In the twenty-ninth chapter of Feed, I am so done. DONE. And there are still TWO BOOKS AND TWO NOVELLAS LEFT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feed.
You know, we’re at the end of this novel, everything is a disaster, I’m terrified of how this is going to end, and Grant still takes the time to give us even more information of how the world of Kellis-Amberlee works. I’m impressed by how chapter twenty-nine opens because it’s got such a brilliant understanding of class and geography. The poor have more to lose despite having less, so their communities tend towards self-policing when necessary. I can imagine places like South of Market in San Francisco or Emeryville in the East Bay turning into ghost towns, empty of people because the threat of amplification is too high. And then you’ve got the middle class and the rich, who seal themselves off from the world but only in specific ways. They live with the hope (or the delusion, depending on how you look at it) that the world can continue as it once was. They have the resources and the money to make this happen. It’s this sort of world-building that makes Shaun’s journey to Tate so much more believable. It’s why I don’t question his or Steve’s ability to enter the hall so easily.
Again, I was mostly concerned with what Shaun was going to do and whether or not he’d be able to get out alive. Plus, how much did those inside know? Surely they were aware of some sort of outbreak, right? Fuck, if it’s even possible, I was somehow more nervous than the entire lead-up in chapter twenty-six.
I was touched by the fact that Shaun hears his sister’s voice in his head. It doesn’t matter to me if he’s just imagining it so that he has some sort of consolation or if it’s really her. The effect is still the same: everything that Shaun is doing is for her. That’s immediately contrasted with the outside world, and Grant makes sure we understand how pointless Shaun sees everything else in comparison. He isn’t excited about outbreaks anymore. He doesn’t care about being an Irwin. He gives no fucks about the news. And when he sees the party at the moment the elevator opens, it infuriates him. These people are continuing with their lives. They don’t care that Georgia is dead. That injustice is painful to Shaun because he knows these folks have the luxury of not caring. That’s a powerful explanation of how furious it can be as a disadvantaged person. You don’t get the privilege of being ignorant. It’s why I think Shaun’s Poe reference is so brilliant. I’m sure that’s a reference to “The Masque of the Red Death,” and you can see the parallels here. The rich and affluent and privileged keep the disastrous world outside, pretending that they are invincible. Does that make Shaun the Red Death himself? He’s the outsider bringing news of death and destruction, and I wondered if this was foreshadowing the end of this story, too.
So it’s at this point that Feed enters its final bit of terror: Shaun’s confrontation with Governor Tate. It’s confirmed that the Rymans did hear of Georgia’s death, but were ignorant of how it happened. I’m also certain that the Rymans really didn’t have anything to do with any of the attacks, that Tate was just using them. Still, I was shocked by how open Tate was, admitting rather quickly that he used these deaths as a political maneuver to guide America back to… well, some warped version of Tate’s vision of the country. He speaks in such ambiguous and ridiculous terms that he never truly defines what it is he wanted.
Emily Ryman’s fury is just… my god, I knew it would come, but it’s still unsettling. However, this wasn’t the worst part about this:
Tate grabbed her wrists, twisting her to the side and locking his arm around her neck. His left hand, which had been under the table since I arrived, came into view, holding another one of those plastic syringes. Unaware, Emily Ryman continued to struggle.
Oh, fuck you, Governor Tate. You are a fucking coward. You try to frame this like you’re a hero, like you cared about the victims you had exterminated, but you don’t. They were pawns. Ugh, I HATE YOU SO MUCH.
This whole scene is chaotic and terrifying. Tate could turn anyone into a zombie at any moment, and they’re in an enclosed space. It would spell certain death for any number of people if they weren’t able to get away. Despite that Shaun has the CDC on his side, I still didn’t have faith that this could end well. And it can’t, because as soon as Tate started talking about being a martyr, I knew there was only one thing he had on his mind.
In one fluid motion, he drove the syringe into his thigh and pressed the plunger home.
NOPE. NOPE. HE IS NOW ONE GIANT OUTBREAK WAITING TO HAPPEN. OH MY GOD, WHAT THE FUCK??? All this happens so quickly, too, and it’s just moments later that Shaun, speaking to his recently deceased sister, raises her .40 to blow out Tate’s head.
“See, George?” I whispered. When did I start crying? It didn’t matter. Tate’s blood looked just like George’s. It was red and bright now, but it would start to dry soon, turning brown, turning old, turning into something the world could just forget. “I got him. I got him for you.”
Good, she said.
DONE. 10000000% DONE. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t feel exhilarated that Tate is dead. I just miss Georgia. And I worry that Shaun has nothing left to live for. He did what he wanted to, but now what? What does he do?
He sits at a table, eats the abandoned breadsticks, and waits for the CDC. His sister doesn’t speak to him again, and we have to accept that she’s gone forever. This hurts. THIS BOOK HURTS SO MUCH.
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