San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats (2012)
Written by: Mira Grant
Genre: Novella/Horror/Science Fiction
Published by: Orbit
Rating: 7 – Good Read
So I’ve been on a mission to clear out the short fiction from my queue, as well as to not let any new short fiction become forgotten on my Kindle as I have in the past. So when Mira Grant’s new Newsflesh novella arrived on my Kindle, I read it as soon as I finished reading Leviathan Wakes. It seemed appropriate, given that I’ve been on a Grant binge lately. This should be it for a while, so if you’re tired of seeing Mira Grant reviews, this is the last.
And I have to say: I got a perverse bit of pleasure reading this novella which is set during the San Diego Comic Con, which features what’s essentially a fan club for Firefly. The pleasure came from the fact that I was reading it during Comic Con (no, I wasn’t there, but Comic Con was happening while I was reading the novella!), and this year also happened to be the 10th anniversary of Firefly, and at this year’s Comic Con, there was a reunion. Apparently, it was a huge hit.
How intentional the writing of this particular story was, and how intentional the timing of the publication was, I don’t know. I’d say one’s more intentional (publishing a story about the 2014 Comic Con during the 2012 one) than the other, but while Grant may not have known about the Firefly reunion panel, I doubt she was unaware that this year was Firefly‘s 10th anniversary.
But I should stop babbling about all that delightful geek stuff. Let’s talk about the story!
It took me a little bit to settle in. Like in Countdown, we get multiple POVs, and when I realized that’s what was happening, I kind of sighed and sat back and reminded myself that THIS novella wasn’t up for the Hugo (yet), and that I didn’t need to be crazy picky. This novella is meant to be icing for the fans, so I decided that I would enjoy it as a fan.
I had a few teeny bits of confusion: I can’t remember the exact date of the Rising. Turns out, it was 2014, and it was the summer. Remembering what I’d learned while reading Countdown, I realized that the start of the zombie apocalypse wasn’t exactly widely known: people thought it was a crazy flu, so turning out for San Diego’s annual epic convention wouldn’t have been too crazy a thing (though, seriously, if there were a BAD flu epidemic going around, I imagine some people would’ve stayed home).
And what a set up that was. And how weirdly believable it all went down. Given the current zombie craze, would anyone think it amiss if people walked in drenched in blood and started biting others? Most people would think it’s a show, an act, all part of the excitement. So this made all the sense in the world, and that in and of itself was terrifying.
Now, I’ve never been to San Diego, let alone Comic Con. But I’ve seen the documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (thumbs up, btw!) and have a sense of scope. Sure, if I ever go for real, I imagine I’ll be completely overwhelmed, but I could fill in some visuals, and that was cool.
Despite the number of POVs, we do get a tighter story than in Countdown. We follow certain groups of people as they try and get help, and we become very invested in their survival. The tragedy is that, like with Countdown, you know how all of this is going to shake out, but you can’t help but rooting for people anyway. I loved how Kelly was such a ass-kicker, and I loved the dark humor in her sections. Elle, who started out in my mind as a redshirt, became a character I was really rooting for, because her story was so heartening.
And the overall story, a documentary of sorts, was so sad. And yet, weirdly cathartic. I can’t describe it any other way. There were so many fantastic little moments where my heart ached for these people, especially as the story reached the end.
I do have some nitpicks: we do get a brief POV from a dog. Sigh…. Also, Grant reuses some names from her Newsflesh trilogy, and that kept throwing me. Lorelei’s father was named Shawn, and one of the Browncoats was named Rebecca. If there were any George’s, I missed them, but I wish Grant had chosen different names for those characters. They were completely different from those I know and love from the trilogy, and it was always jarring to see those names. There were also a few moments where I felt like I’d missed something, such as one character saying they had a plan but when we come back to that character, no plan has been enacted at all.
But these are minor quibbles. This story is a much stronger story that the Hugo-nominated Countdown, and definitely worth the $2.99 for the e-book. I still wouldn’t recommend starting here if you’re new to Grant’s work. Part of the horror and the excitement of reading is knowing what happens after FIRST and then coming back to see how it all began. So if you haven’t yet read Feed, do so now, and then come back and snatch this up. You can really read it at any time during the trilogy, and if you’re a fan, you definitely want to get your hands on this.