Orbit, 2012, 659 pages
"Rise up while you can." (Georgia Mason)
The year was 2014. It was the year we cured cancer, the year we cured the common cold, and the year the dead started to walk. It was 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. They 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.
No, really, I'm not kidding: SPOILERS!
Okay, I actually saw that coming (so far, I have seen all of Mira Grant's big "twists" coming) but still — ew.
So, if you have read the first two books in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, you know that Georgia Mason died at the end of book one, and was brought back to life (as a clone) at the end of book two.
The author was already "cheating" a little by making Georgia a voice in Shaun's head throughout book two, to the point where I seriously thought this would turn out to be a "twist" in itself (though I was not sure exactly what she was going to do with it), because the Georgia in Shaun's head was having complete conversations with him, giving him advice, and warning him of danger. I mean, really? That's a reeeaaally useful delusion you've got there, bub.
And then we find out that the evil Center for Disease Control (and in Blackout, we find out that the CDC is totally 100% Lawful Evil to the max, and has also pretty much taken over the country) has also perfected cloning technology, complete with memory transfer. So clone Georgia is, for all practical purposes (less some 3% they keep talking about) the original Georgia resurrected.
But okay. Zombie apocalypse, suspension of disbelief. I'll buy cloning too.
The Newsflesh trilogy began as an action-adventure zombie series about a post-Rising America circa 2039 (2041 by book three) in which the Kellis-Amberlee virus (just another one of those screw-ups that stupid evil scientists have unleashed on the world — Mira Grant seems to really not like scientists much) has resulted in the entire population living in fortified enclaves, hiding from zombies and constantly testing each other, guns at the ready, for any hint of infection.
Blackout is less action-adventure and more conspiracy thriller, though there is still a lot of action. The political overtones of the series are brought to the fore in book three, in which the bloggers of After The End Times race to save the President of the United States and get out the Truth about the Kellis-Amberlee virus, while making frequent points about a society that sacrifices freedom, living in fear of bad things without any rational calculation of actual risks. So, yes, the parallels with our post-9/11 world are pretty obvious.
This was still a fast-paced and enjoyable book, and one that wrapped up all the threads pretty solidly.
That said, Mira Grant's writing does, after three books, become a bit too muchly for me. (Yes, that is a word I just made up.) Clever-clever snarky bantery banter like we are all Joss Whedon characters, nonstop, gets old.
And I fucking hate Shaun. Even before the incestuous necrophiliac twist.
Look, dude, I get it. Your sister died, and you're the one who had to shoot her. That sucks. I can see someone having severe trauma over that.
That said, this is a post-zombie apocalypse world. Pretty much everyone has seen loved ones die, and not a few of them have seen those same loved ones get up again and try to eat them and thus need to be shot in the head.
So listening to crazy Shaun go on and on for two books about how he's so fucking crazy because he can't live without George so now George is in his head, and all of his friends have to walk on eggshells around him because if anyone says a word about George he'll flip out and threaten to kill them... I would think the post-Rising world would have a few counselors specializing in "I had to shoot my dearly departed in the head" trauma by now, and that someone might have suggested that Shaun get some fucking help. Instead of, you know, running around with a deathwish endangering his strangely-loyal team. But no, Shaun gets to be a raging dickhead 'cause his UNBEARABLE GRIEF is like no other grief that anyone else has ever grieved, which I guess we're supposed to better understand after the big reveal (if you never noticed during the previous two books that neither of these danger-girl/danger-boy twenty-somethings ever seemed to show any interest in anyone else) that Shaun and Georgia weren't just really close, but reeeaaaaaaaally close. :P
All this is the fault of their adoptive parents, of course, who we finally meet in this book. Bad parenting = your adopted kids will start screwing each other as a coping mechanism.
Okay, that wasn't quite the subtext. And I'll give Grant some credit for being willing to portray a messed up relationship like that without really vilifying anyone over it (except the Masons, kind of), and making it psychologically believable.
But I still hate Shaun, and I wonder which of them first had the idea to go there.
While I'm on the subject of "twists you can see coming two books away," Mira Grant really likes to hammer you over the head with the obvious. This book was even more full of "Duhs" than the previous ones. Like this little gem:
"And if we don't pass the checkpoint tests?"
Hello, the not-very-subtle subtext running through the last three books has been that everyone is so scared of infection that they require needles for blood tests every fifty feet and will kill anyone who twitches funny. So who the hell asks a question like that? Especially a trained field journalist?
Pardon me for ranting on this small bit of inconsequential dialog, but it hits a pet peeve of mine in movies: the bad guy has just spelled out all the ways in which he has the protagonist over a barrel. "I want you to do such-and-such, I have your kid sister suspended in a cage over a boiling pool of lava, do what I say and I will let her go."
And inevitably, the protagonist asks, "And if I don't?"
I mean, come on. Are you just testing the bad guy's resolve? Are you in shock that anyone could be so eeeeevil? No, you are spelling things out for the lowest-IQ audience members. Which is what it felt like when Mira Grant repeatedly has characters ask unnecessary questions, repeat things that have already been said, and generally make sure that a slow twelve-year-old reading the book won't miss anything.
For all that, I enjoyed the story and while I do not think it was as strong as the first book, I admit this series would make a pretty cool set of movies, better than a lot of YA crap that has been chosen lately.
Have you read Blackout (or other books in the Newsflesh trilogy)?
Have you read any other books by Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire?
Verdict: This was a pretty solid conclusion to the Newsflesh trilogy. Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is not about to become my favorite author: this series was pretty much brain candy. But it's tasty brain candy, even if you aren't normally into zombie novels.
Also by Mira Grant: My reviews of Feed and Deadline.
My complete list of book reviews.