Series: Newsflesh #3
Published by Orbit on May 22, 2012
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller
Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason
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. They 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.
Blackout is the conclusion to the epic trilogy that began in the Hugo-nominated Feed and the sequel, Deadline
A segment where at least two of our bloggers collaborate to share their thoughts in a joint review discussion.
Today, Bry and Fry discuss the conclusion of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, Blackout
F: Blackout is the thrilling conclusion to Mira Grant’s (penname for Seanan McGuire) series of bloggers in a post apocalyptic world. The insect vector for Kellis-Amberlee has caused Florida to be deemed a disaster area, shutting it off from the rest of the United States. Alaric Kwong’s sister is still stuck in Florida, and Dr. Abbey tasks Shaun with both the task of fetching the girl, but also one of the zombie-transmitting mosquitoes.
B: Meanwhile, ‘Georgia Mason’ has awakened in the laboratories of the CDC – strange, since she was most definitely dead. It only takes a little time for her to work out she is actually a clone of her former self, created through imprinting neural technology from her undead body into a manufactured clone. But why would the CDC want a clone Georgia? Very suspicious.
F: She was one of the CDC’s largest complications, set to uncover the truth about the Kellis-Amberlee virus. While it seems weird that they would try to clone her, their excuse that she was one of the better known bloggers and that having a tractable and credible source would help the CDC move forward.
B: … And potentially help muzzle Shaun, who has not given up his mission to avenge Georgia, and blow the lid of the CDC’s darkest secrets. He may have dropped off the radar, but he’s getting closer to the truth, and the CDC can’t afford that.
F: Yeah, the plot is pretty thick. I was never quite sure if everyone was going to make it out of the countless situations alive. Shaun was slowly circling the sanity drain, which helped with the reunion with clone George.
B: It was also impossible to determine the true motives of the various parties at play. Who could be trusted? The Masons have been betrayed several times by those they have trusted the most, so when forced to trust people they don’t know at all, claiming to be on their side and trying to get them out of danger — Clone Georgia has no choice but to rely on people claiming to be from the EIS, or Epidemic Intelligence Services, to get her out of the hands of the CDC – it is extremely difficult to believe anyone has a genuine motive.
F: Even secretive black market people are seemingly out to get them. Go in for a fake id, get swarmed by a SWAT team.
B: Absolutely! Let’s talk about the Monkey and his crew for a moment, because they stick out as completely anomalous to the rest of the story. These people are HIGH tech with probably the best security, surveillance and capability since Buffy Meissonier, and yet they were all fucking mental.
F: Foxy in particular. I’ve not read her short story yet, but she’d go from serious and homicidal to bouncy teenager going on a date.
B: Foxy’s novella (The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell) broke my heart – but that’s another review. In Blackout, she’s a bubbly ball of psychosis. She certainly was the most memorable, but as the story goes, no one had more consequence than the Cat… what the hell was her deal? I feel like shes going to get a novella too.
F: Oh, yeah, totally. She had such a grudge for some undetermined reason. Either way, it caused her to act out and ruined what was otherwise and easy mission.
B: But let’s circle back to the reunion between Shaun and clone-George, because that had to be one of the most impactful scenes of this book. Since George’s death, Shaun has been a shattered man, slowly losing his sanity in his desperate attempt to hold on to her. Besides his unquenchable thirst for revenge, Shaun has been talking to her, who he hears in his head.
Running into clone-George understandably rocks his world all over again, and I felt for him as he struggled between the voice in his head, and believing that clone-Georgia was the real thing — or as close as you’re going to get. This also was the moment where certain inferences and hints made throughout the first books were finally confirmed…
F: They’re boning. Before you freak out about incest, you have to remember that they aren’t actually related. They were only raised in the same household with the same set of caretakers. It would have been a media storm had the secret gotten to the public, but really, how many adult siblings share as much as they did?
B: It certainly is different. But that is something I have to credit the author for; she is seriously all about sexual representation. Its not often you see a series so ubiquitous with homosexuality, bisexuality, polyamory and even some mention of transsexuality. But the best part of this is that it comes across as natural – these characters’ sexualities aren’t just there for representation. Its not artificial or blatant, it just is who they are. (Something Seanan McGuire has defended in a wonderful blog post [link]).
F: Yeah, none of the sexualities of the characters are toted as being their big character trait. It’s quite refreshing to have such a diverse cast of characters without age, race, or sexuality being treated fancy or exotic. Back to Shaun, though. His close interactions with his sister and her Retinal Kellis-Amberlee caused his body to adapt and become immune. IMMUNE! He couldn’t go zombie even if he tried.
B: And by ‘close interactions’… yeah. But seriously this was a huge step for the science; the idea that reservoir conditions could be the key to recovering, proving immunity and/or curing Kellis-Amberlee is substantial. But its also a major double edged sword, which prevents the government from sharing this information. Who is going to shoot their amplifying loved ones if maybe they may get better?
F: Good chance you’ll get bitten on a pipe dream. This was what the CDC was trying to maintain, a fear of Kellis-Amberlee. Even as they attempted to weaponize it, they wanted to make sure that those infected would never get the chance to metabolize the virus.
B: Which is why they wanted a handle on Shaun, and on clone-Georgia. So badly did they want the truth tellers of the nation to be promoting the ‘everything is awesome’ message to the world that clone-Georgia was not the only clone they made, just in case she decided to not cooperate. This is scary totalitarian type shit.
F: There’s eventually a huge confrontation, in which they are picked up by the GODDAMN PRESIDENT and told that they’d better listen or die. Granted, the President himself is in a blackmail sort of pickle himself. So, really it’s just the grumpy head of the CDC making loud and deadly demands.
B: That hurt me. When I started with Feed, I was so suspicious of Ryman. You didn’t know what to think of this man who really seemed to be too good to be true. But through Feed and Deadline, he proves himself to be worthy of that trust. And while he wasn’t exactly betraying him, his position now was… disappointing. I actually felt this more keenly than the loss of a main character that followed.
F: Oh damn, I didn’t give a shit about Becks dying. I just didn’t. I’m sorry to say that. She was mildly annoying in Deadline but throughout Blackout she became insufferable. I don’t know if she was jealous of clone-George or what, but she was a frosty horrible bitch through most of the book. She can be red rain all she wants. Don’t care.
B: Her shift made me mental. She definitely wasn’t a favourite of mine, but at least she had some personality. Cue Georgia, and all she wants to do is kill her. Ugh. But while we’re discussing characters, I feel like we need to give some props to Mags in this book. For what was suggested to be this vapid pharmaceutical-heiress Fictional, she really stepped it up. Her commanding use of the authority of money, and her navigation of the higher social echelons saved some asses. I never thought I’d like her, but props Mags, props.
F: Indeed! I felt way more for Maggie’s injury than I did for Beck’s. Maggie grew into an interesting and deep character. Her usage of what resources she had (plenty), helped the crew out time and time again.
B: She not only helped them survive, but I think her lifestyle provided a little bit of hope that there still were some safe places, and there was still some hope.
F: A great ending to a great series. The packaging is wrapped tight and there’s no loose ends to deal with. I can’t wait to see what she does with her new standalone. Democratic zombies? Let’s do it.
B: Yes, I am so excited to read about the other side! Although there is this new book coming (Rewind, Newsflesh #4), Mira Grant has made clear that Blackout is the conclusion of the Masons’ story. It is extremely sad to say goodbye, but ultimately I finished Blackout with a sense of peace. This is definitely one of my favourite series to date. I’m still looking forward to what is left!
If you’d like more about the Newsflesh series, check out our other reviews: