***** Realistic, scary, unpredictable
It is no coincidence that Marc Elsberg is compared to Frank Schätzing. This novel is really a beautiful European techno-thriller, which surpasses in quality the works of many overseas colleagues. The story of an extended blackout throughout Europe is particularly disturbing since the scenarios are very realistic. It doesn’t take place in the future, but is something that could happen right now. We used to take for granted the availability of electrical power, but what would happen if this were missing for days or weeks? What would be the consequences? But, above all, what or who might be the cause?
All these aspects are explored in “Blackout”.
The technical part is very accurate and interesting, a sign that the author must have done great research (although he admits that he had taken various licences), but despite the abundance of information, it is never boring.
The novel can be defined choral, because it moves so many characters, which at the beginning seem separate from each other, but whose stories eventually converge. And, even if they are numerous, Elsberg manages to characterise them well. In particular I felt involved in the adventures of Piero, who is what could be referred to as the protagonist.
The decision to give the role of hero to an Italian is surprising, since it was made by a German-speaking author (but his nationality is Austrian). Indeed, virtually all of the most positive characters of the novel are not German, while Germans often appear those who make mistakes (sometimes fraudulently) or are too rigid in their positions and therefore unable to find real solutions.
I read another novel on a similar topic, entitled “Cyber Storm” by Matthew Mather (Canadian author). It dealt with an Internet blackout and the consequent loss of power supply in a New York City plagued by a long snowstorm. But “Blackout” is, in my opinion, a better work because it illustrates a more realistic scenario, and above all it is a real techno-thriller, as it shows the sabotage to the electricity network and how everybody tries to get to the bottom of it. “Cyber Storm”, on the other hand, focuses on the drama of the protagonist who has no idea what is going on and has nothing to do with the investigations. In addition, the technology is only hinted at, making the plot slide into a post-apocalyptic cliché. I must say that in certain creative scopes Europeans have the ability to get out from the clichés, to think outside the lines, and create original stories and unpredictable developments, while overseas authors sometimes tend to return to certain topics.
Even the character of Piero, a hacker from Milan, is credible. There aren’t the usual stretches that are seen in the works of foreign authors when they describe Italian characters.
Finally I must say that, despite being a very long book, I read it all in a few days. I could not stop and I could not wait to get back to read.
I tried to think what could be a downside to “Blackout”, in relation to my taste, but in all honesty I have not found one.
Blackout (English edition, available on 9 February 2017) on Amazon.
Blackout (original edition in German) on Amazon.