Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blackout - When the lights go out.

 I find it interesting when two books have the same or similar title. This new one is by Madeleine Henry and should not be confused with Connie Willis's story.

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I do not like books with stories that don't end within the book. I want each and every book to have a story arc complete with introduction, crises, climax, and conclusion. Not that everything in the book must be solved within that book.  A trilogy or series does not lend itself to answering all questions to all things. I do enjoy trilogies or even series. I loved The Lord of the Rings, for instance, but I don't like books that simply cut the story off. Connie Willis, an author I love and respect, did this with one of her recent book duos, Blackout and All Clear.  I was so angry I almost threw the book across the room. This is something many writers do nowadays but it feels like a cheat, a way to sell one story twice or more. The Hungry Games is a good example of how stories can be a trilogy but still have a story arc for each book. Another example are most TV series. There is the background, overall story, but each episode has a story that usually finishes within that episode. Exceptions, of coarse, are Soap Operas and shows meant to be like Soaps. Harry Potter series had a plot, a crisis. a climax, and a conclusion in each of the seven books. 

Blackout, Madeleine Henry's new novel does not have a story arc. So, though I know there is more to come, the story drops instead of having a finish for this book. It is enough not to want to read another but…… then there is Henry's writing.

Madeleine Henry has an easy writing style that is not only easy to read and engaging but is truly captivating. Every scene, each character, each dilemma is so full-bodied that the reader can do nothing but live the story. And there you are, anxiously waiting for the next step in this enthralling dystopia tale of young love and terrible consequences.

About the book:

Star and Phoenix are best friends, having grown up together in Dark DC, where there is no electricity, little food, no warmth, and a wall separating the few people left in the southern US from the people that have it all in the north US. They both are coming of age and feelings for each other are beginning to bud when everything changes. Star's family needs electricity for her sickly brother but the only way to get it is to trade herself to the people north of the wall. 

Phoenix, afraid to lose Star and feeling he must protect her at all costs, surrenders himself as well. It is on the other side that they learn the electricity they traded themselves for is not a sure bet. First they must win a competition with 48 other young people from the south.

Oh, yes, I can hear it. This is another Hungrer Games, isn't it? No, Henry has a more complex tale to tell and the game is the only point where these two tales meet. Phoenix and Star have to learn why the southerners are being brought into the north and what terrible secret is everyone hiding from them.

My Take

Ben Bova said that good science fiction takes one impossible fact, then weaves a consistent story around that impossibility. To me, in Blackout, Henry's 'impossible fact' was that a group of people with all kinds of resources and books never figured out how to generate enough electricity to keep warm. Electricity once known, is not that difficult. Compare that to something like the Hunger Games by Collins where the ruling class kept a thumb on the people or The Healing Crystal by Poague where people were afraid to come out because of the sickness, and one has to wonder why. But this is the one impossibility or near impossibility Henry runs with and, as Bova said is necessary. She weaves an engaging tale. There is another 'impossible' fact within this tale. A massive wall shows up cutting the north of the US from the south. Okay, we will live with two such facts because, to be honest, Henry's writing style is simply that good. Henry has promised me that the sequel will have a story arc within the book. I look forward to that!

Another problem with the book is a few continuity errors. Most readers don't see those but to me, it can hurt a books chances of being a 'you've got to read this' book. And yet, I find myself so taken by the writing, it is hard to fault the book for small inconsistencies.

Now for the things I truly liked:
The writing is great. From almost the first page, Henry's style captivated me and I didn't want to put the book down. The characters are full, believable with interesting problems, motivations, and spirits. I would read her future stories and probably look forward to more. Henry knows how to capture a feeling, a scene, and a situation, releasing gently onto the readers so they may experience all of it to the fullest. 

Recommendation: For anyone who enjoys YA science fiction and dystopia, who is willing to purchase another book to get to the end of the tale. Good for all ages.

1) The link to BLACKOUT on Amazon is:

2) The link to BLACKOUT on Goodreads is:

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