In the second chapter of Deadline, Shaun is paid a visit by a surprising guest. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.
What’s most impressive to me about how Grant is starting off this book is the way in which she conveys Shaun’s grief. We’re getting a portrait of someone in mourning, yes, but it’s a character who was wholly unprepared for the ordeal. All throughout Feed, Georgia was certain that she’d outlast her fool of a brother, who constantly teased death on a regular basis. The horrific irony of her death has left Shaun unable to cope. And honestly, that’s how I’m reading this situation. Shaun doesn’t know how to deal with the complex emotions he’s experiencing because he never expected to have them in the first place. Even worse, I’m sure Shaun would be able to address a traumatic situation if Georgia were around.
Alas, she is not. This chapter, then, is overrun with Shaun’s sadness and fury. Lines like
The light was shining green. No surprise there. Kellis-Amberlee won’t ever kill me. That would be too merciful.
are full of that bitterness that Shaun has let overwhelm his life. Even Georgia’s voice often chides Shaun for letting his anger get to this point, but what does he have to stop him? Who is he without his sister? And that’s fascinating to me from the standpoint of characterization because it drives home the idea that Shaun’s identity was largely defined by Georgia. He reacted to her. He was her polar opposite in many ways, her absolute best friend, and the one person she got along with best. So what is he now? What does he define himself by if that element of his existence has been taken away?
For the time being, it’s not his role as an Irwin. While the world predictably responds positively to Shaun’s return to the field, it’s not what Shaun wants. It doesn’t give him the same sense of excitement and thrill as it once did, and it doesn’t help that one particular reaction defines Shaun’s life in the shadow of his sister’s death:
“What’s the worst headline, Mahir?”
He sighed, heavily. “You’re sure?”
“All right, then. ‘Shaun of the Dead, Part Two.'” He stopped. I said nothing. He must have taken that as a cue because he continued: “‘Shaun Phillip Mason, the world’s most well-known and well-regarded action blogger (known as an ‘Irwin’ to the informed, named in honor of a pre-Rising naturalist with a fondness for handling dangerous creatures), returned to the field today after almost a year of full-time desk duty. Does this mark the end of his much-debated ‘retirement,’ a career choice made during the emotionally charged weeks following the death of his adoptive sister, Georgia Mason, a factual news blogger? Or does it –'”
“That’s enough, Mahir,” I said quietly.
Can you even imagine something existing like this so soon after Shaun’s rescue of Becks and Alaric? Sadly, yes, I can. As much as this new media empire was touted as being a savior to truth and information in the wake of the Rising, we see a darker side of it here. Shaun’s life is not only the source of some rather uncomfortable speculation, but he’s being defined by something he’d rather forget. He’s always going to be attached to his sister’s death. How is he supposed to cope and move on if Georgia is always brought up alongside him?
I think it’s one of the reasons Shaun is so rude to Mahir. Shaun knows Mahir means well and is a good friend to him, but this situation inspires so many questions Shaun doesn’t want to answer. He knows that the media is going to want to interview him, to pick apart his life once again, and he knows it’s par for the course. It’s why he rushes back to his place as quickly as possible, to hole himself up before the inevitable comes. God, how is he going to deal with that? I’m guessing he’s going to be just as rude and dismissive, and honestly, I can’t blame him. It’s bad enough to lose a sister, but to be reminded of it and hounded for it in the media this way? It’s no wonder Shaun “retired.”
The next portion of chapter two contains a whole lot of exposition mixed in with some casual worldbuilding from Grant. I liked learning about how the highway system worked, and it was hilarious to me that Shaun had no real context for tolls. Hell, I don’t even drive, and I have to deal with the toll system in the Bay Area! I was also IMMENSELY EXCITED that After the End Times re-located to Oakland because I live in Oakland, and I love it so much. Grant does a wonder with the issues of gentrification and poverty and how they relate to Oakland post-Rising, and it’s one of my favorite segments of the whole chapter.
