Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blackout by Mira Grant

Blackout is the 3rd and final book of Mira Grant’s zombie apocalypse Newsflesh trilogy.

WARNING: there are going to be serious spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy Feed and Deadline. If you don’t want to be spoiled for those then stop reading right here, and read them before coming back. We are now entering Spoilerland.

Blackout picks up pretty closely following the end of Deadline, and the shocking coda for that book is resolved in the first chapter. Blackout continues the fight of brother and sister blogger team Georgia and Shaun Mason and their team at The After End Times to expose conspiracies and bring down governments in the process. Old friends return: the unflappable Anglo Indian Newsie Mahir Gowda, the trigger happy Irwin Rebecca ‘Becks’ Atherton, super rich Fictional Maggie Garcia and the dedicated Alaric Kwong. As with the last book they’re all with Shaun at the lab of the trilogy’s mad scientist Dr Shannon Abby, trying to find out just what hell happened when Florida was hit by a team of zombie infected mosquitoes.

You will notice I mentioned Georgia Mason. How can this be you ask? George contracted the Kellis Amberlee virus at the end of Feed, began to amplify, and was shot dead by her adoptive brother Shaun. The coda at the end of Deadline suggested that George may return. She does sort of. Is she dead? Yes and no. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that actually means.

Mira Grant employed a slightly different narrative technique for Blackout. In Feed the story was 1st person from George’s point of view. In Deadline it was Shaun. Blackout is also told in 1st person, but it’s broken into chapters featuring both Shaun and Georgia. Shaun and George really aren’t a lot different. I’ve said before that they’re largely one person inhabiting two bodies. So the narrative works when they’re apart, when they collide and are working together Mira keeps the two person PoV narrative going, but entitles each chapter either Shaun or George. Just as well, because at times I did have to flick to the start of the chapter to work out just who was talking. This technique also necessitates a bit of double handling, but to the author’s credit she has managed to keep it to a minimum, and it doesn’t affect the flow of the story too much.

I felt Deadline suffered from two problems. One is fixed in Blackout, the other remained. The first problem was readers were given too much of ‘this is what happened last episode’. Mira Grant has worked on that, and while some exposition about the events in Deadline is necessary, especially to bring George up to speed as she was absent for that book, it’s not overdone and the reader doesn’t feel the need to just skip ahead, while thinking ‘Yeah, I know all this, I read Feed.’ The second issue for me was Shaun’s regular reiteration of ‘yes, my dead sister talks to me, and I talk back, but I’m not totally crazy.’ This returns, it continues even after Shaun and George’s paths converge. It needs to be said, but not as much or as often as it is.

Feed completely blew me away, and it remains one of the best things I’ve read in the past few years. I was less enthusiastic about Deadline, although it was one of the better books I read in 2011. Blackout is a thrill ride, even when there’s not that much happening. I loved the excursion to see the mysterious forger the Monkey. I liked seeing old friends from the previous two books return, not just the bloggers. I adored the super exclusive swanky hotel the Agora, and I seriously want to stay there. At times it does come in handy to have a girl who’s parents are multi billionaires on staff.

Blackout is not without it’s problems, but they are minor and do not detract from the book’s sheer sense of scary fun. It is a fitting end to the trilogy, and it does actually end properly. Mira Grant sees to that and ties everything up in a neat bow. If you’ve been following the story you’ll wind up reading the last page of Blackout feeling thoroughly satisfied. I would recommend reading the last few chapters of Deadline at least before starting Blackout just to familiarise yourself with what happened, because there were a couple of bits early on where I was ‘when did that happen?’ Newsflesh: the zombie apocalypse trilogy for people who don’t normally read zombie apocalypse fiction.   

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