In the eighteenth chapter of Blackout, I am so anxious about that thing finally happening that I don’t know that I can concentrate on anything else occurring in this book. BUT I WILL TRY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Blackout.
So, upfront, let me start with this. While it has been just mere days since all of you experienced my review of chapter seventeen of Blackout, I actually read that chapter and wrote the corresponding post on February 23rd. IT HAS BEEN LIKE SIX WEEKS SINCE I LAST READ THIS BOOK, AND IT HAS BEEN DESTROYING MY SOUL. I wrote all of the posts that went up during the third Mark Does Stuff Tour before I left, and I didn’t think about what a bizarre experience it would be. My god, I have been SO ANXIOUS to keep reading more of this book, and it certainly didn’t help that I talked about it on tour all the time. But I couldn’t read more unless I was doing reviews with them, and I simply didn’t have any time to write whilst on tour. SO I HAVE SUFFERED. SO MUCH. God, what an awful place to take a six-week break from this book.
Anyway, it’s fascinating to me, then, that it was so simple to just return to this world and immerse myself in it. I didn’t feel the need to read the chapters before this to get myself up to speed again. I was innately familiar with these people and with the circumstances before them, so it was almost as if I’d spent no time away from Shaun and the rest of After the End Times. Also… okay, there’s that thing at the end of this chapter that I will get to and flail over, I swear, but there is a lot that Mira Grant does in chapter eighteen that I want to address first. I’ll get there. I PROMISE.
So, I was initially impressed that I’m nearly at the halfway point of the final book in this trilogy, and Grant still gives space for there to be world-building in her novel. Y’all know how much I love immersion, so I was ecstatic that we got to learn more about the post-Rising world through the team’s journey to the Brainpan. First of all, the tablet that Mahir uses to navigate the team to the Brainpan’s secret location is absurd and genius, a clever way of creating a system so that people can communicate with others in a safe and ridiculous way. And I have no qualms about calling the Brainpan characters ridiculous because that’s what they are in the most positive way imaginable. They have to be ridiculous, given what they do! They live an absurd life off-the-grid, and the tablet is just another sign of that. It makes sense that they’d use a system that mimicked old text adventure games because it was a sign of a world that had long since passed. How else would these people maintain their privacy? As Mahir points out to Shaun, most monitoring systems aren’t even programmed to pick up its communications because it’s so old. Brilliant, y’all.
And then there’s this:
“Let’s hope the directions don’t tell us to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” I muttered, and pulled out onto the street.
The directions did not tell us to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Thank you for this line, Mira Grant. THANK YOU.
It’s at this point that we get to see the world that was forgotten by the Rising. That’s the only way I know how to describe this. So much of Blackout features these characters exploring the parts of the U.S. that aren’t protected by the rigid framework of safety rules and precautions, and that means we, as the reader, are introduced to all the micro communities that have sprung up outside of the fabric of the law. As Shaun describes it:
This was a million miles from the cultivated opulence of the Agora, or even from the reasonably well-maintained Berkeley streets where I grew up. This was a neighborhood where half the houses burned year ago and were never rebuilt, and where the remaining homes were surrounded by the kind of ludicrous fencing that was popular immediately after the Rising, when people were frantically trying to protect themselves from the next attack.
It’s telling, then, that Maggie has such a visceral reaction to this place. She’s probably the least shitty rich character I’ve ever come across in fiction. I’m serious! She doesn’t rub it in people’s faces, she’s generous, and she’s a damn treat. Yet it’s impossible to ignore the fact that her reaction here is tied to the fact that she’s had the luxury of choice. She could choose not to live in some place like this. That’s what her money gets her: options. Now, I could wax on forever about the ramifications of money and opportunity, but I’m sure y’all get the point. These characters are now in a part of Seattle where this kind of living is the norm, specifically because there is nowhere else for these people to go. My guess is that the people in this neighborhood (and those spread across America that are quite similar) are all living in poverty. They have the opposite experience of the main characters: They don’t have a choice about where they live.
It makes sense that an underground group that is home to the Brainpan and the Monkey would willingly live in such conditions. God, I’m so fascinated by the underground cultures we’re discovering in this series, especially in Blackout itself! ESPECIALLY BECAUSE WE MEET THE FOX. OH MAN, SHE’S AWESOME. I love the caricatures we get a glimpse of through Shaun’s journey, and the people at the Brainpan are no exception. Their entire outfit is both impressive and intimidating, a sign that they’re dedicated to staying under the radar and… well, being kind of stylish. In a very gutter punk way. Well, and in a “these-people-might-snap-and-murder-them-all” kind of way, too.
So bless Shaun for being so brilliantly forthright with these people by telling them, straight up, that Alaric sent them to the Monkey because the CDC is trying to kill them for nearly exposing the organization as part of a global cabal using humans as test subjects. Seriously, what did they have to lose at this point? Shaun’s reckless, and I have no problem saying that. That’s one of the key parts of his characterization. But this – I don’t count it as reckless. I think Shaun was smart to be ridiculous and truthful this way. And it pays off! At least for the moment, The Cat and The Fox (I LOVE THAT THESE ARE THEIR NAMES) believe Shaun, at least enough to trust him with a possible visit with the Monkey and with the reveal that ALARIC DATED THE CAT. WHAT. WHAT. Oh my god, she broke up with Alaric during an online raid. h e l p
Okay. Okay. Here we go:
“We need you to break into the local CDC building and drop a little something off for us,” said the Cat.
NO! OH MY GOD. NOOOOOOOO MY GOD, THEY ARE IN SEATTLE, WHICH MEANS THIS IS THE SAME CDC FACILITY GEORGIA IS IN I AM NEVER GOING TO SURVIVE THIS I SWEAR.
Done, Mira Grant. Done.
Mark Links Stuff
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
– I have announced what the next books I am reading on Mark Reads will be, as well as updated y’all on the events, cons, tour dates, GOING TO EUROPE OH MY GOD, and general shenaniganry going on in my life. I have a similar post up on Mark Watches, detailing the next two shows I’m doing as well as the return of Double Features, and I finally explain what happened with my Vimeo account. Check these posts out!
– If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am doing a live reading/Mark Does Stuff event at Borderlands Books on April 21st at 5pm. Come on out! I’ll have copies of my latest book to purchase and sign.
– 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!!!
– Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!