Book Review: Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy #3), Mira Grant (2012)

February 14th, 2014 8:52 am by Kelly Garbato

Zombie Bears, Human Clones, State-Sponsored Bioterrorism — and Twincest?

four out of five stars

(Caution: spoilers ahead!)

Halfway through Deadline, when reluctant hero Shaun addressed his lover by his dead sister’s name (post-coitus!), I groaned. Audibly. Please dear zombie Jesus, I thought, don’t go all Dexter on me now. That would just be stupid. Well, prepare to get stupid.

The final book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Blackout picks up shortly after the events of Deadline: with Shaun and the remaining members of the After the End Times team camping out at mad scientist Dr. Shannon Abbey’s illicit lab in Shady Cove, Oregon (population: the walking dead), while sister Georgia inexplicably awakes from death inside a CDC lab in nearby Seattle. Also known as “Subject 139b,” Shaun’s just discovered that he’s immune to the Kellis-Amberlee virus, quite possibly from nearly two and a half decades of constant exposure to the virus via Georgia’s retinal KA reservoir condition. The newest subject of Dr. Abbey’s scientific curiosity (read: poking and prodding), the invasions visited upon Shaun are nothing compared to the atrocities the CDC has inflicted upon his sister. Or, perhaps more accurately, George’s genetic line.

One of many Georgia Mason clones (some of them failed and destroyed, with the few successes waiting in the wings like so many benched players), this Georgia Mason – Subject 7c – is a 97% cognitive match to the original Georgia. She’s the “showroom model”: a pony to parade in front of the investors who financed her resurrection. “Street model” Georgia 8b is just 44% authentic. Unlike the “real” Georgia Mason, she’s pliable, obedient, and easy to control; she’s the Georgia the CDC means to deliver to Shaun. Only not if 7C – and her allies within the Epidemic Intelligence Service – can help it.

While Georgia Mason II attempts to escape from her petri dish, Shaun and the team continue to chase the conspiracy introduced in Deadline. The whole thing feels rather convoluted at times, but basically boils down to this: the Kellis-Amberlee virus is evolving, adapting itself to its human hosts. But he who controls the virus, controls society. For twenty plus years, this has been the CDC. Threatened by the loss of its new-found power, the CDC is systematically murdering people with reservoir conditions – people like Georgia Mason – people whose immune response to the virus suggests one possible means of coexisting with it. Some scientists believe that reservoir conditions may even hold the key to a cure – or, more dangerously, a hope of one. If there’s a chance that your newly zombified loved one might recover, what then? Who would be willing to pull the trigger?

Shaun and Georgia’s paths inexorably converge, until they literally run smack dab into one another in the halls of the Seattle CDC – right before it explodes. This is where things get stupid. In order to prove to Shaun that she’s “real,” Georgia unveils their secret, for all the team to see: she and Shaun are lovers, and have been for years.

Now, I’m not usually one to use reaction gifs in book reviews – not because I don’t fancy ’em, but due to sheer laziness – but here, only a gif will do.

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(Twincest? Way grosser than a mayonegg.)

Okay, so. While it’s true that Shaun and Georgia are not biological siblings – both were adopted by the Masons at a young age – they were raised as such. Almost from birth. Worse, they’re very nearly the same age; their birthdays are just weeks apart. They may not be fraternal twins, but they’re pretty damn close. Seriously, this about as close to twincest as two non-biologically-related people can come.

Plus, Shaun and George seem to think of each other as siblings before lovers. This might be a strategic decision on the author’s part – anything other than platonic language would have given Grant’s ruse away books ago – but the two constantly refer to one another as “brother” and “sister,” including in their own internal monologues. If your line of reasoning is that they aren’t “really” siblings, so their romantic relationship is okay – well, you can’t have it both ways.

It feels like Grant is being deliberately provocative and scandalous with this twincest plotline (I could almost picture her, sitting at her keyboard, cracking her knuckles and laughing maniacally); given the human cloning/multiple dopplegangers aspect of the story, Blackout‘s already got enough General Hospital-style drama to last another three books. Incest is just over the top, don’t you think?

Doubly so since it doesn’t really go anywhere; the story would be essentially the same without it. Georgia and Shaun’s relationship sets up several romantic triangles (Shaun-Georgia-Becks; Shaun-Georgia-Mahir; Shaun-Georgia-Mahir-Nandini) which (thankfully!) never go anywhere. Aside from grossing us out, the twincest doesn’t serve much of a purpose. Like I said. Stupid.

As I write this, the brouhaha over JK Rowling’s revelation that Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron is just beginning to die down. Personally, I don’t see why Hermione had to end up with either of them. What’s wrong with guys and girls who are “just” friends? Why do writers and directors feel the need to constantly shove these romantic attachments down our throats? It’s like they think that the only way men and women can relate to one another is through their sexy bits. And now? Apparently men and women can’t even be “just” siblings without wanting to fuck. It’s insulting.

On another note, the ending is rather anti-climactic, especially considering the sheer number of pages it took us to get here. Grant’s readers deserve a larger payoff than she gives us. The series starts with a bang, but ends with a fizzle.

That said, Grant’s still an adept writer; overall, Blackout is fast-paced and filled with suspense. The first half of the book – before Georgia and Shaun reunite – is a real page-turner (after which point you may or may not want to throw the book across the room. I mostly laughed in disbelief and went with it.) There aren’t as many zombies as a second Rising might suggest, but a lack of zombies has never been an issue with me.

I kind of wish I’d stopped with the first book – Deadline and Blackout just aren’t the sequels Feed deserves – but I can think of worse ways to spend my time. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Amazon. (Maybe it’s time for me to develop a more stringent rating system? Ugh.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve since found – and promptly downloaded! – three Newsflesh novellas on Amazon. I think the shorter format might be a better fit for Grant’s Zombocalypse stories.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “Book Review: Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy #3), Mira Grant (2012)”

  1. Tori Says:

    Not that I at all condone incest and such. But I think it fits the storyline. I suspected they had more than a platonic relationship from the beginning and I actually was hoping to be correct.
    If this were real life I would strongly suggest they seek counselling, because anyone can see how deeply their issues go.
    Luckily, this is fiction. People can easily just be friends. I don’t know about you but I have perfectly healthy and normal relationships with my siblings. It’s not insulting. I think you’re just reading too far into this. Not everyone has a healthy mind – they live in a fucking apocalypse and have only ever been shown love by one another because they sure as hell didn’t get it from their adoptive parents.
    It’s not that much of a plot twist, Grant has been dropping hints throughout all of the books that Shaun and George were co-dependant and it’s a fairly logical jump to figure out they might be having a sexual relationship too.
    I think the whole thing was done in good taste and I don’t think it was meant to go anywhere. If she pronounced that the secret was that Shaun was actually gay, would Grant have to deliberate on that? In the scheme of things it doesn’t matter, it was just a confirmation of what the readers were already suspecting.
    You’d be naive to think that this is the only book that breaks the boundaries of societal norms and “grosses” people out.

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