Initially, though, I was a tad confused why there was so much information and summarization of the last book here in this one. I didn’t really get why it existed because I don’t think the audience necessarily needed that refresher. But during Shaun’s very lengthy bout of narration while he gets settled at home and then heads up to the roof, I came to appreciate these scenes because of what they meant to me. Grant has to cope with the fact that the second book in her trilogy is narrated by a different person, which is something most authors wouldn’t dare to do. I mentioned in one of those final Feed reviews that Grant had erected a hurdle for the readers by killing off Georgia, especially those fans who were incredibly close to Georgia. It’s not that Shaun is unlikable, but it’s such a jarring change that you’re bound to lose some people. However, I felt like this risk was not only worth it, but dealt with heavily in this chapter. I suppose I like to imagine that Shaun is telling me this story, and he’s unsure if I’m new, too. It’s like he wants me to get a feel for how he’s going to handle this, and so he uses the past to get me acquainted. The exposition/summarizing isn’t condescending at all; he’s merely making sure I’m following along, that I understand him and where he’s coming from. Obviously, this is my own take on this, and I have no clue what Grant intended. But this allowed me to get more comfortable with the idea that Shaun was here to narrate this series.
I suppose it also helps that in some ways, Georgia is still here. Grant examines Shaun’s sense of sanity through the presence of Georgia’s voice. I enjoy that at the end of the day, Shaun cares not how weird it makes him. Perhaps that is his way of coping, and the no-nonsense way that Grant presents it is empowering to me. We all have different ways of dealing with tough shit, so why is Shaun’s any worse than ours?
So, aside from this, there is more information (albeit a small amount) given to us about the events at the end of Feed. Shaun was interrogated by the CDC, and he believes that Tate did what he did at the very end of his life to prevent others from finding out who he really worked with all along. I certainly agree with Shaun: I don’t think Tate was the mastermind at all. I’m also sticking with my prediction that Deadline is going to reveal exactly who was behind this conspiracy, but I also wondered how that was going to happen.
I think part of that is answered in the final scene of this chapter. After Becks finds Shaun on the roof and the two have an argument about Alaric, Becks reveals that Shaun has a visitor. “Oh,” I thought, “it’s a goddamn reporter, isn’t it?” Shaun thinks it’s that or his parents. WHO HE GOT A RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST. Good for him, for the record, since the Masons fully demonstrated just how gross they are about their adopted children. So, was it a reporter or the Masons paying Shaun a visit?
“Neither,” said Becks. “She says she knows you from the CDC, and that she’s been trying to get hold of you for weeks – something about needing to talk to you about a research program that Georgia was involved with back when you were –”
WHAT?!?!?! YOU ARE KIDDING ME.
“Hi, Shaun,” said Kelly. “I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
KELLY CONNOLLY. Oh, there’s no way this isn’t going to be important. Why is she there? WHAT DOES SHE KNOW? OH, I’M ALREADY SO EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK.
A quick note about Mark Reads video commissions: I have updated the Mark Does Stuff store page for my video commissions to reflect a policy I’m going to have to start to enforce more rigorously. It’s been practice for a single commission to cover up to two 15 minute YouTube videos for Mark Reads stuff. I have no way of knowing or checking the length of what I’m being commissioned, so I have to trust that whatever a person has chosen can fit into 30 minutes.
This is not intended to single anyone out or make them feel bad, as I don’t think anyone is doing this intentionally or maliciously. But people are commissioning me for things that are absolutely HUGE, far longer than a 30 minute read. This includes chapters for books on this site and fanfiction stuff. I don’t find out how long something is until I’m in the midst of it and I realize I’m making three, four, or five videos.
I want to be fair to folks who are paying for these videos to know that they’re getting (generally speaking) the same amount of time as anyone else. At the same time, it’s unfair to me, especially as I’m putting in up to an hour, hour and a half of extra work for a single commission when it’s really the amount of work for two or three commissions. I was hesitant to do anything about this, but I had just caught up with commissions when I was hit with about ten new ones, and so far, all of them have been four videos long just to cover the content.
So! I love doing these videos, but I need to be more even and fair about this. If you can’t afford more than a single commission, I can totally work with that. You can give me sections you specifically want to see read, and I’m certainly not going to be picky if it goes five minutes or so over time. I am just asking folks to please keep in mind that the longer the piece I’m reading is, the harder it will be to fit in within the originally stated confines of the video.
Thanks everyone! This is NOT retroactive, by the way. If you’ve purchased a commission from me before today, you don’t have to adjust it in any way. I’ll still do the whole thing. I appreciate your support! It really helps keep this place running.
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