Y’know, I would be totally fine if Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire wrote more Newsflesh novellas like this one. Not that I’m begging her to, but I’d love to see more of this universe, and this novella in particular is a great semi-sequel to the trilogy. Most extra stories and sequels I’ve read mainly focus on wrapping up loose ends and making fans happy. This is what I really want from sequel stories—just checking in on the characters, a few months or years down the road and then leaving them be. I don’t really want explanations, or tying up minor plot threads or Babies Ever After; sometimes I do, but not all the time. And really helping here is the very obvious fact that the Masons are nowhere to be found in this novella. The focus is on Mahir, and while we do find out some new news about the After the End Times crew, what I really love about this novella is how routine it is. Aside from the first half of Feed, we never got to see how journalism and trips like Mahir’s function in the Newsflesh-verse. (And even that first half, it’s established that the presidential campaign is a huge deal and not standard journalism.) There’s no major conspiracy at play here, and while the characters’ lives may be in danger, it’s because they live in a world with zombies not because shadowy government figures are actively trying kill them. It’s kind of refreshing to read. (Yes, I consider this to be an improvement to this series. In a good way.)And it’s all illustrated by the setting. In a world that’s so defined by safety, Australia isn’t just an anomaly, it’s so disorienting for Mahir to even be outside. His sense of amazement of just being outside on a regular basis comes across so well—even though we spent a book and a half with Mahir running around America. It says so much about the world-building and the writing that even something as mundane-seeming as eating in an outside café is treated like an exotic experience. And yet, this appearance of complete freedom is shown to have its drawbacks. The main conflict here isn’t “Who’s picking off zombie kangaroos and how do we stop them?”; it’s the idea that people are just as important as conservation and that they will prevail. And for a series that gets as bleak as Newsflesh does (a lot), it’s a really affirming message. It’s not as revolutionary of a statement as “Rise up while you can,” but it still works really well. (While it feels like “Oh, Australia is already full of things that can kill you; let’s zombify ALL OF THEM” could have been a really easy running gag, I love that Grant still manages to make these things dangerous while acknowledging the absurdity. The zombie kangaroos were pretty terrifying and disturbing, especially with the description of the moaning. *brr* However, THE ZOMBIE WOMBAT. “We are being menaced by a teddy bear.” *dies*) I also loved meeting Jack and Olivia. As I noted in the original trilogy, it was hard to forget at times that ATET wasn’t just a handful of people shacking up in California and Mahir, but rather an extensive global network of blogger journalism. It also helps that Jack and Olivia are struggling journalists who, despite having positions at a prestigious site, don’t have the ratings to back them up. And everything about this story exemplifies that: again, there’s no conspiracy; it’s just a small story about Australia’s new and zombie ‘rabbit-proof fence’ and Mahir’s helping his new hires get a leg up. But it doesn’t mean that it’s full of danger or that Grant skimps on the characterization. While both Jack and Olivia read as atypical Australians (Olivia being cheerful and nonchalant about everything; Jack, true to his pop cultural heritage, is an Irwin), they’re never treated as naïve or blinded by the realities of the world around them. I really loved their friendship and professional relationship; again, if we get more Newsflesh stories, I want more of them. It should also be worth pointing out that in the larger events of Newsflesh, there are some continuing events from the end of Blackout. While the last book ended with the decision to keep the truth about reservoir conditions secret, we actually see scientists who were never affiliated with the CDC realizing that complete K-A immunity is possible and that we may find a cure. They’re not screaming from the rooftops about this discovery, but I love the detail that this is a thing that’s not going to be secret for much longer.Again, this is how to do a series continuation. Unlike Countdown and Last Stand of the California Browncoats, which really only served to expand on world-building for the series proper, this is much more of a breather story. I loved being able to check in on Mahir after things have calmed down, and I really loved that we got to see how journalism normal works in this world of zombies and conspiracies. But it’s not just a fluff piece meant to satiate fans until Parasite comes out—it does have something to say. I absolutely loved this story, and again, I want more.