Audiobook Review: Blackout by Mira Grant

21 05 2012

Blackout by Mira Grant (Newsflesh Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Read by Paula Christensen and Michael Goldstrom

Hachette Audio

Length: 17 Hrs 8 Min

Genre: Science Fiction Zombie Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Blackout is full of adventure, betrayal, true love, sacrifice, conspiracies revealed, surprise enemies and allies, fascinating science and of course, zombies. It has everything you want in a series finale, leaving you both utterly fulfilled, and desperately wanting more. Blackout is hands down my favorite Audiobook of 2012, and if it doesn’t top my list at year end, then some miracle of audiobook greatness must have taken place to knock it off its perch.

Grade: A+

Blackout will be available in Print and Digital format on May, 22, 2012, and in digital audio format on June 1, 2012.

Note: If you have not read the first two novels of this series, do not read this review. While it contains no spoilers for Blackout, there are definite spoilers for Feed and Deadline. Also, why the hell haven’t you read/listened to Feed and Deadline yet. Stop reading reviews, and grab those books now.

It’ all started with some moron poking a zombie with a stick. Personally, I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, this guy who reads and listens to tons of Zombie fiction, and watches more Zombie movies than is legally considered healthy, and I’m listening to a book which starts with some moron poking a zombie with a stick, followed by some Dukes of Hazardesque chase seen with a motorcycle instead of the General Lee and Zombies playing the role of Roscoe P. Coltrane. You see, when I started Feed, I had no idea who this twisted soul known as Mira Grant, or her Fantasy writing alter ego Seanan McGuire was. I had no idea how much she loved these twisted B-Horror type scenarios that should totally come off as ubercheese. Most importantly, I had no idea, as I followed this moron Shaun Mason, and his sister Georgia, that I would fall in love with them, and this strange, hauntingly plausible world they lived in. I had discovered Feed, late one night, while searching the Overdrive Library system. It was the blood splattered cover and tagline, “Good News: We Survived. Bad News: So Did They.” that caught my attention. I was mildly pleased with my discovery. While I had read quite a few Zombies novels, I had yet to read one written by a women and I was looking forward to experiencing something maybe just a bit different. It is a decision I’m glad that I made. It’s now been almost 5 days since I finished listening to the finale of The Newsflesh, and I really needed that time to let it settle in. If I had written my review right after I completed listening to the audiobook, the review would have been an utter geekgasm, full of heart signs, XOXO’s and pictures of Lotsa Heart Elephant and the rest of my favorite Care Bear Cousins. Five Days later, and my appreciation and love of the trilogy hasn’t waned, but I have stepped away enough to be able to get my fanboyishness down to a more acceptable level. Although, fair warning, if I ever do meet Mira Grant in real life, I cannot promise that I won’t squeal, run over and give her a hug that both of us would find a bit awkward after the fact. I am not known for impulse control.

So, I guess I should talk about Blackout. If Feed is a Political Thriller with Zombies and Deadline is a Science Thriller with Zombies, than Blackout is their brilliant love child. Grant is able to take the best aspects of both novels, and blend them together is a way that exceeded even my high expectations and produced the rare series finale that delivers more than just the goods. The ending reveal of Deadline, was such an utterly brilliant, game changing, world shaping moment that I loved and feared it. Sometimes the worst thing a writer can do is give the readers what they want, and what any reader of Feed wanted was more Georgia Mason. Georgia Mason is a character that you can’t help but want to be like in all her complicated forms. Yet, I was worried about what Grant would have to do to fit her comfortably back into this world. I really shouldn’t have spent the year worrying about this. Georgia’s return fit seamlessly into the narrative, adding such a wonderful new slant to the overall tale. Yet, with my insatiable crush on Georgia, and desire to hang with the After the End Times crew, the true star of Blackout and the Newsflesh trilogy is the world Grant has created. Grant’s world is a realistic depiction of a society attempting to retain normalcy in what typically would be viewed as an apocalypse. In an America irrevocably altered by Kellis-Amberlee, the dead walk, spies have PhD’s, government agencies use fear to maintain control over the populous, and mad science may save humankind, but destroy the world in the process. Grant pieces it all together like a complicated puzzle that you have no idea what the final picture is, but when it is finally revealed, it knocks the breath out of you. Blackout is full of adventure, betrayal, true love, sacrifice, conspiracies revealed, surprise enemies and allies, fascinating science and of course, zombies. It has everything you want in a series finale, leaving you both utterly fulfilled, and desperately wanting more. If any part of you thinks I am overdoing my praise of Blackout, this, my friends, is restrained fanboyishness.

