Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

Blackout by Mira Grant
Published : Orbit, 2012
Series : Book 3 of the Newsflesh Trilogy

There are Major Spoilers of the series ahead, so stop now if you haven't read the first two books! There is also a significant spoiler about Georgia & Shaun, which was implied in Book 2. If you're certain you know what it is already from that sentence, carry on! If not, you should probably skip this review.

The Book :

The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.

The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.

Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this: Things can always get worse.”

This is the final installment in Mira Grant's (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire's) Newsflesh Trilogy. I loved the first book, but I was not much of a fan of the second. The final novel falls somewhere in between for me. I would strongly advise anyone interested in starting the series to not begin here, but to begin with the first novel, Feed. This is not a trilogy that is designed to be read out of order!

My Thoughts:

In Deadline, there were two major plot twists that threw me off, but I only alluded to them briefly in the review of that book. Since they continue to be a major factor in Blackout, I will now discuss them in more detail. The first was that George and Shaun had a romantic relationship, and the second was George's resurrection. It had been well established that George and Shaun were not related, though they were raised in the same household, so that was not the reason the re-definition of their relationship bothered me. My issue was that I had been really impressed by their intimate, non-romantic, brother-sister relationship, which is not something I see portrayed particularly often in novels. When I found out that it was actually a romance, I just felt disappointed. For George's resurrection, I felt that it ruined the emotional impact of the events at the end of Feed.

Having waited for roughly two years in between reading Deadline and Blackout, I feel like I am well enough over my initial disappointment to approach the final novel of the series with more of an open mind. While I'm still skeptical of the science and the motivation behind the new George, I enjoyed how the character was portrayed. The new George has some interesting identity issues, since she self-identifies as George while knowing analytically that she is not the same person. While I wasn't a huge fan of George and Shaun's romance, I did think their relationship was portrayed pretty well. I think it has mostly been George's story that has engaged me throughout the series, so the return of George, in whatever form, is welcome to me.

I was happy to see that George returned to narration, now splitting the role with Shaun. I was not partial Shaun as a narrator in Deadline, and I still prefer George's chapters in Blackout. Shaun is less abusive in Blackout, but he still seems very focused inward, on his grief about Georgia. He still talks to her in his head, and he still tends to repeat the same phrases and ideas over and over. For instance, just about every time he talks to illusion-George, he makes some comment about how he's chosen to be crazy because it's the only way to stay sane. I welcomed the return of George's more observant narration, even though she also used some repetition. A side effect of the two narrators' intense focus on each other, though, was the fact that few of the side characters seemed to get much development. I think the main focus was on the relationship between George and Shaun, though, and it is this relationship that is the most thoroughly and affectingly developed throughout the whole series.

In terms of the world-building, the focus this time around is on those who live “off the grid.” This includes Dr. Abbey and her secret lab, as well as others who choose or are forced to live outside ordinary society for one reason or another. The plot this time seemed to rely a bit too much on coincidence in a few places, and there were some digressions, but the conclusion did resolve the main questions from the previous books. I still felt the villains and their grand conspiracy was too over-the-top and illogical, but I anticipated that after the first two books. Overall, I think I can say I enjoyed the Newsflesh series for its thorough and creative depiction of a post-zombie-rising society, and for the story of Georgia Mason.

My Rating: 3/5

I enjoyed Blackout more than Deadline, but I still think that Feed is by far my favorite of the trilogy. I think that Blackout would be more enjoyable for those who appreciated the character-related plot twists of Deadline more than I did, though I think that Blackout expanded on these twists pretty well. The final novel also included the return of a narrator that I preferred over Shaun, and whose story I found more engaging. However, Blackout also contained some of the same weaknesses of the earlier books in the series, such as excessive repetition and stereotypical, over-the-top villains. I think that I enjoyed Feed more than I enjoyed the series as a whole, but I am still a fan of the detailed post-Rising world that Grant has created.

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