Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy)
Rarely does a novel affect me the way Mira Grant’s Feed did when it first came out. I recommended it to anyone who would listen. The second novel, Deadline, wasn’t as good, but I still told folks about it. And now, Blackout has arrived to complete the trilogy, and while I enjoyed it, I found that it also didn’t live up to the promise of Feed.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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.”
As much as I like Grant’s novels, I do feel that there were some stumbles in presenting this final story. The worst of these is how the big reveal of the CDC conspiracy is nothing more than information that we were given in the first two books. It’s kind of a let-down. I was hoping for a big, earth-shattering explanation, and what I got left me with the feeling of “Is that it?”
A few other story elements turn out to be nothing but red herrings. Shaun’s immunity functions mainly as a kind of “get out of jail free” instead of having a major impact. Another element (which I won’t spoil) seems to be getting set up to be a huge plot point, and then it never even has a role. The conflict that Shaun feels about Georgia’s voice in his head once the two are reunited isn’t dealt with. It’s these little dropped threads that built up and interfered with my enjoyment of the book; however, I will also say that there are plenty of elements that are followed up on and get resolved by the time the story ends.
One of the big things that I disagree with—and this is a personal opinion and not a criticism—is the author’s decision to make it blatantly obvious that Shaun and Georgia do, in fact, have a sexual relationship. While it was strongly alluded to in the other books, and the very fact of their closeness contributes to Shaun’s immunity to the zombie virus, I just don’t think that it needed to be shoved in readers’ faces. Now, if the author had made it clear that the immunity was transmitted through sexual contact, then yes, this tidbit needed to be there; however, such info isn’t included. I have no problem with their relationship—I just don’t like the way it was handled.
On the plus side, the novel does have some real edge-of-your-seat moments. The book has plenty of escapes, shoot-outs, close calls and tension-filled scenes. It ranges from the civilized areas of California through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and all the way to the nation’s capital, encountering obstacles ranging from navigation issues to zombie bears. I also appreciated that the author toned down Shaun’s craziness. He spends less time muttering to himself (and talking to the voice in his head, period), and I for one was relieved.
Grant does know how to write for maximum impact. As I’ve mentioned about the other books, her writing is very visual. I can easily picture what’s going on, and the way she stages character action just begs for it to be put on the big screen. Writing this way gives the narrative an extra punch, because they feel more visceral and more immediate. It’s like a great summer action flick in book form.
I guess I can sum up my feelings about the book by observing that it was less about resolving the issues with the virus than it was about getting Shaun and Georgia back together. And for me personally, I found the worldbuilding and scientific elements of the trilogy to be the most fascinating part. The Mason’s relationship certainly added to the story, but making it the main focus detracted from the series’s impact. Blackout wasn’t what I wanted in this trilogy’s conclusion, but it’s a reasonably good novel. My grumbling aside, I finished it within a day or so, and I only do that if I’m really enjoying what I’m reading.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 13, 2012.