The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant
Mira Grant created a fascinating world in her NEWSFLESH, is a masterful piece of hard science fiction, combining medical detail with political intrigue with intricate worldbuilding. Her characters were so real that the end of the first book in the trilogy, Feed, reduced me to tears.
Since completing the trilogy, Grant continues to write about the world she created. With the novella The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell, she may finally have returned to the well once too often. It’s a solid story, detailing the day-to-day issues presented to schools when blood becomes a deadly substance. Grant skillfully builds suspense for those less familiar with her world as she tells of the consequences of one 6-year-old child’s tiny lie about skinning his hand at recess. But ultimately, she has so completely explored the implications of her thesis in her previous tales that anyone who has read the trilogy will find this story predictable.
The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell is about a first grade school teacher in Seattle, Elaine Oldenburg. Children continue to attend public school despite the zombie threat because of their need for socialization. Most drop out by the fourth grade to study with private tutors or entirely by means of the internet, but younger children still need to learn about how to deal with others. In addition, kindergarteners and most first graders are too small to amplify into zombies, even should the antibodies in their blood be triggered in some way. While the dangers of schooling are not minimal, they are outweighed by the children’s need for other children.
Steps have been taken to make schools safer, but as has ever been the case with schools (and other government projects), safety equipment has been purchased from the lowest bidder. And, as has ever been the case, the lowest bidder doesn’t always produce the best product. One would think that when it comes to protecting a community’s children, only the best would do; but that’s not the case in Grant’s world, and it never has been the case in ours. Grant expertly manipulates real world habits, politics and economics to create a completely believable scenario.
Yet despite Grant’s skill, this tale feels like it’s already been told. Her skills are sufficiently great that genuine admirers of her work will feel impatient with this novella, wishing that she would move on to tell new stories of different biological threats. Thus, while Grant has written a thoroughly competent story with much to recommend it to those not already steeped in the world of NEWSFLESH, those who have read her previous works are likely to become impatient for the next book in Grant’s new PARASITOLOGY trilogy, Symbiont, which is due in November.