Blackout

by Mira Grant

Cover image

Series: Newsflesh #3
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 0-316-20218-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 631

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Blackout is the third book in the Newsflesh series that started with Feed. As with the second book, Deadline, you do not want to read this book out of order. All the emotional heavy lifting is done in Feed, and the book won't mean as much without that. Also, as with Deadline, be very careful about any information you read bout the sequels if you've not yet read Feed, since it's very easy to spoil that book and most information about subsequent books will do so.

I'm going to try to write this review without spoilers. That's going to be a bit tricky due to events in Feed, so bear with me if I'm less specific than normal.

This is the grand finale of the series, and it is a firm conclusion. As you might expect, particularly from Deadline, that involves a lot more politics, a few more big revelations, some reunions, escalating scale, and a lot of fighting. Unfortunately, it also involves setup. A lot of setup. I didn't expect that, given that Deadline ended at a run, but it takes about half of Blackout and a whole lot of pages before we get to the events that logically follow from the end of Blackout. And those pages dragged for me.

There are some great moments. The banter continues to be strong, there are some deeply affecting scenes with Shaun, and Maggie continues to be wonderful. Grant also introduces some new secondary characters (Monkey and the rest of his household) who are brilliant and feel like they could have come directly from Borderlands. All of Blackout has a bit more of that mad scientist feel, full of slightly deranged people who take the fight to the world in their own ways.

But it still drags. One branch of the book has the protagonists going here, there, and everywhere in several roundabout attempts to advance the plot. The other branch is more psychologically tense, but it takes too long to get moving and therefore turns into a repetition of the same emotions and the same complaints. I wanted to get to the key events that happen about halfway through the book in about half as many pages as they took.

Thankfully, things do pick up when the two strands of the book come together. Some of the emotional dynamics strengthen as well, which I'd been missing. Grant does a great job here tying the whole series together in a way that shows the differences between Feed and Deadline and digs into their nature a bit more. There is one big reveal that I found disappointing, both because it had been obvious since early in Deadline and yet was treated as a big reveal and because I think it put the book and series onto slightly more conventional territory in a place where it had previously been interestingly distinct. (I'm being vague because of spoilers.) But that didn't bother me too much, and the surrounding character dynamics I think made up for it.

The final ending isn't exactly bad, but neither did it entirely work for me. The whole series seems a touch too naive. This worked in Feed (at least for me; some other reviewers disliked it) since the naivete felt like part of the dynamic of the story and the characters, and the stakes were mostly kept small enough that it was believable. The stakes are large enough here that I needed the world to be a touch more complicated and the villains less hissable. (If there's been one consistent flaw throughout this series, it's that Grant's villains are too purely evil.) And, in the end, I didn't quite buy the conflict at the heart of the story; after everything that had happened, I wanted something more complex and nuanced.

I'm a bit unsatisfied, but, like Deadline, Blackout is still a good book. Neither of them live up to Feed, but they're both enjoyable, action-filled, and creative looks at a zombie apocalypse. I think Blackout is at its best when it's being Fallout or Borderlands and emphasizing the mad scientist angle of Grant's world, and I would have happily read several more chapters about Monkey. The mix of wacky risk-taking and serious political idealism doesn't quite gel, and the latter never worked for me in Blackout, but I still had a lot of fun with the core character interactions.

If you read Deadline, you certainly want to read Blackout. If you stopped at Feed, Blackout is probably not a persuasive argument to continue.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-12-29

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04