Deadline is the second book in the Newsflesh Trilogy, which chronicles the lives of young bloggers living in a world where the dead walk the earth. If you haven't read Feed, the first book in the series, and you want to, be warned: this review will contain spoilers. Like Feed, Deadline is a little slow to start, but once it gets going it's quite a ride. It will leave you wanting to start the next book the moment you finish this one.
After the shocking death of his sister George, murdered by conspirators at the end of Feed, Sean Mason is not the happy-go-lucky Irwin he once was. He is now the head of After the End Times but doesn't have the heart to go out into the field unless he is forced to. The only thing that keeps him going is his determination to find George's killers and make them pay.
But George has never really left him. He hears her voice in his head and even speaks aloud to her, worrying his co-workers a bit. It isn't clear whether he is really haunted or just crazy, but whether George is a ghost or a figment of his imagination, she helps him to cope and keep trying to find the truth. The After The End Times crew need all the help they can get as they begin to finally figure out how deep the rabbit hole goes.
When Kelly, an idealistic young doctor from the CDC appears on Sean's doorstep he fears, correctly, that it is not a social call. Kelly's research team have uncovered some data about reservoir conditions, like George's retinal Kellis Amberlee. People with reservoir conditions have been dying in far greater numbers than would be expected statistically, suggesting that George's death may have been part of something larger.
Kelly is legally dead, having left a dead clone in the CDC facility to cover her escape. She has fled to the After the End Times in the hope they can use the data and offer her some protection. In doing so she brings a whole new rain of trouble down on the bloggers. They are forced to go off the grid to find a scientist not on the CDC's payroll who can make sense of Kelly's data and point them in the right direction. As in the first book, while they do have to run from zombies now and then the main danger comes from other living humans.
I really liked George as the narrator in Feed, so the change to Sean's point of view took a bit of getting used to but you still get her insights and commentary when she is "talking" to Sean. The banter between the siblings provides most of the lighter moments that keep the group's apparent impending doom from getting too depressing.
My only complaint about this series is that apart from Sean and George, and to a lesser extent Mahir and Becks, the characters are never really fleshed out much. When one of the crew was killed in the line of duty Sean was upset about it but I just couldn't bring myself to care all that much because I didn't feel I knew the guy at all. I suppose the lack of details about the minor characters makes sense because between his quest for revenge and his grief for George, Sean is so self-absorbed that he doesn't really notice much about the people around him. He is, for example, completely oblivious to the signals that his fellow Irwin Becks is giving him, which are obvious to everyone else.
As with Feed, zombies are more of a backdrop than a major element of the story, though there are a couple of intense zombie chases. The book is much more about the conspiracy Sean and his team first came across in the first book. They finally start to get some idea what is actually going on but Deadline will leave you with as many new questions as answers. There are a couple of big revelations towards the end, one of which made me startle my daughter by saying "wow!" out loud. I burned through the last couple of chapters at breakneck speed and found myself wanting to get straight into the next book, Blackout.
Deadline is a great follow up to Feed and I hope that Blackout can live up to the expectations it has created.