Typically, fans of series want consistency in audiobook casting, yet with the unique challenges of The Newsflesh series shifting perspectives, this was tough. Fans of Feed will be happy to know that Paula Christensen has returned to handle Georgia’s perspective. I had some small quibbling complaints with Christensen’s performance in Feed, yet in Blackout Christensen’s performance is flawless and beautiful. She totally encompasses the role of Georgia. Christensen has a unique, yet lush voice that highlights Georgia’s maturity, while still staying true to her youth. Yet, the biggest surprise for me in the audiobook was Michael Goldstrom’s performance. Goldstrom takes over for Chris Patton who read the Shaun Mason perspective in Deadline, yet there isn’t that discontinuity that often occurs when there is a narrator change. Goldstrom, like Christensen, becomes Shaun Mason. He is totally believable in this role. Yet, the highlight of the audiobook was Goldstrom’s performance of the peripheral characters, particularly Mahir. He delivers Mahir exactly as I imagined him, and fills him with heart, transforming him, along with Grant, into perhaps my favorite character of the series. Both narrators work together well. These is a bit of disconnect when the perspectives finally merge, and you have multiple narrators handling individual characters but you quickly adjust to this necessity, which isn’t nearly as jarring as I have experienced in other productions.  Overall, every aspect of this production was done just right, the sound crisp, the narrators spot on, and the pacing perfect. Blackout is hands down my favorite Audiobook of 2012, and if it doesn’t top my list at year end, then some miracle of audiobook greatness must have taken place to knock it off its perch.


Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for proving me with a copy of this title for review.

Seven Questions with Mira Grant

19 05 2011

Mira Grant is the author of The NewsFlesh Trilogy. Feed, the first book in that series, has been nominated for both a Hugo Award for Best Novel, as well as an Audie Award for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Audiobook. Her latest addition to the series is Deadline, which. in my humble opinion, is a brilliant follow up to Feed.  The Print version from Orbit Books, and the Audio version from Hachette Audio are available June 1. You can check out my review of Deadline here.

Ms. Grant was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule of writing kick ass novels, taking care of her cats and sharpening her machete to answer a few questions.

Bob: You are one of the few female author who has embraced the Zombie genre. Why Zombies? How did you fan base and colleagues react when you told them you wanted to write, not just a zombie novel, but a series of them?

Mira: “Hey, now.  Zombies aren’t as much of a boy’s club as some people think.  Cherie Priest’s fabulous steampunk zombies got her on the Hugo ballot last year.  Kelley Armstrong has done some fantastic things with zombies in her Women of the Otherworld setting.  And Madeleine Roux wrote an interactive horror-comedy zombie novel called Allison Hewitt is Trapped.  It’s not just me!  But it was zombies for me because it was always zombies; they’ve been one of my favorite monsters since I was a kid and got in trouble for sneaking out of bed at midnight to watch Night of the Living Dead.  There’s something beautifully appealing about the dead that walk.

“My fans and colleagues mostly reacted with relief when I said I was finally going to buckle down and write a zombie novel, rather than talking endlessly about how much I wanted to write a zombie novel some day.  And then they all laughed at me when, midway through the process of writing Feed, the big zombie boom hit.  They were all, see?  You, too, can predict future trends.  And then they stopped laughing when they realized I had the CDC on my speed dial.  By the time I was midway through Feed, most of them were invested enough in What Happens Next to be really, really glad that I was planning a complete trilogy.”

