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Kaia

Kaia

Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

Currently reading

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
Neuromancer
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Progress: 380/501 pages
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Perdition
Ann Aguirre
Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3) - Mira Grant Cripes on a pogo stick, this one ran over into the comments section too! Eep.Disclaimer: If you love these books and think they have the best world-building and research like, ever, don't read this review. Really, just don't do it. Trust me, it's better if you don't. After my slaughter review of Deadline, you'd probably think I'd never, in a million years, go on to read Blackout. Normally, this would be true. If I don't enjoy something I'll drop it like a hot rock, even if it's written by an author I love. I just don't get that attached. Hey, autism has to have some benefits. But the Newsflesh trilogy seems to have caught me up in that mesmerizing Train Wreck effect. Moreover, it's gloriously fun to complain about. That usually doesn't happen to me; although it's dubious praise at best, the Newsflesh trilogy has the distinction of being the first series I truly love to hate. And I have no idea why! Because this series drives me completely crazy. The characters are supercilious assholes, the world-building is a travesty riddled with holes, and I'm starting to suspect the author's research methods are much the same as Dan Brown's. And let's not forget that the crackpot conspiracy theorist nonsense creates a brain-hurtingly it's a word, trust me, I am a writer I know these things STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT convoluted plot. While even its forebears were heavy on issues like inconsistencies and useless padding, Blackout takes the inconsistent, uselessly padded cake.Like with my Deadline review, I had so many thoughts that I've divided them into sections in the vain hope of keeping my brain from barfing all over the place.Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?:These books have never had sympathetic characters, and that hasn't changed. Georgia Mason has returned in the form of Clone-George, who is Georgia but isn't but is but only like 97% (more on that later). There's a whole lot of internal waffling from Clone-George about how she isn't Georgia Mason but is, and you know, I might have been willing to buy it--after all, Clone-George actually has emotions, unlike George I--if my suspension of disbelief hadn't keeled over and died two books ago. Instead, it feels like another way for the author to eat her cake and have it too, and no amount of ridiculous Science is Evil, Mmm'kay conspiracy nonsense is going to change my feelings on that. Nor did I really like Clone-George more than the original. In some ways she was more tolerable, but she was drippy too. George I might have been a cold-hearted jerkwad, but she was at least a take-charge cold-hearted jerkward. Clone-George seems willing to let events carry her around for the most part (much like Toby Daye, star of the author-pseudonym's other series), and even spends an alarming amount of time looking to Shaun for answers.Shaun's Head-George turns out to be just that--a Head-George (and I'll be talking more about that later, too). He's no longer hitting random innocent bystanders, which is good, but he's still an annoying asshat. And once he and Clone-George are reunited, he goes back to behaving like a vapid frat boy putz, for maximum annoyance both in and outside his head, I guess. The fact that I only spent about 50% of the book stuck in his head is one of the things that actually made Blackout an easier read than Deadline, because despite some improvements, Shaun is still moody and irritating in the extreme.And it's not like there's much to love in the side characters. Mahir is about the only likable one, with Alaric and Maggie being at least tolerable. But Becks...ugh. I can't stand Becks, and man was I glad when she died in what was practically a literal fire. There was no nuance to Becks. Like George I, she's all emotionless hardass (well, except for when she's blaming Shaun for not reading her mind and realizing she really does want more than sex). I guess that's not surprising, coming from a series in which female characters are either "tough-talking" lizard-women or passive/reactive drips. Well, unless of course they're tramps like Wagman from the first book, the woman in the presidential race who got votes by taking off her clothes. And in case you think I'm overreacting, Blackout mentions another woman in the presidential race--one who killed herself when she didn't win. Because we totally need our entertainment media to hold fast to the stereotype that women are too emotional and/or slutty to properly run a country.The one bright spot was the return of Rick, being awesome in the way only Rick can. In Blackout he out CDCs the CDC, using their unethical behavior to produce Clone-George with the intention of using her as a weapon against them. Of course, we're supposed to find his behavior at least somewhat unethical, but he's the only damn person in the entire series doing anything effective and sense-making, so for me that's right out. Sex, Lies and WTF:In Deadline it is revealed that Shaun and George might have *gasp!