback)
Genre: Horror/science fiction