This review contains spoilers for the ending of Deadline. If you haven’t read the first two books, I suggest reading the review for Feed and then reading the book yourself. The series is definitely worth reading.
Picking up where Deadline left off, Blackout follows the After The End Times team — mostly Shaun, Becks, Alaric, Maggie and Mahir — as they continue trying to uncover the zombie plague CDC conspiracy and take turns running away from zombies and the CDC (or, a few times, CDC zombies). It also follows clone George, grown by the CDC for nefarious purposes. Unluckily for them, this clone has a 97% similarity to the real George and their plans quickly start to unravel.
Much as Newsflesh is a series about zombies and bloggers and a conspiracy theory of global (if US-centric) proportions, it is also about authority and lies and the power of the people. The shift away from traditional media in favour of bloggers at the time of the Rising in 2014 (a vote of no confidence in the media who suppressed vital zombie information when it could have saved many lives) parallels the power of the After The End Times bloggers to upset the oppressive status quo in 2041. The conspiracy at the heart of the story is unsurprisingly overturned (really, that isn’t a spoiler) and the world turns over. During the Rising people put their trust in news bloggers and equipped themselves to rise up against the zombies. At the end of Feed, George urges the world to rise up in response to the conspiracy they’d just unearthed. The team didn’t realise at the time that they’d only just scratched the surface of the conspiracy and it isn’t until the end of the series that they are really able to fully empower people to rise.
Honestly, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with the Occupy movement, although the series must have been written before it started. The idea of fighting against the people in power — the CDC in the case of Newsflesh, Wall Street in the case of Occupy — who are actively working to stay in power and who don’t have the the good of all in mind was common to both. Of course, it’s a more universal concept than just those two examples but the US-ness of the setting helped highlight the similarities.
I enjoyed Blackout more than Deadline. I think the fact that Shaun isn’t the sole narrator (it’s half George) helped. His crazies in Deadline got a bit old, whereas in Blackout they take on a new edge. I would actually have liked to know what happened with them after the end of the book. Presumably, everything was OK for the time being (ever after seems unlikely given who’s involved) but it wasn’t something that was explored in the context of clone George and I would have liked it to have been.
Anyway, all in all, Blackout and the entire Newsflesh trilogy are great, reasonably fast-paced, zombie action reads. I highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys action (well, in the form of shooting things), science fiction, zombies, conspiracies or zombies.
4.5 / 5 stars