“Rise up while you can.”
– Blackout by Mira Grant
In all began back in 2010 when Feed, the debut novel from Grant (pseudonym for urban fantasy novelist Seanan McGuire), was released. The story was set in the near future almost three decades after the Rising – essentially an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event when two revolutionary cures (for cancer and the common cold) were unleashed upon the world and, after mutating together, created a virus that reanimated dead flesh. With zombie infestations turning entire cities and states into dead zones, a much-depopulated humanity lives in constant fear, staying inside, leading passive sheep-like existences.
But the euphoria surrounding landing their dream gig quickly evaporates after attendees at one of the candidate’s stops are attacked and killed by zombies and, shortly thereafter, one of the candidate’s daughters is killed in a bizarre mishap when a horse she owned became infected by the virus and attacked. But after the bloggers investigate both scenes, they uncover a horrific truth: the incidents weren’t just coincidental zombie attacks – they were instances of heartless, pre-meditated bio-terrorism. And as they get closer to uncovering the person or persons behind the conspiracy, their lives – and the very future of America – are increasingly put in peril….
In Blackout, the grand-scale conspiracy that the bloggers were trying so hard to uncover is finally revealed – and it turns out to be even bigger – and more morally corrupt – than they had ever imagined. There are numerous blockbuster revelations and plot twists in Blackout so I’m cautious to talk about the plot in specific detail here but suffice it to say if this were a movie, critics would be using superlatives like pulse-pounding, heart stopping, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride, etc.
This trilogy was fueled by an impressively intricate storyline, a diverse cast of fully realized and endearing characters, and, at times, a dark lyricism that added a certain kind of ambiance to the apocalyptic undertone. One blog entry from Magdalene "Maggie" Garcia, for example, was in the form of a powerful poem entitled “The Lost Ones,” which is equal parts elegy and allegory…
Let us, who are the lost ones, go and
kneel before the dead;
Let us beg them for their mercy over all
we left unsaid,
And as the sun sinks slowly, the horizon
Perhaps they’ll show us kindness,
Grant forgiveness for our blindness,
Perhaps they’ll show us how to find the
roads we need to tread…”
The narrative supremacy of this trilogy is unquestionable: both Feed and Deadline were nominated for the Hugo Award (in 2011 and 2012, respectively) – and Blackout is arguably the strongest of the three!
Grant’s Newsflesh saga is indicative of where genre fiction is headed – although the novels are categorized as science fiction, the trilogy is also a mainstream political thriller, a zombie fiction epic, and a masterful tale of the apocalypse. The potential reading audience for these novels is huge.
The bottom line is this: if you’re looking for a high quality summer read, consider this trilogy – these three novels will be some of the very best (genre transcendent) fiction you read all year.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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