* had a relationship. Like, you know, they were in love and had sex and stuff. And this was shocking, because it's just never so much as alluded to in Feed.In the interim between Deadline and Blackout, the author came out with this "special" reasoning for why George never so much as bats an eyelash in Shaun's direction: She's a very private person. Anyone who read my review of Deadline knows that this pathetic excuse for writing explanation sent me right through the roof due to the sheer, staggering laziness and dishonesty of it. As it turns out, though, this isn't quite the truth either. While the reader is supposed to be gasping and dabbing their tears during Shaun and Clone-George's passionate *gag* (sorry, couldn't help myself) reunion, Clone-George explains that this is the one thing they never wrote down. Oh. Well, okay, that makes sense.NOT.What the everloving fucking fucking fuck? Just how fucking stupid do you think I am? No. Just no. This is not a second-by-second log of these events happening. It's a past-tense narration. Even if this was George and Shaun writing things down after the fact, it would still be past-tense. Therefore there is not one single remotely good reason for their relationship to go unmentioned in Feed. Not one. There is simply no reason that George couldn't have mentioned that they have a relationship they hide from everyone, to the point of never writing about it. And as I already pointed out in my Deadline review, it's not just that George fails to bring the relationship up. All emotions, from any concern she might feel for Shaun's well-being to any tiny hints of attraction, are completely wiped from Feed for the sake of some big gaspy reveal. Aside from being a terrible writing strategy, it means that Shaun and Clone-George have exactly zero chemistry. Nada, zip, zilch. Bupkiss. It also means that George has never been an honest, reliable narrator because a lie of omission is still a bloody lie!Also, their relationship is heavy on the squick factor. I was never bothered by the whole brother-sister thing, since it's revealed early in the series that they're not biologically related--until Blackout, in which they insist on continuing to call each other brother and sister even after they sucked face in front of half the staff of After the End Times. But if that were the only problem, I could have safely ignored it. No, it's the alarming amount of co-dependence in their relationship and the way it's normalized and even romanticized. Numerous times Shaun and Clone-George point out how they simply cannot live without one another, Shaun indicating more than once that he'd kill himself if anything happened to Clone-George (in fact, his intention was to succumb to his "insanity" when this was all over, before Clone-George came about) and Clone-George mentioning how she would have just offed herself if Shaun had been the one to die instead of her. Don't get me started on the whole murder-suicide pact thing. I don't get how people can freak out about this stuff in some books, and completely embrace it in others. Crazier Than a Roomful of CDC Scientists:During Deadline I came up with the (admittedly somewhat harebrained) idea that maybe Shaun's Head-George was in fact the ghost of George. There were several reasons for this, but the biggest one was that despite supposedly talking to his dead sister in his head because he was crazy, Shaun showed few true signs of that kind of mental illness. No impairment of judgment, no disastrous choices, no nervous breakdowns or panic attacks--just nothing. Talking to Head-George is the only symptom of Shaun's so-called craziness. So when it turns out that Head-George is just a figment of his imagination--and a disorder so severe that Shaun is apparently speaking in voices convincing enough to persuade a fellow blogger that he was talking to someone else--I couldn't help but be upset. Shaun's supposed mental illness is anything but. It's ignorant, ill-informed crap and worst of all, it's romanticized. Hey, there's nothing really bad about being mentally ill! It just means you get to have full-fledged conversations in your head with someone you love! Don't listen to that stupid shrink; you can safely ignore anyone who warns you that this sort of behavior is unhealthy! Ugh. Gag me. Considering certain developments in Blackout, I guess it's not shocking that such an attitude reared its ugly head, but that doesn't make me hate it less.It's not just romanticized; it's Hollywood-ized all to hell. What I mean is, you also get a character like the Fox, who is Hollywood Crazy. Foxy is something like a red-headed, gun-toting Luna Lovegood, without even the tiniest fraction of awesomeness that that implies. Whereas Luna comes off something like an Aspie with a surprising lack of self-consciousness (i.e. blurting out whatever odd thought crosses her mind because she doesn't care that other people know she sees the world a bit differently), the Fox does that whole "amusing", "cutesy" blurting out of random stuff that Hollywood thinks is the hallmark of any person with schizophrenia, Tourettes, bi-polar, autism, etc. (Actually, us autistic folks also get stimming, because you know, that's what we do all day, stim and babble random shit). Look, my aunt and uncle are both severely schizophrenic and neither one of them are as random and supposedly cutesy as the Fox--not even when they're off their meds. Sure, sometimes they're scary and intrusive as hell, and DEAR GOD DON'T HAND ME THAT PHONE PLEASE I DON'T WANT TO SAY HELLO, but their condition is dire and usually upsetting. Not something as awesome as red-headed Luna Lovegood with guns. (Thankfully no one has, to the best of my knowledge, ever given my aunt and uncle a gun, because despite appearances in Blackout, crazy does not bestow magical powers of gun aiming and safety.)But the biggest problem with crazy in this book was the word itself. As ableist terms go, crazy doesn't bother me that much. Perhaps because it's got more meanings than a word should rightly have and, unlike most ableism, has even developed positive meanings. But the word is used so many times in Blackout that I started to feel literally sick to my stomach whenever I saw it. Seriously, someone with an electronic version should do a search to see how many times it was used. And never in that positive, awe-filled "you are so strange and wonderful and brilliant that I can't cope with it" sense. It's always negative. Do something brave? You're crazy. Do something unusual? Crazy. Something nice? Cah-razy. Something unethical? Totes