In the thirteenth chapter of Deadline, I am now convinced that getting me to read this trilogy was part of an elaborate practical joke meant to make me feel unrelenting terror just to entertain you all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.
Okay, so that intro is just me being facetious. Let’s be real: the point of Mark Does Stuff is to watch me suffer for your enjoyment. I support this reality. Allow me to quote the lovely forgottenlandscapes on Tumblr, who described what I do rather succinctly:
“hi my name is mark my job is appreciating good things in company of good people and being in a state of emotional upheaval 999% of the time because fiction”
You can’t deny this reality. You can’t. And somehow, nearly every single thing I’ve chosen for Mark Reads has either broken my heart or reduced me to a pathetic puddle of feelings. I feel like so many of you know me incredibly well, so I do listen to folks when they tell me a certain series or show is up my alley. That’s the case with Newsflesh. People like my mods spectralbovine and arctic_hare and my editor Shiyiya all told me that there were few things in this universe quite written specifically for me like Newsflesh is. I am here to tell you that they are correct.
I love political thrillers, especially ones that have such a strong emotional character base to them. I love the horror genre. I love suspense. And I love reading a story that’s full of twists and turns that keep me on my toes. Somehow, this one series is full of that, and I AM NOT EVEN HALFWAY DONE WITH IT.
What I’m loving so much about Deadline is how risky this narrative feels. Mira Grant ignores any traditional styles of pacing for a novel like this, and instead chooses to oscillate wildly between scenes of extreme suspense that consistently raise the stakes and increasingly small respites from the terror. Especially since I’ve chosen to read this novel in the most agonizing way imaginable, it gives Deadline a grand scope. We have come so far that I’m left clueless as to what the future holds. Shaun and Becks have already confronted the CDC. I can’t even guess the next step! So much has happened in such a short span of time, and that gives this book a relentless feel.
Where the hell do they go from here???
If there was any hope that Shaun and Becks’s trip to the Portland CDC was going to unfold simply, that was ruined by the second page of this chapter when Shaun deliberately brings up the fact that his Oakland office was firebombed.
“You’re very fortunate. That outbreak was particularly bad.”
“Yeah, how did that happen as fast as it did? Isn’t the CDC supposed to prevent things like that?” asked Becks.
I love you, Becks, and I love your fearless attitude, and I love that these two people decided to throw all of their cards on the table instead of speaking in ambiguous threats and references. Honestly, it feels like an intentional trope subversion, at least in terms of how scenes like this normally unfold.
“It appears that someone in the area had been illegally breeding American pit bull terriers for use in dogfights,” said Director Swenson, smoothly as you please.
Hahahahaha, fuck you, dude. Let’s just go with the obvious: WERE THEY BREEDING THOSE DOGS ON THE FUCKING ROOF?????? (Why didn’t Becks or Shaun bring this up? Hmmm.) But let’s talk about another reason why this is super fucked up! There is still this stigma around pit bulls being evil fighting machines, even in the future, and that is often associated with people of color, especially black folks. So Swenson and the CDC are relying on a goddamn stereotype of people in Oakland in order to cover up the deliberate terrorist attack on After the End Times.
Fuck you so hard, Swenson. FUCK YOOOOUUUU.
(PS: OMG, Shaun is touching Becks during this whole scene, and I know I shouldn’t read too much into it, but omg.)
“It’s amazing that she accomplished so much, given her disability.”
ANOTHER EXTREME FUCK YOU, SWENSON. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
“Some of these people, statistically, should have lived to see their great-grandkids. Which means either the overall mortality rates for the country need to be recalculated, because we’re calibrating something really, really wrong, or folks with reservoir conditions are dying at a really accelerated rate.” I gave him my best big-dumb-Irwin face, and asked, “Which do you think it is?”
My soul just floated up into the ether out of respect for Shaun. I love you. You are incredible. I cannot believe you just asked him this point-blank. I mean, yes, this means everything is going to go wrong, but I admire your reckless courage. I also admire the secret text conversation Shaun and Becks have because they are seriously barely hiding their own anger and derision at the CDC. I dunno, it’s just hilarious to me to think of them holding this cheesy, fake conversation while swearing and yelling at each other through text messages.
Look at the light, advised George.
The light above the door – the light that should have been green, signalling that the standard security features were active, and that the door would open after a successful blood test had been run – was glowing a strong and steady yellow.
Nope. Nope. Thus begins a ridiculous, entertaining, and terrifying experience, one that I thought was inevitable, but in actuality, it was far more frightening than I expected. Once Director Swenson left, I didn’t think he’d actually return with any files, but honestly? What transpires after this is shocking particularly because of the implications of it. Not only did Shaun plant a bug in that conference room, but it’s pretty damn clear that Swenson ordered an outbreak at his own facility just to kill Shaun and Becks. I genuinely think that’s what happened here! It’s too convenient, and Swenson’s shock at the end is too real for it to be anything else. How on earth does an outbreak occur in one of the most secure and clean places in the entire United States? How does this go down without a single attempt to save Shaun and Becks’s lives?
So as I kept reading about what was happening to these two, how they were plunged in darkness and then left to fend for themselves against a growing hoard of zombies, all I could think about was how terrible this was going to fare for the CDC. Okay, I also started thinking about the possibility that Becks might not make it out of the building, but I tried to bury that away. I couldn’t think about that! DON’T DO IT, MARK. But it was hard because… shit, y’all, this situation seemed so impossible. There are zombies in an enclosed space designed to be a kill chute, and it’s only a matter of time before they loop around on themselves and get eaten. It isn’t until they get Dr. Kelly on the phone that she’s able to direct them to a secret escape route. AND EVEN THAT IS NOT THE END OF THIS EXERCISE IN TERROR:
“You’re in one of the secondary escape corridors. They’re designed to get essential staff out if at all possible, even during an outbreak. They aren’t public, and they’re never used for the transport of biological materials, just evacuations. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
My skin crawled. “They’re set to autosterilize if there’s any sign fo contamination, aren’t they?”
My god, this is endlessly fucked up. And the visual images that Grant paints with this next sequence are the stuff of nightmares. Shaun and Becks are in total darkness except for a set of yellow lights that direct evacuees towards the exit, but also extinguish as you pass them. That means there is nothing but darkness behind them. You ever read something and immediately wish to see it on film? This is one of those things.
(OH MY GOD, SHAUN AND BECKS HOLD HANDS THE WHOLE TIME AND PRETTY MUCH ARRANGED A DATE HUZZAH.)
I was genuinely shocked that Becks and Shaun made it out of the CDC alive, and I then expected Shaun to just murder Swenson on the spot. But he keeps his temper and his violent rage at bay in order to give Swenson a shocker of his own:
“We’re going to do what we’re paid to do,” I said. “We’re going to go and tell everybody the news.”
It’s a way for Shaun to tell Swenson that the secrets surrounding the CDC’s knowledge of reservoir conditions aren’t going to be a secret much longer. For one tiny moment in time, After the End Times has the advantage, and you know what? That terrifies me. Look at what they’re up against! Look what those terrorists have done to exterminate the truth. What’s going to happen now that Shaun and Becks have a much better idea of the CDC’s complicity? What information will the bug in the conference room give them?
This book hurts me, y’all.
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