Mark Reads ‘Blackout’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of Blackout, Shaun and Becks deal with the crisis in the lab. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Blackout.

Chapter Eight

HEY, REMEMBER THAT THIS BOOK IS ALL ABOUT ZOMBIES??? God, what a fantastic reminder of the world that these characters live in. The dead rise, it’s fucking awful and terrifying, and there is no way to escape it. Damn.

I guess I’m a coward after all.

Oh god, Alaric, don’t think this way. Grant opens chapter eight with PURE HEARTBREAK. Alaric is the one member of After the End Times who isn’t going off on some horrid adventure, and it has left him feeling caught between guilt and relief. That’s a complicated emotional state, y’all. He wants his sister back, and he knows that if anyone can get her back, it’s Becks and Shaun. At the same time, how do you just sit back and hope that other people can do something like this for you? I don’t think Alaric should be so hard on himself, but I can tell his guilt stems from how much he loves his sister. I think I’d react the same way he would given the situation.

Now I hate my prediction that he’s going to die. Can I take it back? Oh, hell, it doesn’t even matter at this point.

This is a tightly narrated chapter that chronicles the chaos that Shaun and Becks find within Dr. Abbey’s lab. It’s clear that poor safety protocol led to a domino effect of awful in just a matter of minutes, but we don’t find out in chapter eight how that came to be. Instead, this all focuses on the present. Where are the zombies? Who survived? How can they neutralize the threat? It’s surreal to see so many lab assistants shambling about. This reminded me of the end of Feed, during the outbreak where so many of Ryman’s staff amplified.

This, though, felt so terribly claustrophobic. Grant does a fine job communicating the confines within which Becks and Shaun work, from navigating through the pack of zombies downstairs, to showing us what it’s like to deal with zombies on stairs, to the ridiculously violent showdown upstairs. All the while, she acknowledges the limitations the characters have. I like the fact that Shaun’s immunity kind of doesn’t mean much here. He doesn’t magically turn into a superhero who can waltz in the midst of a zombie mob without any ill effects. He can still get hurt by zombies!

And so we get this chapter, which is one horrifically tense scene after another. I mean, first of all, Becks and Shaun have to be careful about what they choose to do mostly because of sound. A single gunshot will direct the zombies in their direction, so it’s not like they can just take one of them out quietly and make their way upstairs. So when Becks takes her initial two shots, it’s like all the zombies are quickly energized. As the waves of the undead come for them, there are other logistical problems. Ammunition is one of them, as is the fact that Shaun wasn’t prepared with his secondary weapons either. No cattle prod, no grenades. That left him with the two pistols he had and limited ammo.

In another context (and another time period), it’s also clear that Shaun would have enjoyed this. He certainly did in Feed, but not anymore:

This was the feeling that used to drive me into the field with a baseball bat and a cocky grin, this floating, flying, nothing-can-hurt-me feeling. Georgia’s death clipped my wings. In moments like this, I could almost forget that. There were no voices in my head that shouldn’t be there, but they were replaced by contentment, and not the yawning void that usually opened when George stopped talking. This used to be what I lived for. I couldn’t live for it anymore. But oh, God, I missed it.

I wonder if Shaun will ever get to a point where he can enjoy the chase again. Assuming he reunites with Georgia in this book (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE), can he ever feel comfortable poking zombies with a stick? Or has this experience forever changed his perception? Shaun has changed a lot since the first novel, and I noticed he’s more willing to be responsible than he once was. That doesn’t mean he isn’t risky, but I noticed that he already started blaming himself for the very outbreak he was in. I don’t think it’s an intentional parallel with Alaric, but that’s two characters in the same chapter who feel an immense guilt over things they can’t control. And I don’t really believe that the Shaun we first met in Feed would behave this way.

I was momentarily comforted by the confirmation that everyone I knew was alive. (That’s a strange way to say that, but I mean all the named characters, you know? The After the End Times team, Dr. Abbey, and Joe. Not people I know personally or anything.) Maggie was stuffed in a closet, Mahir was in the van, and Alaric was locked in with Dr. Abbey. Okay, so, what’s the next big obstacle they have to face?

And then we both just stood there, staring at the five-deep wall of zombies that was trying to claw its way through the door into Dr. Abbey’s office. That was the good part. The bad part was that they would inevitably either break down that door or lose interest in what was behind, and either way, we’d eventually wind up on the menu.

Great. GREAT. Two people against gods know how many zombies. THAT’S COMFORTING. I enjoyed, then, the fact that Shaun used his immunity to the benefit of the group, choosing to run past the zombies and into Dr. Abbey’s armory. I had a sense that this was going to be fun, at least in terms of what Shaun would use to get rid of the zombies on the second floor. While I wasn’t worried about Shaun getting bitten as much as I normally would, I was concerned that if he didn’t manage to find something that would be effective in getting rid or a lot of zombies at once, he could get surrounded. Thus, the wonderful zombie grenade trap is born. Is it a foolish plan? Oh, lord, probably. It’s Shaun’s risky side coming back out to play. Blow up a bunch of zombies to kill and maim them, making them easier to take out. Got it. At least Shaun can’t get infected from the blood in the air, right?

I admit that I’m not particularly creeped out or grossed out by blood and gore. I mean, I grew up on King and Lovecraft, watched horrifically violent horror movies (~in secret~ LOL), and I also find cartoonishly gory films to be a treat. So, there’s a part of me that was certainly all, “SHIT YEAH, THIS IS SO AWESOME.” A horde of zombies missing limbs limping towards Shaun and Becks? YES. Then they take them out one by one with their guns? YES. AND THEN JOE COMES OUT OF NOWHERE AND STARTS TEARING THE ZOMBIES APART HIMSELF? I am 100% in support of everything this book chooses to be, especially this moment, which, heads up, IS SUPER GORY:

Joe barked again as we approached him, the sound only slightly garbled by the fact that he had most of a human throat in his mouth.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I told him.


I was excited for Becks and Shaun to head out on their road trip, though it sucked that this is what they had to deal with before they left. It’s certainly distracting and unfortunate. Plus, Dr. Abbey is clearly upset about what happened, believing herself to be the one responsible for it all. However, it was Shaun’s depressing unpublished blog entry that really put this all in perspective. Shaun doesn’t want to do this anymore. I think that might answer my question earlier about whether Shaun could ever become an Irwin again. Probably not, even with Georgia in his life. I can’t blame him for this, though. He shouldn’t have to go through all this. He’s experienced enough tragedy to last a million lifetimes. My god, how is he going to react when he finds out Georgia is alive? Oh, lord.

The next chapter is Georgia’s meeting with the EIS. Oh, shit, y’all. I’M SO EAGER TO READ ON.

Mark Links Stuff

 I am now on tour!!! I have 26 events spread out across the eastern HALF of the U.S. and Canada. They are all free and all-ages. Come see me speak about the Mark Does Stuff Universe and read terrible fanfiction live!
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Commissions are still open while I am on tour! There may be a day or two delay to get them done, but I am accepting them graciously to help fund my tour!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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