Countdown by Mira Grant
Countdown by Mira Grant is a novella set in the same universe as her Newsflesh trilogy. You can read my reviews of the trilogy at the following links:
Countdown tells the story of the causes of the Rising — the development and spread of the viruses that became Kellis-Amberlee, the zombie pandemic. This review contains mild spoilers which are only really spoilers if you haven’t read any of the Newsflesh books.
The novella doesn’t contain spoilers for the main series, so could be read beforehand. However, it definitely fleshes out a lot of the back story, so I think a reader will get more out of it if they have read the Newsflesh trilogy.
There’s no main character in Countdown. Instead, it tells the story through scenes about different characters: the two doctors who created the two parts of the virus, the Amberlee family, the Masons who we know from Newsflesh (and actually their story was the one I felt relied most on the reader’s knowledge of the future, although not too heavily), CDC researchers, the people responsible for releasing the Kellis cure into the wild. Even though I knew the final outcome (dooooom), If found it interesting to follow.
The one thing I was hoping it would address but didn’t was how the entire rest of the world (outside the US) got Kellis-Amberlee. I have no issues with the Kellis part because of how it was released, but the Marburg Amberlee part still doesn’t make sense to me. It was a cancer cure undergoing trials in Denver. By itself it wasn’t very contagious and Kellis-Amberlee started in the trial patients and their closest friends and relatives. Kellis-Amberlee was highly contagious, but it also acted quite quickly (making people sick then dead then zombies). So HOW did it get out of the US in large enough numbers to infect the whole world? A plane full of dead/zombies wouldn’t do it because of all the red flags it would raise upon landing (assuming the pilot survived which isn’t implausible given current aeroplane safety procedures). The novella mentioned people in the UK and India getting Kellis-Amberlee but how? Just the Marburg Amberlee part couldn’t’ve reached them and KA needs reasonably close contact and also those places are far from the US and it takes more time to get there than the time needed to zombify. There wasn’t much mention of KA lying dormant while being passed around which is the thing that needed to be emphasised to make me happy.
OK, that was a bit ranty, but it was the aspect that bothered me in the trilogy and that I was so hoping would be explained in Countdown.
But nitpicking aside, this was an enjoyable story. I definitely recommend it to anyone whose read Newsflesh and is interested in filling in some of the worldbuilding gaps.
4 / 5 stars