San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was far too heartbreaking to be a horror story.
In the Newsflesh universe, 2014 is the year the dead came back to life, and infected humans lost everything but a need to eat and to infect more people. This novella is set during the 2014 Comic-Con in San Diego, before the outbreak is common knowledge. The infected get onto the vendor floor on preview night, and are locked in with the uninfected. The living have an advantage, in that they're apt to believe it's a zombie outbreak, and to have seen the movies to know what to do about it.
There's a large cast of characters, which would've been a lot easier to follow if I'd read it in one sitting. As I didn't, I spent a couple of paragraphs sorting out who was who with each scene change. It made it difficult to connect with anyone except the two discussing the events in "present" day. I'm not counting that against the book, because that may have been the point.
I had pictured more of a "last stand," based on the title of the story. Sadly, there is no Serenity-Valley-type showdown here. There's no blaze of gunfire (which isn't a spoiler, as Comic-Con doesn't allow live weapons). Instead, there are good people succumbing, one by one, to inevitability. There are moments of heroism and bravery, and the trademark Mira Grant wit. It just felt like something was missing.
That something was not heart. I teared up at several points in the narrative, and I did connect with Lorelei, who's telling the story of what happened in that locked convention center during the Rising. I felt her pain and grief, even decades later.
If you really like the other Newsflesh books and need to read more, I think you'll like this a lot. If you're not especially a fan, though, it's not going to seriously alter your opinion on the series. There are no major revelations in this novella. It's there to fill in more of the picture, not to expand on it.
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