My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have a lot of difficulty with dystopian books, which is why you’ll find I review them very rarely. At their worst for me, they tend to slide into one, a sort of malleable ‘future’s bad but X can sort it out’ plot which barely shifts from text to text. It’s rare to find ones which get that but – make it their own, you know? That make this future, this hideously real future actually – real. Too real. Like, blink and it’s here real.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Blackout by Sam Mills. I came to this a bit blindly really, picking it up off the libray shelves by happenstance, and it was a little bit of a blank canvas. I didn’t know the author, I didn’t know the book.
Well, I do now. Mills has given us a scarily plausible future where books are rewritten, where reading banned books is a crime, and Stefan, the son of a bookshop owner, has just discovered that his Dad is hiding the author of one of the ‘worst’ in his house. It reads like a YA spin on 1984, with elements of Children of Men thrown in there for the mix, and it is a proper good book.
It’s also one that’s difficult to precis, in that the plot twists and folds upon itself, but if you know the references above, you’ve got a good idea of where this is going. Blackout also has some very skillful moments where the actual ‘danger’ of reading is discussed and the potential of a book to change the world – for good or for bad. There’s a lot here that could be used in a classroom context or in a discussion of banning books.
What I love in Mills’ prose is the way this all seems so, scarily, possible. This is skill, to make the horrific believable and actual. Though there are parts of this which sag, just a little, Blackout is a really really good book.