Blackout, by Mira Grant

Well, that's it for Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, one of the more innovative zombie stories that I've come across lately. On the one hand, I'm glad to see authors ending series before they drag on into irrelevance. On the other, I would have liked to see more of the world Grant created. Oh well.

Blackout is told in alternating chapters by Shawn Mason and a cloned copy of his sister, Georgia Mason. (This isn't really a spoiler, since Georgia II figures out what she is in her first chapter.) Blackout reads more like a continuation of the second book in the seriesDeadline. It will be impossible for new readers to get into this book without having read the first two. But then, why would you want to? Anyway, Shawn and Georgia II are investigating the same vast government conspiracy from two different angles. Shawn is on the outside, on the run, trying to figure out how to keep his crew alive and reveal the truth about the CDC's attempts to rule people through their fear of the zombie virus. Meanwhile, Georgia II is trapped inside a CDC facility. She can't let her journalistic skills rest either and starts to uncover another one of the CDC's dirty secrets: cloning.

I have to say that the best book in the series is the very first one, Feed. It was fantastic. The second book was still pretty good. I think Blackout is the weakest of the three because of some of the choices that Grant makes. Two of these choices in particular make it hard to call this book a completely satisfactory end to the series. The first is a revelation about Shawn and Georgia's relationship. It came completely out of left field for me and didn't and anything to the story. Rather, it subtracted from the story for me. The second thing that bugged me was how long it took for Shawn and Georgia II to meet up. The real action takes place after they join forces and, unfortunately, this only accounts for about the last third of the book.

I would still recommend this series for zombie fans. It's fresh. It's different. And there's the delightful bonus of snarky dialog.

Liminal States, by Zack Parsons

Liminal States
Liminal States
I have to admit that Zack Parsons's Liminal States was a bit of a slog for me. It was interesting, but because of the nature of the story I had a hard time bonding to the characters. This book is also written in a deliberately semi-mystical way so that it's hard to tell what's really going on. It feels like the story of three people caught up in something they don't understand and, for some reason, don't really try to understand. A lot of plotting and scheming that would have been interesting to read remains frustratingly off-stage.

Our first main character is Gideon Long who, after a botched train robbery in 1872, discovered a pool that inexplicably resurrects him when he falls in as he's dying from a gunshot wound. Meanwhile, our second main character, Warren Groves, discovers that Long was attempting to start an affair with his wife. When Long returns to town after his rebirth, he curses Groves with immortality, too. Groves uses his new life to hunt down and kill Gideon more than a dozen times. This carries on until Gideon and Warren make a pact, prompted by the discovery that the pool not only resurrects but also spits out duplicates. By 1890, there are a dozen or so Gideons and Warrens.

The second section of the book continues in the 1950s. It's clear not only that there is something sinister about the pool and the resurrections and duplications, but also that something is going awry with history. The Gideons are collaborating to create a massive corporation, one so powerful that it can influence the American government. The Warrens are a mix of violent ne'er-do-wells, alcoholics, and cops. And a third main character shows up, an inexplicable copy of the woman the original Gideon and Warren loved. There are multiple plots (not in the sense of story, but in the sense of schemes) going on but since our chief narrator at this point is a copy of Warren who doesn't have access to the inner circle, it's very hard to know what all is going on.

The last third of the book is even fuzzier but also more interesting. It's 2006 and it's clear that all the schemes are coming to an unexpected head. Nothing it going the way anyone could have predicted, but the situation looks an awful lot like the end of the world is on its way. Through our third main character and new narrator, a copy of the woman Gideon and Warren loved named Polly, we learn that the pool--the center of everything--is not so benevolent as the Gideons and the Warrens believed.

It took longer than I expected to get through this book because I kept wondering where it was all going, wondering which of the plot threads was the most important, wondering what was really going on. I still have a lot of questions about what really happened in this book and, more importantly, why it all happened that way. This book would probably bear a second reading to really figure it all out. But I can't really summon the will to read it again, to be honest.

I suppose that says it all.