Blackout Mass Market Paperback – Jun 1 2012
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"A satire of the science-industrial complex, the Newsflesh trilogy is a wry and entertaining exploration of the way political corruption never stops - even after the zombie apocalypse."―NPR Books on Blackout
Praise for Feed:
"The zombie novel Robert A. Heinlein might have written." --- Sci-Fi Magazine
"A masterpiece of suspense" --- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"It's a novel with as much brains as heart, and both are filling and delicious." --- The A.V. Club
"Welcome to the world of Feed. It's perfect summer apocalypse reading." --- io9.com
Praise for Deadline:
"Deft cultural touches, intriguing science, and amped-up action will delight Grant's numerous fans." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
Mira Grant lives in California, sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests you do the same. Mira Grant is the pseudonym of Seanan McGuire -- winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. Find out more about the author at www.miragrant.com or follow her on twitter @seananmcguire.
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Rather than write three separate reviews, I'm going to write one review for the series.
FEED is a marvelous book with an opening that grabs you and a plot that, while largely political conspiracy in nature and despite the obligatory exposition, manages to move along at a quick pace. The worldbuilding is wonderfully colorful. Georgia is an interesting narrator, and she doesn't load us with a lot of unnecessary information. She's precise in her thoughts, and that really helps with the pacing. This is the shortest book in the series, and that's definitely an asset. The ending is a shocker that I did not see coming.
DEADLINE picks up several months after the end of the first book. It starts off a little slower than the first, but once we get a huge, awesome, throw-the-book-across-the-room twist in the story about a third of the way through, things pick up with a vengeance! There are a lot of revelations in here, and our main characters feel like they're getting somewhere. Our narrator is not as precise as in FEED, and there is some repetition that could have been trimmed. The book ends with another out-of-left-field twist that will make you want to jump into the third volume right away. This is one of the strongest middle books in a trilogy that I can remember. And is it just me, or is Dr. Abbey screaming to be played by Kathie Bates in the movie?
BLACKOUT continues the story right where we left it, but it sadly cannot keep up with the pace set by the first two volumes. It is the longest book of the trilogy, which is not uncommon, but it is also the most uneven. There are multiple narrators, which is great in some ways and not so great in others. We get different pacing and different revelations from our characters (great), but the voices are not different enough (confusing), and there are several scenes that are replayed identically multiple times, just from someone else's perspective and not with really new information (not so great). There is a LOT of repetition that could have been edited (really not great), from character traits that we are well aware of to background/plot points from earlier volumes that don't need rehashing; I don't need to be reintroduced to Shaun like I'm meeting him for the first time. No one is picking up this book without reading the first two.
The story ties up the loose plot points, but not in a way that is wholly satisfactory. There are a few too many convenient coincidences (i.e., someone ends up being in Seattle when he/she could have been in Phoenix). There are a lot of fake-out moments where the build up is pointing you in one direction, but the resolution is something simpler and not nearly as interesting (I was really looking forward to that dangerous trip to Florida, maybe going through Phoenix (see above comment) to get there...I wanted to learn more about the people at the gas station...we're always told how dangerous it is to have road trips, but aside from the zombie bear, it's pretty smooth sailing...). The scene with the Mason parents is far and away the best in the book for tension and character development; I wanted more of this! There are real things to gain and lose in this scene, and it plays out like an echo of the first two books.
It's odd to say that the conclusions the characters reach feel both too quick and too drawn out: we're given a lot of build up for what is pretty blase and, ultimately, nothing more than what it first appeared to be. The big, emotional twists and turns of the first two books are largely absent; when people die, I don't care about them like I did in the beginning. The villains (throughout all three books) are cartoonish and black and white, a lot of Scooby-Doo "if it weren't for you meddling kids" mentality, instead of the complex shades of grey we get from the well-drawn main characters.
I don't want it to sound like there is nothing redeeming about the third book. The potential is there; a great world has been created with characters to truly enjoy and root for. But there were too many avenues left unexplored, set up and then forgotten, too many hard decisions made easy.
A solid 4 Stars for the first two books, 3 stars for the third book.
1. Repetition of details. I'm assuming this is a problem with the editor because I don't understand why some details were allowed to be repeated ad nauseam. Thankfully, Coke is only mentioned twenty times in this book (as opposed to at least fifty in Feed). However, we still get several mentions of Shaun's craziness and of Georgia's aversion to white walls.