cray-cray. Do anything even the tiniest bit outside the norm and according to the book's cast of supercilious douchenozzles:Of course, no one in this series is as unethical and crazy as the scientists, which leads me to...Revolution Convolution:The scientists (especially the ones at the CDC) are the backdrop against which the Newsflesh's convoluted plot grows ever more convoluted. It's hard to believe we've gone from a presidential election to an absurd global conspiracy in the space of three books, but indeed we have. Back in the days when this was about following a senator on his campaign, it was interesting despite its flaws. Then with the second book came the introduction of the global conspiracy run by the CDC, who have kept certain information--like that reservoir conditions like George I's retinal KA are a sign of the body adapting to KA and also people with reservoir conditions might maybe if they're really lucky survive zombying--secret from the world so they can be the ones to cure Kellis-Amberlee and be OMG!Heroes. In the meantime, some rogue scientists were doing research that took up so much of their brain space that they couldn't remember how to e-mail each other their results (or something, IDK, they did not appear to be in even the tiniest bit of contact). One of them, Dr. Abbey, had managed to turn her dog immune to KA by exposing him to it while he was under 40 pounds.None of this information had been released to the public, and despite it being highly sensitive, extremely dangerous and--for the public, at least--relatively useless, Shaun gets all "argh, FREEDOMS WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOOOOOOW!" He then rampages around the country, trying to pry information from CDC members, leaving a swath of death and destruction in his wake. Literally, I mean. The CDC is so determined to be heroes that they're willing to bomb neighborhoods and loose hordes in their own facilities, which they do every time Shaun riles them up. Dr. Wynne--who they once thought was an ally--reveals the whole conspiracy thing, they kill him, and ride off into the sunset waiting arms of a tropical storm full of wind-surfing mosquitoes that carry a new strain of KA. Rain falls, everyone zombies, the end.If only. We end Deadline with Clone-George waking up for the first time, and that's about where we begin Blackout too. Well, Clone-George and Shaun's sudden immunity to KA. It seems that the CDC has been working on a Georgia clone because the public trusts her, and they want a version of her to tell the public everything they want the public to believe. (No idea how they really intend to get past the "everyone who trusts her knows she's dead" part, but whatevs.) But because they're "mad scientists" and therefore EVIL, they intend to make sure she's only like 40% George, so they can fill her head up with all the things they want to so she'll be more convincing. However, Clone-George is just a display model for the benefit of some shadowy evil peeps or something and therefore it's no big deal that she's 97% George I, because they intend to off her (like all the other unsuccessful clones) once 40% George is complete. Because they're evil and unethical. Happily, Rick has enlisted the aid of the EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service), who have infiltrated the CDC and then apparently sat around twiddling their thumbs, to get Clone-George out of the facility and deliver her to Shaun. You see, Rick wants to use his Clone-George before the CDC can so he can get the truth out.Because all of this--the deaths, the zombie attacks, the cloning--was so the CDC could keep the public from finding out that there is no cure for Kellis-Amberlee and never will be. That's it. They were willing to go to such extremes to hush up a bit of information that patients with terminal illnesses live with every day of their lives. KA has become so bonded with the human immune system that curing it means killing the host (incidentally making Shaun immune to himself) and if people knew that they'd totally lose all hope and despair and stuff. And you know, I might be able to swallow this, if it weren't for the Science is Evil conspiracy nonsense. Because the scientists in these books barely have two ethics to share between them, they're being all evil and killing people and spending their time on expensive cloning technology, instead of taking all the other information they've gleaned over the years and coming up with a solution that will keep hope alive despite the lack of cure.The latter is what CDC scientists would actually do, but without the former behavior, we'd have no plot (as it stands, we barely have one anyway). And this is the part that pisses me off the most. Was it so important to have this stupid revolution and people rising up while they still can *eyeroll* that it was necessary to feed into the paranoia humans already have about science and medicine? I get making points about questioning what you're told and telling the truth and power getting out of hand and all of that, but this kind of nonsense is the exact sort of thing that feeds into idiocy like the anti-vaccination movement and homeopathy. Look, peeps, let's get this straight once and for all: Science is not evil! Scientists are not evil deviants bereft of morals and feelings! Medical science SAVES LIVES! Scientists at the CDC often put their lives in great danger to protect us from disease and the way they're usually portrayed in media is disgusting. The whole premise disgusted me. These books are supposed to be about integrity, responsibility, and truth, and they deal in the same lies alternative medicine gurus use to make millions off selling shit that doesn't work to gullible people. (And no, I do not want to talk about how that doesn't mean these are the author's beliefs. If the author doesn't want people thinking the shit in her books is what she believes, she needs to spend less time writing her characters as if they're goddamn mouthpieces.)