Marc Elsberg: Blackout


I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

A cold night in Milan, Piero Manzano wants to get home.

Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead.

Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse.

Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The  death toll soars.

Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers.

Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late?

Blackout is a thriller novel by German novelist Marc Elsberg that brings to light the harsh reality of our current civilizations inability to live without modern advancements such as electricity, hot running water, and readily available food supplies. In an attempt to bring the world to a more primitive state, a team of hackers take down the entirety of Europe’s power grid, forcing many countries to fight for survival. There is limited access to the internet, television and phone networks go offline – such resources preserved for ministers and government officials through generators in a desperate bid to bring the power back online before all these countries fall further into decline.

A novel such as this is greatly attractive to a millenial such as myself. As many people are, I am frequently found on the internet or browsing social media to pass the time. Heck, we have jobs that can only be accomplished through the use of computers and the internet. The thought of such an event taking place in real time really gets your blood pumping and your heart racing as you truly begin to contemplate the high dependence our society has on such treasures as internet access, and the ability to drink water and eat food at a moments notice. And the thing is, it all seems entirely possible, especially given how in-depth Marc Elsberg delves within this novel.

This isn’t a novel that just tells you an event is happening and brings together some rough ideas on how such an event could be stopped. Elsberg goes into a lot of detail: he goes deep into the running of power plants and the software used to keep them running, putting a spotlight on the many ways in which nuclear power plants, and the like, can so easily be taken down by the right people with the right knowledge. It’s almost scary how easily something like this could happen, and the amount of chaos it would surely bring in the event of this. Elsberg brings a lot of characters into this novel to show the true extent of this catastrophe with an array of government officials from many countries putting their voice across on how to fix these issues, or questioning who or what could have caused such widespread panic and disarray. Elsberg shows how the different departments are all involved in what seems so minute to someone (such as myself) who cannot truly comprehend the scale of the power grids in and around Europe and other continents.

But, Elsberg also shows how easy it is to point the finger in order to place blame. Many countries come into question and brings to the reader the idea of allies and enemies within the political world and what each one may gain or lose from this event. Manzano himself, with his sketchy past as a hacker and activist, is one of these people that is blamed for such an event. Clearly, throughout the novel, we can understand that that is not the case, but the way that Elsberg feeds privileged information to the reader that is not, at the time, known by Manzano, still makes you question Manzano’s motives and makes you understand where these people are coming from to blame him.

Manzano, as a character – to me – appeared quite humble in his approach to those around him. He never once tries to toot his own horn and, when others try to, he almost brushes it away as if it is nothing. I appreciated this aspect of Manzano’s personality as it shows that he knows his capabilities but does not try to boast or brag, or draw any unnecessary attention to himself. He is also quite a caring man; without spoiling any of the scenes, he is presented with situations where people are in a far worse situation than himself, but he still attempts to help them in his time of need understanding that his actions will help ease them. I found Manzano to be quite a likable character, never once truly judging him based on his past actions as those around him seem to do. It is clear that, over time, he has changed his ways and that his past will always haunt him and taint the earth that he walks on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it shed some light on today’s society and our pleasures that we truly take for granted. It was interesting to see the various ways in which members of society coped with such an event and the different scenarios that were offset by this one major event. But it was also humbling to read that, even in these times of crisis, there are still some people looking to help out and not for personal gain.



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