2. Length. This book did not need to be 600+ pages. My mind started to wander a bit during Shaun and Becks road trip. Although a zombie bear is somewhat amusing, I felt like the book took too many unnecessary detours.
3. Rushed reunions and ending. The most disappointing thing about the book was that I wanted more one on one scenes with Georgia and her team, and I didn't get them. George and Mahir barely got to spar. Also, I was really looking forward to a showdown between George and Becks. The ending Becks did get was a bit too convenient and allowed for George and Shaun's unique relationship to go unchallenged.
All in all, still a pretty good read and a mostly satisfying last installment to this trilogy.
I was in love with this book from the beginning. I should say upfront, I liked Feed but not as much as Deadline, which I loved and not as much as Blackout, which is my favorite. For me, Mira really hit her stride with Blackout. The alternating points of view were very effective and I loved the blog posts from the various team members. The way Mira tells her story, both in first person point of view from various characters and in a journal format via quotes and blog excerpts, really worked for me. It gave the story a multi-layered feel.
Blackout was non-stop struggle, fight and chase from the beginning. The action never stopped but it was my favorite kind of action. I skim or close my eyes during fight scenes and car chase sequences but the action in Blackout had me hooked. I did not miss a word. I wondered about people's motives, I worried that there would be unresolved issues and I worried about my favorite characters. I shouldn't have worried. Not everyone can live or survive in a world like this one, but the characters are dealt with fairly and I was satisfied with the outcome.
A book about a zombie plague that affected the world's mammal population and a future dytsopia setting is bound to have its unbelievable moments, but for me this never happened. Mira Grant writes this book in such a way that it is believable. A lingering question at the end of every zombie book is -how did the zombie plague happen? Well, in Newsflesh Mira Grant lays it out for the readers. We know why it happened. She provides enough detail to readers so that the science is acceptable. Her world building is not just in boundaries and political alignments, but is is also done with science.
Political plots can be a real yawner. Ther are some books with political plotlines that I liked (Kushiel's Dart and Game of Thrones are some examples), but I prefer an action based plot or a character driven plot -- Blackout manages to have both and has politics intertwined and somehow is still. There is political intrigue, backstabbing and power hungry grabbers. But there are other political elements as well. One of the political themes that I picked up on, is the idea that citizens should not trust a government or authority that derives its power from fear. Mira touches on this theme very subtly and effectively but does not hit the reader over the head with it. But what I thought was interesting, but questioning the government on the issue of fear and safety, she is calling into question the premise of the world she has constructed. Are those multiple blood tests really necessary? Necessary or not, they play a key role in the books but there is a hint that these blood tests may be used as a method of pacification and mollification rather than simply a safety measure.
While reading the first two books I often wondered -- what about the people who live off the grid? Was that even possible? Mira takes the readers off the grid in Deadline; we get to see people who have walked away from the fences and the government protection. While the first two books had more of a dystopia setting feel by showing us the off-the grid folks it was evident that the apocalypse was still going on. And that is downright scary. It really isn't under control but what the government is doing to maintain the problem isn't working. There are so many issues addressed in this book -- power, greed, love, desparation .....
Ugh, I am so sad this trilogy is over. I would love to have more stories about these characters. I am hoping Mira Grant considers returning to this world. She has created something so unique in the zombie genre that deserves to be revisited.
Forget everything you ever assumed about science fiction novels or zombie thrillers: the Newsflesh trilogy defies all expectations. The story that began with a turbulent political campaign in a post-apocalyptic Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) escalates here as the blogger journalists from After the End of Times continue their quest to uncover the truth behind the deadly Kellis-Amberlee virus that has decimated civilization--one that is now mutating and spreading faster than ever before. The breakneck action and intrigue in Blackout is intense as a dangerous rescue mission, disease-carrying mosquitoes, zombie bears, tangled family drama, and a mysterious patient known as Subject 7B all complicate what is already hell on earth.
It's funny that my favorite zombie series actually has the least amount of zombie action in it, but Newsflesh hasn't ever been about the undead anyway--it's about the human response to it. As with The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel and Warm Bodies: A Novel, this series is fascinating to me because it explores the idea of personal integrity within extreme circumstances. What would you do when the world ends? If you're Shaun and Georgia Mason, adopted siblings whose closeness forms an unbreakable team, you lead your fellow bloggers into an unrelenting search for truth--no matter what the cost. Or at least, that's how their story began. But now that the stakes are higher than they've ever been and those they love most are at risk, the focus has shifted to a very human need to hold onto the connections that matter most.
