Thursday, 21 June 2012

'Blackout' - Mira Grant (Orbit)

I love zombie novels, zombie films, the works really. I don't think there's any other form of media where you can get such an honest insight into someones character while the guy next to them is having their lower intestine pulled out and eaten by hordes of the hungry dead. It's a sub-genre that pretty much ticks all the boxes as far as I'm concerned :o)

It will take something pretty big then to get past my enthusiasm and spoil the whole experience for me; even the 'Hard Rock Zombies' film was so bad that it was actually quite enjoyable to watch. (It's two hours of your life that you won't get back though, think very carefully before watching it...) Mira Grant's 'Feed' was one of those books . Yep, you heard me; I'm talking about multiple Hugo award nominated Mira Grant here. 'Feed' wasn't a bad story in itself, it was all the baggage that came with it that proved to be its downfall as far as I was concerned. You can read the full review Here but if not, these quotes sum up my feelings...

'Miriam Grant’s explanation behind her outbreak of zombies is superbly done but it hobbles the story at the same time...'

‘Feed’ is meant to be a book about zombies. Stop telling me about the safeguards, insurance premiums, disease control measures etc and start giving me the good stuff!'

‘Feed’ was a gripping yet ultimately frustrating read where I ended up learning a lot about the setting at the expense of the story and its characters. Not the balance that I look for when I’m reading...'

So not one of my favourite reads here then. The sequel, 'Deadline' kind of passed me by (last year) but I was always interested to see how the trilogy ended so when 'Blackout' turned up on the doorstep it wasn't too long before I picked it up for a read. And what a read! 'Blackout' may suffer from its own problems but was a real step up from 'Feed' in terms of quality. Blurb copied and pasted in a vain attempt to save myself some time on what is going to be a horribly busy day...

The year is 2041, and Shaun Mason is having a bad day. Everyone he knows is dead or in hiding. The world is doing its best to end itself for the second time. The Centre for Disease Control is out to get him. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, he must face mad scientists, zombie bears and rogue government agencies before the conspiracy that killed Georgia manages to kill the only thing he has left of her - the truth.

And if there's one thing he knows is true in this post-zombie, post-resurrection America (full of mad scientists, zombie bears and rogue government agencies), it's this: Things can always get worse.

So, about those zombie bears... The way I see it, if you promise me zombie bears then it's reasonable to expect a frantic chase through a forest followed by a tense standoff, maybe even a little wrestling with a dead (but still ravenous) bear. That's what I want to see next time; what I got this time round was a brief glimpse of zombie bear followed by some congratulatory noises about how easy it was to kill a couple of chapters later. I spent a large chunk of the book looking forward to some zombie bear action and then Grant deals with it when no-one is looking so to speak. I did feel a little let down here...
The good news is that this is pretty much the only thing that Mira Grant really did wrong. 'Blackout' had a couple of other problems but it was a book that I found very hard to put down.

I was a little bit concerned that, having missed out on 'Deadline', I'd have a lot of catching up to do that might get in the way of the plot. I shouldn't have worried; while readers are obviously going to get a lot more out of having read all the books, the main plot here takes a twist that means things pick up almost straight from where 'Feed' left off. I can't say too much more other than it was a twist I never saw coming and Grant's habit of explaining everything in detail really paid off here. It all worked fine from where I was sat.

I wasn't too sure about how sure about the rest of the plt hang to be honest. When I finally found out what was going on, why everyone is fighting and being all covert, I couldn't help but think... 'everyone's getting worked up over this?' It's not actually that big a deal. Where Grant really rescues it though is that she has believing it's a big deal through what happens to her characters and how keen they are to get to the bottom of things before it's too late. There's a real sense of urgency here that really powers the plot forward and you can't help but be caught up in the wake of it. It also really helps that Grant has clearly come ot the conclusion that she has told us all there is to tell about her 'post zombie- apocalypse' world. This means we get to spend a lot more time with the cast and we get to see a whole load more zombies doing what they do best (apart from the bear that is, I'm still sore about that...) If you're anything like me you'll find it really nervewracking peering round certain corners in 'Blackout', anything could be lurking...

'Blackout' isn't a great read then but it does offer plenty to keep the reader occupied while they're reading. I'm glad I got to see how it all signed off for the cast and the 'extra bonus short story 'Countdown' shows you the chilling and impersonal nature of how it all began...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

2 comments:

Jamie Gibbs said...

I want, nay, need the Newsflesh novels. I've resisted buying them because my TBR is fairly massive, but I don't know how long I can carry on not reading them. Thanks for the review :)

IZ said...

You missed very little by skipping Deadline - it was utterly dull. I enjoyed Feed. I even enjoyed the worldbuilding. But almost nothing happens in Deadline except for characters sitting around and talking to each other about the plot and then thinking about what they have said and then talking about what they thought and then very very little happens. (and whats the point of a zombie novel with like only 1 zombie in it somewhere near the end?) So you obviously did the right thing by skipping it. I was actually ready to give up on the series altogether but since you've given Blackout a good review I may be willing to check it out now.