In the first chapter of Deadline, Shaun Mason is sick of coping. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.
Mira Grant didn’t give me much to go on with the end of Feed, and I think that book actually works well as a one-off. As agonizing as the end of that book is, I’m glad there’s more to this story. I admit that I have no fucking clue what this book is going to be about, so I’m eagerly awaiting the moment I find that out. What’s going to drive this novel? How does Shaun move past the loss of his sister?
That’s what opens Deadline: Shaun’s complete fury at constantly being asked how he is coping. And it’s something I understand. After I lost my father, I quickly got sick of people asking me how I was doing, week after week. I mean, did they really want to know the truth? Most of the people who inquired about my coping skills weren’t even that close to me, and it just became endlessly awkward. I didn’t want to be defined by that moment.
So Grant opens the second Newsflesh book by telling us exactly what Shaun has been up to: not much of anything. Yes, he’s had lots to do, but the once-famous Irwin isn’t so Irwin-y anymore. He’s largely taken over Georgia’s job as administrator for After the End Times, managing a brand new staff in-house and occasionally on the field, but he’s simply stopped poking things with a stick. It’s easy to read Shaun’s detachment through Grant’s words, and it’s interesting how different the writing feels from Shaun’s point of view. He is quite matter-of-fact like his sister, but it doesn’t feel the same. Shaun feels like he exists moment to moment, and his particular style of sarcasm and anger comes through his narration. It’s clear that we’re getting a portrait of a man who has lost most of his motivation for feeling alive. Yes, I do want to know how there’s going to be a second book in this series, but I’m also intrigued to see how Grant is going to deal with Shaun’s loss of motivation and happiness. Is Shaun capable of finding excitement or satisfaction without his sister?
Well, he may have physically lost Georgia, but he still talks to her. Grant makes no qualms about how Shaun is able to do this: it’s all in his head. For years after my father’s death, I genuinely expected him to show up whenever I came home to visit. It was an irrational, pointless exercise, and I did it every time. Perhaps that was my way of coping with his passing, though… well, that’s not a very good coping mechanism, is it? Like, openly denying his death DIDN’T HELP. But it’s what I did! And I’m sure any of you who have lost someone close to you have done irrational shit in the wake of their death.
We learn all of this information about Shaun through an action sequence where Shaun has to save two of his employees – Becks and a newcomer, Alaric Kwong – from a group of zombies closing in on the pair. Becks is trying to help Alaric pass his test for a Class A journalism license, and Alaric, ever the Newsie, is not exactly emotionally suited for such an experience. So when six more zombies start getting too close for comfort, Shaun finds a temporary reprieve from his numbness when he gets to save lives.
It’s an interesting situation, for sure, because Shaun tells us in this chapter that he hasn’t returned to his Irwin ways after Georgia’s death:
I gave up the bulk of my active fieldwork when Georgia died. I figured that might calm people down, but all it did was get them more worked up. I was Shaun Mason, Irwin to the president! I wasn’t supposed to say “Fuck this noise” and take over my sister’s desk job! Only that’s exactly what I did. Something about shooting my own sister in the spine left me with a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to getting my hands dirty.
This is important for a couple reasons. First, is that a reveal that Ryman won the election??? Yes??????? Oh god, that would mean Rick is VP, and that is such a weird thought. But I was more intrigued by Shaun’s admission and what we see later in this chapter. It makes sense that Shaun wouldn’t see the appeal of being an Irwin anymore after having to kill his sister. What could that world possibly bring to him at this point? Where was the fun in chasing down zombies if his sister wasn’t there to yell at him about being reckless? Shaun and Georgia truly were a pair, two halves that needed the other to exist. What is Shaun without his other half?
There’s a sliver of hope, then, that Shaun might find a reason to return to what he does best in the scene where he majestically saves Becks and Alaric. I imagine there’s a very specific intent behind opening Deadline this way. Shaun swoops into action, killing a large number of zombies in a herd after his fellow staff members, and in the process, he feels alive again. He makes a comment to Becks when he finally gets close enough to talk to her:
“I’m going to earn my ratings.”
While I imagine that After the End Times got some residual ratings boosts once Georgia died, it seems that Shaun never regained his previous glory. His team does well, I think, but there’s something present in Shaun’s renewed sense of purpose, however temporary that might be. His situation swirls into a fierce determination on his part, and it’s that forgetting of details that feels so very Shaun. He is in his element here, blasting zombies down, getting close to death. Could it be that Shaun’s focus comes from that very dance with mortality? Sure, I can believe that Shaun subconsciously wants to die, but I think there’s more to it. Dave’s blog post at the end of chapter one hints at something larger. Shaun’s return to the field, even just this one time, caused a ripple effect amongst his team.
It gives them hope.
For now, though, I’ll echo Georgia’s sentiments from one of her unpublished files in this chapter. Shaun is listless because he is alone, and even though Georgia talks to him inside his head, it’s not enough. Shaun needs to find something to feel less alone.
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