Bob: In my review of Deadline I remarked how, based on the events of Feed, Deadline had to be a decidedly different book. How tough was it to find the right tone for Deadline? How anxious were you about the reaction you may receive from it?

Mira: “It wasn’t as tough as you’d expect, largely because a lot of the things that make Deadline so different were a natural evolution of things I was already doing in the last quarter of Feed.  I had already done this with the training wheels on, so to speak.  I’ve been pretty anxious about a lot of aspects of the book’s release.  People loved Feed so much (except when they didn’t) that it’s a little nerve wracking to be all ‘great, now here’s the sequel, have fun.'”

Bob: In most Zombie Apocalypse books and films society is almost entirely eradicated, except for a few enclaves scattered about. Yet, the Newsflesh world is different. Your society has found away to adapt itself to the Zombies, yet, this adaptation seems mostly based on fear. I can’t help but think this is a reflection of out post 9/11 world. What about the world you created fascinates you?

Mira: “If I can be completely honest…the science.  I am an old school horror girl and I have a machete collection, but when you ask me about what I like best in this setting, it’s really and truly the science.  I love the squishy reality of it all.  I love that it functions.  The fear is definitely a reflection of the world we’re living in today.  Humans make surprisingly good boiled frogs.  We chip away at our liberties and our freedoms one little piece at a time, and as long as we take it slow, we’ll give up more than you could ever dream.  Look at how we live now.  Look at how we lived twenty years ago.  Ask yourself…would we ever, ever have given up those freedoms for security in a single lump sum?

“My big social fantasy that’s expressed sort of behind-the-scenes in the Newsflesh world is universal and comprehensive medical care.  This is a reality that has learned the value of strengthening the general population.”

Bob: My site is basically dedicated to Audiobooks. Have you listened to the audiobook versions of your books, and what do you think of them? Were you involved in anyway with the production process?

Mira: “I’ve listened to part of Feed–I didn’t even realize the Deadline audio book was finished until I saw your review.  I thought the readers were awesome, and that Orbit made some very smart choices with the production.  I couldn’t listen to the whole thing, because I needed to be focusing on writing the next one.  I’m not involved with the production process, apart from occasionally explaining how to pronounce a word, but I totally trust them.”

Bob: Now some fun questions. If you were going to go Irwin for the day, what weapons would you choose to take with you?

Mira: “I would like a tank.  A nice, big tank that fires depleted uranium bullets and can crush anything which happens to step into its path.  I will then roll my tank around, flattening zombies in my wake, and making Tank Girl jokes until everyone wants to slap me.”

Bob:I find it suspicious that cats fit nicely under the weight threshold for Kellis-Amberlee amplification. More proof of their evil plot for world domination?

Mira:“Science again.  When I was designing the virus, we needed a weight threshold, or else it’s zombie squirrels and the end of the world.  Forty pounds seemed like a good cut-off point.  Some dogs and most livestock can amplify, most cats and babies can’t.  Also, no zombie rats.  I am opposed to zombie rats.  They would be bitey.”

Bob:Finally, there is this other author out there named Seanan McGuire. Tell me, what would fans of the Newsflesh novels discover if they checked out her work?

Mira: Seanan McGuire is my good twin–I’m the evil one–and she primarily writes urban fantasy, with occasional forays into science fiction and horror.  Fans of the Newsflesh novels might find that her work is surprisingly familiar, especially the short fiction, which deals with vampires and psychotic muses and hitchhiking ghosts and buckets of mad science.  Plus her website is updated a lot more regularly than mine, and her bibliography tends to list the things I have coming out.  Funny thing, that.”

A big thanks to Mira Grant for answering my questions… and for not creating zombie rats.

Note: You can find the images I used for this post on Mira Grant’s Website. Icons and Wallpapers available.