Series: Newflesh #3.3
Published by Orbit on July 14th, 2014
Outside the classroom walls the Rising was spreading, but inside was a carefully protected sanctuary against the growing threat.
Or so the teachers and students thought.
On what will be the last day in the teaching career of Elaine Oldenburg, who fans of the series know as Foxy, she must fight to survive and protect her students when the zombie outbreak shatters the safety of her school.
Novella for the Newsflesh series
A segment where at least two of our bloggers collaborate to share their thoughts in a joint review discussion.
Today, Bry and Fry discuss the latest novella of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell
F: I’m going to have to preface this with: I have two grade school children, a first grader and a third grader. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through this novella. It hit a bit too close to the feelsbox for me.
B: You yelled “NOPE” at me so many times! As a childless reader, I was actually really looking forward to reading this Novella. This doesn’t suggest that I don’t have feelings for children or enjoy seeing them as the targets in zombie amplification, but I have a very strong admiration for the fact that Mira Grant is unapologetic in her subject matter. She’s a brave author in that going to go there, shes going to deal with the things you’d rather not hear, and she does it in a way that enriches our understanding of the KA world.
F: She really is unapologetic. She even sets the scene for you. You are very aware of the issues and the body count before you’re even into the thick of the story. She gives you an out. Yet, her writing is so compelling I find myself following it to its apex and conclusion, despite misgivings.
B: However, she doesn’t give you the one piece of information that really gives this story its emotional kick until you’re already deep into the book — this isn’t a book of new characters. This is a harsh, unexpected backstory of someone you already know, and have already made conclusions about. Oh, and you were wrong.
F: Yeah, this novella is entirely about the character Foxy. If you’ve read Blackout, she’s The Monkey’s slightly unhinged body guard. She’s quite crazy, but I suppose if you were set to deal with this sort of responsibility and tragic circumstance, you would certainly have fallen off the mental wagon as well.
B: It would be hard to say, “I didn’t like Foxy” in Blackout, but I didn’t have much appreciation or consideration for her. She bordered a little too psychotic, which made her almost flat. With this novella, I was forced to reconsider that judgement, and felt guilty about it! Mira Grant set me up, on purpose!
F: Yeah, she totally threw the one-two punch with Foxy. I’m sure, given the right set of factors, she would have sacrificed herself for the children just as readily as she had for our After The End Times crew. Yet, she wasn’t offered such an opportunity. She was instead presented with situations in which she had to take charge, and couldn’t just save anyone.
B: So lets talk about those situations. In real life, we take something as simple as public school, and the ability to play outside and thrive as children entirely for granted. After the Rising, nothing is taken for granted, and being able to get your childhood education in a physical school is a concept bordering on extinction.
F: They’re still allowing children to participate in public schools for the socialization. But, playground mishaps do happen and that surprise broken arm or skinned knee is now a death sentence waiting to happen.
B: Generally, by the time you’re big enough to amplify (that goddamned 40 lb barrier), public school isn’t really an option, and most kids are pulled. Enter the scenario of this novella, where there are just enough kids for a risk, and just enough over the weight barrier that a risk becomes tragedy.
F: Yeah, at least half of the First Grade class has reached the amplification barrier. They’re still young enough not to understand what that means, but they’re large enough that that ignorance is a big problem. They know that they’re supposed to alert the teachers about any accidents where blood is an issue, but they also know that that means that the rest of their day is going to be not fun.
B: So when young first grader Scott cuts himself while digging through the softened playground surface and says nothing about the blood welling, disaster strikes.God love him, I felt for this kid because his innocent ‘I don’t want to get in trouble’ behaviour was believable and genuine, but I also wanted to smack him! Usually when you’re yelling ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’ at a character, they’re old enough to know better. But how do you not know better!?
F: He might have been old enough to know better, but my first grader will hide spills and other things because she knows shes going to get in trouble. It was true to the nature of the situation. If you don’t explain to kids the danger, they’re not going to want to get in trouble .
B: That is what is so tragic about it. One word about the injury, and none of these people would have had to die. ONE WORD.
F: Without the playground being decontaminated, the fourth grade class was let out to frolic. They are by far much larger than the standard 40lb amplification threshold and it was their class where the outbreak really took shape. When one student fell ill, he was sent to the nurse’s office and there the chain of events took a tragic turn due to poor floorplans and disaster preparation.
B: In a post Kellis-Amberlee, zombie ridden world, there are precautions to consider in any public venue, and the public schools were fitted with security in mind. In theory, these safety protocols, procedures and equipment should have contained any one outbreak….if it didn’t happen in the main office. Oops.
F: The nurse’s office was adjacent to the administration, within the same set of rooms. Which led to certain security measures being tripped while others were left unused. One such security measure was the locking doors, a mechanism that could have diverted a lot of the death toll had it just been implemented.
B: it becomes almost immediately evident to Elaine Oldenberg, (Foxy), first grade teacher, that something has gone horribly wrong — especially when it becomes clear that the source of the exposed blood causing the amplification came from one of her own students. Without the safety of a locked door, and in the care of a class full of panicking 6 year olds, Elaine is left with terrible choices – stay and die, or make a break for it and hope to not die.
F: So she gathers up her children and makes a break for it. The kids still have no idea the scope of the danger they are in, and one student, who didn’t want to use the bucket in the back of the classroom decides to take it upon herself to use the nearest facilities. She drags her buddy along with her, at least adhering to the buddy policy. Though, if you and your buddy both get lost, the buddy policy doesn’t work too well.
B: Or if you and your buddy walk in to a bathroom full of zombies. Can I just say, the last place I want to be in an outbreak is anywhere where I have to be responsible for a room full of children? They don’t want to listen, and you can’t even reason with them! Reading Elaine’s efforts stressed me out to the point of wanting to pull my hair out! I’d rather have 20 unconscious children to tote than ones with the agency to wander/resist but not the ability to understand the gravity of the situation. And then, because its the only safe place to go, we get a room full of Kindergarteners to the mix – once Elaine basically guilts the teacher into letting them come in.
F: Oh, I know. I know exactly the pressure she was under. Trying to get my kids to stay quiet in order to not wake the baby up for a half hour is impossible. I’ve actually had zombie dreams where I can’t get my kids to shut up long enough to survive. When the one poor Kindergartener broke his leg, there was going to be no reasoning with him. How could there be? He was hurt beyond the scope of his little worldview. She had to do what she did, but wow that was intense.
B: Thats a moment that will stay with readers for a long time, and this is the moment where you really come to understand why Foxy is so unhinged. Having to break a wounded, defenseless child’s neck, with your bare hands, for the good of survival chances, is something I think a lot of people wouldn’t be able to live with.
F: It didn’t help that she couldn’t call for help. The phones were shut down and they were going to exact their standard bombing protocol. She had to try to get the kids out the door. It was tough and expensive in casualties. But, eventually she got some out. Of course, she was blamed for the entire thing.
B: This made the ending even more bittersweet – yes, she is the only reason there were any survivors at all, and yet shes going to be the one to go down as negligent, reckless and downright criminal for doing something.
F: Yeah, if I was her, I’d have gotten the hell out of there too. Not only did she have to live with the consequences of her actions, they wanted her to take the legal and financial fall as well.
B: It was just inevitable that she’d become the psychopath we’ve come to accept in Blackout. Mira Grant, you paint a very harsh, but a very realistic world with this one. It pushed the boundaries of the readers, and cast human nature in its most desperate. I respect that.
If you’d like more about the Newsflesh series, check out our other reviews: