Here's the problem with BLACKOUT: the readers needed Georgia back. The plot didn't.
This wouldn't be such a huge problem if, say, Shaun had found some way to bring Georgia back. He was motivated to do so, should the means have presented themselves. But it wasn't Shaun who brought Georgia back - it was the villain of the series, insofar as a government agency can function as a villain.
Now, I actually follow the logic that led the CDC to their state of villainy pretty well. They can't afford a partial cure of Kellis-Amberlee. They see the inevitable result - "Maybe this person can recover from amplification, maybe I shouldn't shoot them in the head, oops, now I'm a zombie too!" - and it is awful. I can see a "cold calculation" (to use Mira Grant's phrase) there, where the CDC believes their way will save more lives in the long run. And it makes sense that once an organization has chosen a direction that requires a lot of lying and secrecy, it will foster a pretty toxic environment where the wrong sort of people will thrive.
So, in a general sense, I get it. And in a general sense, the plot here hangs together pretty well: the After the End Times crew has discovered that the CDC is at the center of a massive, evil conspiracy. They want to end the conspiracy by making it public, making it news. The CDC is strongly motivated to prevent that from happening. The After the End Times crew makes progress. The CDC keeps trying to kill them. Eventually, we have a winner and a loser.
And I thought the first half of the book was pretty awesome. We see Georgia again! She's narrating chapters! Man, it was great to have her back. She is one kick-ass reporter. And all the chapters recounting her captivity at the CDC facility are beyond chilling. The creepy doctor in charge of her, Dr. Thomas, made me want to vomit. Georgia's struggle with her own identity - she's not actually Georgia Mason; just a very close copy - was perfect.
Meanwhile the After the End Times crew hits the road, with Shaun on his way to Florida to save Alaric's little sister from the mosquito-ridden hazard zone the state has become. They run into trouble on the way, and eventually - thanks to an extremely bizarre coincidence that needed a lot more explaining than we actually got - meet up with Georgia.
I loved Shaun's reunion with Georgia. I loved seeing the rest of the crew react to her reappearance. So great. The coolest thing about it? The way that Shaun's behavior in this book cleared up the issues I'd had with DEADLINE. I'd been really uncomfortable with the idea that Shaun communicating with Georgia by magic, and I couldn't figure out how else he could be having such lucid conversations with her. But the answer was, for me, just right.
Unfortunately, after the team is all back together again, the plot completely falls apart. I don't want to spoil anything, so I can't really explain. I'd like to pretend the whole episode with the Monkey didn't exist. And the final blow out scene? Answered none of my questions, struck me as unrealistic, and, the kicker: proved to me that glad as I was to see her, the plot did not justify bringing Georgia back to life. They could have done it all without her.
On the one hand, I loved BLACKOUT. I love the Newsflesh world, I love the smart, almost brutally no-nonsense writing, I loved having George back, I loved seeing Shaun and George together again - one of my favorite moments in the whole book was when they did their "one, two..." blood-testing routine together for the first time after seeing one another again. That was really moving. I'm so glad they got a happy ending.
On the other hand, the second half of this book was a mess & if it weren't for the first two books in the series, how invested & emotionally wrung out I was by them, I doubt I'd think very much of this one at all.