the Little Red Reviewer

Hugo nominated novella: The Last Stand of The California Browncoats, by Mira Grant

Posted on: July 9, 2013

Let’s talk about some Hugo Nominated novellas!  click back a day or two to see the whole list, and to click on novellas I’ve already reviewed.  Ready for the zombie apocalypse?

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, by Mira Grant

California browncoats Grant

What do you get when you mix a Comic-Con with the zombie apocalypse? You get Mira Grant’s San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats.  If you’re not familiar with Joss Whedon’s breakout show Firefly, fans often refer to themselves as Browncoats in reference to the long brown coat the main character wears in honor of his military service. If you’re not familiar with what a Comic-Con is, we got bigger problems. But that’s another blog post.

A long brown coat, like that!

A long brown coat, like that!

It almost sounds like the beginning of a comedy – cosplayers and merchants attend Comic-Con, and give the zombie apocalypse a beat down! But Grant’s novella is anything but a comedy. This is what Mira Grant does: she grabs you by the feels, and does horrible things to you.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats is a stand alone novella that can be read as a prequel to her Newsflesh Zombie trilogy (the third book in that series, Blackout, is nominated for best novel this year). You don’t need to have read any of the Newsflesh books to enjoy The Last Stand . . .

The Last Stand . . . is mostly told as a flashback.  It’s thirty years after the event that irreparably changed the world, and journalist Mahir Gowda is interviewing an aging Lorelei Tutt, the only survivor of the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. She doesn’t want to talk about what happened, but he needs her memories. They talk about other footage from the event, other evidence, and what she witnessed.  Along with Lorelei’s story in flashback, we get the POVs from an ensemble of characters who are attending San Diego Comic-Con, including a television actress, a blind journalist, some merchants from the dealer room, and  a couple on their honeymoon, among others.

No one is the wiser when Lorelei is sulkily helping her parents and their friends unload merchandise for their booth in the dealer room at the Comic-Con.  Fed up with her attitude, her parents send her back to the hotel to have a nap, or a bath, or whatever teenagers need to stop being total brats. The rest of the adults continue setting up the booth and trading geek culture quotes back and forth, and generally annoy their less good natured neighbors.

Elsewhere on the Con Floor, actress Elle Riley is desperately trying to get to her panel, with or without the help of her idiotic handler.   Fans ask for autographs, squee at celebrities, compliment costumes, shop for fake weapons, whine about the lack of wifi, try to find the bathrooms. Just a regular day at Comic-Con, right?

Until someone starts coughing. And then someone starts screaming, because the biting and chewing has begun. And then the lights go out. Lorelei’s parents are able to contact her via walkie talkie, but it gets harder and harder to insulate her from the worst of what’s happening inside the locked down convention center. Things get bad, and then they get worse, and then they become unimaginably horrific.

There’s a huge cast to this densely packed novella, and Grant spends just the right amount of time introducing everyone, and making sure the reader wants these people to survive. Even when the action gets going (and it gets going pretty early), we keep getting more character development.

There’s something disturbing about reading a story when you know from page one that everyone is going to die. These people have no idea what’s happening. They think a few phone calls can save them, that the army or the national guard is on their side. For god’s sakes, they think they’re going to laugh about this over a few beers next weekend! How could they possibly know they’re already dead? Props to Mira Grant, while her characters are standing there talking about regular things, I wanted to shake them by the shoulders and scream “this is the end! can’t you see that?”

But even harder than watching innocent and hopeful people die in vain was forcing Lorelei to relive what happened to her.

I admit that I run hot and cold with Mira Grant’s writing, but this needs to be said: the hardest part of reading The Last Stand . . . was that I felt like I was hurting Lorelei. I felt like with every page I turned, I was re-opening her wounds, forcing her remember things she’d have rather forgotten. This power of grabbing you by your vulnerable bits and tearing them from your very flesh, of making you feel responsible for a character’s pain and suffering, the only other author I’ve come across who can do that to me is Robin Hobb.

On a lighter note, let’s see if I can read Blackout before the end of July!

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11 Responses to "Hugo nominated novella: The Last Stand of The California Browncoats, by Mira Grant"

Sounds deliciously icky and may be a good place for me to start with Seanan/Mira’s work. I bought the first Newsflesh book when it was on sale cheap on Kindle the other day. Not a huge zombie fan. I like 28 Days Later and Zombieland just fine, but generally stay away from the book versions. Seeing something is one thing, reading about it can often be much more visceral an experience than I want to have.

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I bought “Feed” that day too! I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, so when it showed up on sale, I couldn’t pass it up.

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FEED both is and isn’t a zombie book. it takes place in a post-zombie America, but the book is more character study than “omg, zombies! run!”. I’d definitely recommend either FEED or Last Stand of the California Browncoats as a good Mira Grant starting point. FEED is the only novel of hers I’ve read, and not that I’ve read a ton of her short fiction, but so far I think I like her short fiction better.

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I really need to get onto reading the Newsflesh books! argh. Browncoats…#swoon

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i almost captioned that image with “HELLO Capt Tightpants!”

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Needless to say, I love this series. I think LAST STAND was the most Zombie Intensive traditional outbreak part of the series. FEED is more of a near future political thriller, and DEADLINE and BLACKOUT are more science fiction that zombie horror. This is one series I don’t mind recommending to my non-zombie fans.

I do understand why some people don’t glom to Seannan/Mira’s writing. She does things in her books that of other author’s did it I would probably be rolling my eyes, but with me, it works. I am really looking forward to the next Mira series, which is about about genetically engineered tapeworms that become sentient.

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I read FEED, liked some parts of it, wasn’t so hot on others. LOVED that it was more political thriller than zombie horror stoyr. There’s a lot of suspense, which is great, so I wonder if it works better as an audio,instead of book form, where I could just give into the temptation to turn the page and see what happened before finishing the preceding page?

I’m a lunatic, Blackout is up for Hugo, so I’m going to try to find time to read that, but I haven’t read Deadline yet! LOL, let’s see how well this series works out of order!

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Well, I wasn’t in love with Feed. I love the attention to detail, although some of it was repetitive and also liked that this was less a zombie story and more a look at the politics of the situation – although I wasn’t expecting that. It just felt too long somehow and even though I finished I lost a bit of interest (the ending was excellent though). So, given that I do think she writes really well, maybe the shorter story is the way to go.
thanks
Lynn :D

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[…] Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson The Last Stand of the California Browncoats    by Mira […]

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I have literally never read a zombie book, but this review has me interested in this short story. Maybe it’s a good way for me to dip my toes into the zombie waters. Wait, that just sounds terrible…

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You had me at the word Browncoats! This sounds like an excellent read and a length that I can easily fit into my reading schedule :)

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