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Countdown is the story of the events leading up to The Rising, and acts as a prequel to the series. It tracks the scientists working on cures for cancer and the common cold, and the events that lead to these two seemingly wonder cures being released into the world, merging and becoming the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which upon full amplification, revives the dead into zombies. Countdown is full of characters only briefly mentioned in Feed and Deadline, and fills in much of the back story that sets the stage for these novels. You also see a few peripheral characters from the series, and get a glimpse of what they were like before the tragic day that changed the world forever. Yet, none of these characters are the true stars of this tale. The true star is the science of the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Unlike much hard science fiction that presents the science as hard theorem and datum, Mira Grant does what she does best by presenting the science in a beautiful, almost poetic way that allows the reader to do more than simply understand, but to experience it. Grant turns the actual viruses into characters, allowing us to see the transformation from helpful to world destructive in a vivid fashion. Yet, despite being a cautionary tale, Grant never demonizes the science or those involved in the development of the viruses. Instead she just allows us to see them for who they are and what they were hoping to accomplish. Countdown is Mira Grant’s gift to the fans of The Newsflesh World, a prequel that isn’t wooden or forced, but gives us a new perspective to look at the world she created.
This was my first experience listening to Brian Bascle and thought he did a good job. For the most part, he just allowed me to enter into the story and stay there, presenting Grant’s words as they lead me where I needed to go. He has a nice narrative voice, and handled most of the characterizations well. The only characters he struggled with were adolescent girls, which is not strange for male narrators. My only real complaint about the audio production was that the transitions were presented with no real pause letting us know we were moving to another point of view. This would pull me out of the story a bit, when I realized we had switched characters or story arcs. This small complaint wasn’t enough to really detract from a wonderful listening experience.
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If you're interested in reading this trilogy, start with this one first. I think the first book should have had these excerpts in it.