Rise up while you can. – Georgia Mason
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.
Blackout is the conclusion to the epic trilogy that began in the Hugo-nominated Feed and the sequel, Deadline.
You can read an excerpt here.
At long last, the third and final book of the Newsflesh trilogy has arrived. To say I was absolutely afire to get my hands on this book is putting it mildly – the reveal at the end of Deadline was such an amazing tease for Blackout – and so I dived into this story with the highest of expectations. What I found was a solid read that made for a satisfying end to a kick-ass trilogy – but it also, to me, was a story that felt a little muted in comparison to the first two books.
First off, fair warning – there’s no way to talk about this book without massively spoiling Feed and Deadline, the first two of the trilogy, so for ye who have yet to venture into those zombie infested pages, beware.
And before we get into the Blackout nitty-gritty, let me just say – taken as a whole this series is spectacular. The world-building, the mad science behind the virus, the sense of living in constant fear, under siege, one mistake away from death – oh, it’s just brilliant. And not only is this series a high-concept zombie thriller, it’s also a story about the reality of being a journalist on the front lines, as we see firsthand the terrible price these people pay as they risk (and at times, lose) everything to uncover the truth; it’s also a story about the politics of fear, about how people use and manipulate fear to gain power – and altogether it makes for an insane blend of awesome. These books are intelligent, gut-wrenching, and utterly compelling, and I could not tear myself away.
But now that we’ve come to the end, I can’t help but compare these three books to each other. Feed, to me, is still the best – the tightest plotted, and the most powerful – a true thriller. (And oh my god, that ending!) Deadline was the most emotional story, a book that revolved around loss and pain, and the ways people go crazy trying to cope with harsh realities. Feed was an “oh my god” kind of book; Deadline made me hurt with every page. As for Blackout – Blackout brings us full circle, it’s the final loop-de-loop of this crazy roller-coaster ride – and yet, it wasn’t quite the thriller Feed was, nor did it pack quite the emotional punch Deadline did. Blackout never lacked for action, danger, or intrigue – your questions will be answered, the fates of Georgia and Shaun are decided, the conspiracy finally is brought into the light – and yet, and yet…this story just didn’t hit me with the same kind of force as the first two books did.
Part of that I attribute to the split narration – the alternating chapters between Georgia and Shaun – which all in all just made this story a little less personal. I understand why it was necessary, and I understand why both characters thoroughly deserved their time in the spotlight, but I just felt like I never got as deeply into either of them. Though I will grant you that for the first third of this book it creates a wonderful sense of tension – knowing Georiga is alive, all the while knowing that Shaun is doing his best to get himself killed without her, kept me on the edge of my seat because no one, absolutely no one, is safe in this world, and I could easily believe they wouldn’t be able to find each other in time. But still, I felt jarred by the constant back and forth.
Of the simultaneous storylines, I found Georgia’s the most compelling – I’d missed her terribly in the second book, and what she’s forced to deal with psychologically is wonderfully twisted. The science behind her cloning, and the reveal of what they intend to do with her, I very much enjoyed – but it was also a lot of information to get across, and a lot of it involved characters explaining things to George at length. As for Shaun’s story, I kind of felt like it wandered. The mission he was sent on felt a little out of left field, and the winding path he took seemed to include a lot of random vignettes – but I did absolutely LOVE the encounter with his parents. That was actually one of my favorite scenes in this book.
Past that point – around the halfway mark – honestly, plot-wise things started to feel a little loose to me. There was a whole lot of telling, a whole lot of show up and let someone else explain things, and there just was a lack of agency to it all. Shaun and Georgia were being blown about by forces greater than themselves, and while I understand that was the point, it just never felt like they got their act together. There also was quite a bit of convenience involved – people they happened to encounter just happened to be involved, and happened to send them to the right place… I missed the driving force of Georgia’s and Shaun’s determination, when they decided their actions, made their own choices – here they were reacting, not acting of their own accord. All in all, there just wasn’t quite the urgency, the drive to this story that I was hoping for, though it was always interesting, always creative, and there was always plenty going on.
As for the big reunion, when it finally arrived – on one level, it just made me happy. We’ve all waited a long time for that moment, and it was so freaking wonderful to see – and yet… And yet it just didn’t emotionally wallop me like I expected it would. I liked how it played out, the suspicion, the painful honesty, as both had to reveal they’re not the person they used to be – but neither of their personalities registered as strongly as I was expecting. The uncertainty, the relief, the joy, it was all beautiful, but then, as they carried on together, they didn’t quite become the dual force of nature I was expecting. There was just something subdued about their personalities, something that kept me from drowning gloriously in their togetherness. I can’t quite explain it, but I just wasn’t as close to them as I was with the first two books, their voices just weren’t quite as strong.
And then the grande finale arrived, where all was revealed. I liked the content of the story immensely – but honestly, the delivery felt rushed and a tad info-dumpy, and again, kind of conveniently arranged. And then there was the final battle which, while heart wrenching, was also kind of expected and even familiar. Look, this is a complete story, a satisfying ending to the saga, and I like where Mira Grant took me – I just expected to close this book feeling like I’d been stampeded by a herd of elephants, gloriously crushed by it all, and instead I felt like I’d been briefly sat on by a panda. It was good, it was enough, but I just wasn’t eviscerated. Overall, this series has wrenched my guts out, sucker punched me, and made me cry buckets – and I loved it, I absolutely loved it – but Blackout just didn’t quite get me back to that emotional level.
Still, let’s be honest – if you’ve come this far, there’s no way in hell you’re not going to read this book, and at the end of the day, it is still a very good book. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to be reading everything Mira Grant writes (and Seanan McGuire too) from here on out, it’s just, at the end of the day, Blackout felt a little subdued, a little muted, to me.
So in the end, Blackout was both exactly what I wanted it to be and yet still not quite as much as I hoped for. Make of that what you will.
Byrt Grade: A-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Zombie attacks, family members in physical and emotional jeopardy, and vast government conspiracies all contribute to a heady tale that reaches a satisfying conclusion.
While I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the way things turned out, and Feed is clearly the vastly superior novel of the trilogy, Blackout is a solid read. And if you’ve come this far in the trilogy, you’re gonna have to finish it. Right? Recommended…albeit with reservations.
So. Freaking. Good. Although I am devastated that it’s over!