Blackout seamlessly combines medical thriller, political intrigue, and pulse-pounding action sequences with unforgettable human drama. How you feel about this series will very much depend on how you feel about the characters in general--if you love the Masons, Alaric, Becks, Mahir, and Maggie, you'll most likely have a fantastic time with Newsflesh. It doesn't mean the characters are perfect, of course; Shaun in particular is mourning a huge loss, and his reckless, desperate behavior in the second book caused a lot of criticism from a lot of readers. For me, I felt his pain so keenly, however, that his torment became mine--and I understood, too, the unconventional, defiant ways in which he grasped for some semblance of happiness as the world around him was destroyed. In books and in real life, I respond very strongly to loyalty, honesty, and the determination to do what's right. Shaun and Georgia, as well as their superbly realized supporting cast, embody those traits in a big way. Because they also are slammed with unbelievable suffering throughout these books that require a brutal amount of self-sacrifice, it isn't any wonder that I feel such fiercely protective love for them, as well as for the ideals they represent.
The author's writing gets better and better in each book, with well-researched scientific dilemmas and brilliant recaps that engage the reader without resorting to long info-dumps. Her brisk, matter-of-fact style of writing suits the story perfectly, and the sophisticated plot is exceptionally well-paced, with shifts from furious action to moments of stark stillness and contemplation handled beautifully. Whether we're getting worked up over red herrings, watching someone facing her own mortality, or respectfully acknowledging fallen comrades, the emotional pitch throughout the book felt utterly right, which is something that is very hard to pull off when there are so many ethical issues at stake.
I don't know that I've ever read another series where the emotion it evoked was so intense--Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) left me crying so hard I could hardly see the keyboard, Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2) had me literally whimpering with pain in the middle of the night, and Blackout made me want to scream with excitement and agony and worry all at once. If you'd told me that a science fiction trilogy with zombies could be so searingly emotional or feel so incredibly personal, I'd have told you it was impossible. And I've never been happier to be proven wrong. I know most true fans of this series will race through the pages just like I did, with the same urgency and dread and excitement.
While I'm devastated that this particular story is over (although there are two more Newsflesh novellas coming this year) and I dearly wish they could all turn into zombies so this story could live on forever, I'm happy with the way the story ended. I'm sure Parasitology and Symbiogenesis will be absolutely spectacular.
*An advance copy of this book was received by the publisher for review.*
I sort of wish I'd stopped after the first book--Feed--which I gave a strong review. It seemed very bold and original, merging blogging, politics and zombies into something fresh. But book two was a huge disappointment. This book, the third and last of the series, was better than Deadline but still far short of Feed.
I won't go into great detail about what I found to be the flaws in this book--you can look at the few gripes I had about Feed and the many with Deadline to get the gist. Suffice to say, Mira Grant seems incapable of not commenting (in the voice of a character) on every possible detail. A simple shower--and there must be 30 of them in this series--is still a cause to ruminate on how the world has changed, no matter how often Grant has made the same observation. Everything from doors to halls to shoes to vehicles are endlessly fascinating to Grant, who continues to describe and consider the meaning of things in great deal. Done judiciously, this sort of exploration can be interesting, but when done repetitively and through 1800 pages, it sure can try the patience (or at least my patience.)
So why did I keep reading, other than my pathological inability to leave something unfinished? And why am I so frustrated rather than merely disappointed in the way the series was written? I gave that some thought, and here it is: Grant knows how to create interesting situations with believable characters who have real relationships. I was tearing up as some characters met their untimely demise, and I don't always do that while reading. But while Grant can get all those building blocks just right, she can't seem to put them together very well without making the narrative feel (at least to me) overwritten, frequently plodding and stretched out. (I wonder if she gets paid by the page by her publisher?)
Had the 1800 pages of the Feed Trilogy been, say, 1200 pages, this could have been a great series of books. Had Grant occasionally decided to just say "We walked down a hall like every other hall" or "once again we found ourselves driving through the night" rather than always describing each hallway and every ride in the van, the books would've more enjoyable, more propulsive in the narrative and far more engaging.
That said, now that the series is complete, I'll miss the characters. If Grant can apply her considerable skills in creating fictional people and fictional relationships to a tale with more judicious pacing and less superficial details (in other words, trusting her readers to fill in here and there and also to come to some conclusions themselves), Grant could create a truly exceptional book. Feed came close--but the rest of the series had too high a cost for my taste.