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Blackout by Marc Elsberg

Blackout (2012)

by Marc Elsberg

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English (11)  German (5)  French (1)  All languages (17)
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Blackout is a timely thriller about the vulnerability of our electrical grid to a hacking attack, and the far-reaching implications when the power goes out for an extended period of time. Blackout begins when the lights begin to go out in Italy, and soon a cascading failure leaves all of Europe without power. Former hacker Piero Manzano quickly realizes that the grid has been hacked. When he alerts authorities to this, they believe him, but then come to believe that he is the one responsible. Now Piero is on the run with an American reporter based in Paris, Lauren Shannon, and if they don’t find the people responsible and figure out a way to stop them, all of Europe could plunge into chaos. For while nuclear power plants generate electricity, they also need electricity to stay cool. And some of the reactors are starting to get hot.

Elsberg lays out a frightening and believable scenario. The dependence on electricity, and the interconnected grid both in Europe and elsewhere around the world make the vulnerability of that which we take for granted that much more terrifying. The book does a good job at laying out the dominoes that would begin to fall both when electricity is initially unavailable as well as those that fall when it is out for an extended period of time. Watching the international effort to both restore power and find the people responsible for the disaster is exciting. The only drawback is the lack of developed characters which leaks tension out of the story. Manzano and Shannon are interesting, but not terribly compelling. Some of the people involved with trying to restore the power were so unlikeable that I suspected them of being part of the group that brought the power grid down. The actual people responsible barely register as more than names and vague motivations.

The strength of Blackout lies in the realistic scenario and the action involved in both restoring power and ending the threat posed by the perpetrators. The audio version of the book is narrated by Luis Moreno who does a fine job with a number of characters from different parts of the world that he makes distinguishable and easy to follow. He conveys the urgency and the tension in the story.

I was provided a copy of the audiobook by the publishers. ( )
  tottman | Nov 18, 2017 |

MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▫️
PUBLISHER Sourcebooks Landmark
PUBLISHED June 6, 2017

A terrifying but gripping electrical outage disaster, one that is hard to forget.

The lights go out all across Europe. Hackers have infiltrated the interconnected electrical grid software through smart meters. The grid collapses. Fires are destroying substations and transmission towers are being blown up. Power generation units cannot be restarted. A nuclear unit in France is overheating. And that's just in the first three days.

It's February and it's cold in Europe. Germany is hovering around zero degrees. As the outage continues there are major problems. There is no water. Gas station can't pump fuel, food supplies are depleted, banks are out of cash, and hospital backup generators are shutting down. Stocks are plummeting and the European market is closed. People are becoming desperate. United States, Russia, China and Turkey are preparing to send aid. And then the U.S. goes black.

A former hacker in Milan Italy, Piero Manzano notices something abnormal about his smart meter. He notifies the authorities, who are wary of his background and they wonder if he might actually be the culprit. Manzano ultimately is forced to go on the run with American CNN reporter Lauren Shannon. Both are desperate to find out who is responsible for the attacks before things get any worse.

Having worked for thirty years in electric regulation, and seen the advent and evolution of SCADA systems and smart meters, this book fascinated me. MARC ELSBERG has taken a complex multifaceted scenario and woven a thought-provoking tale of our dependence on software and the electric grid for every day life. Typically, when we have an outage the electricity always comes back on, doesn't it? But what if it didn't.

The story involves a cyberattack of transmission and generation SCADA software and applies it to continental Europe, a huge geographic area. To bring a interconnected system of this magnitude back online requires an immense amount of cooperation and coordination. As BLACKOUT shows, cooperation and coordination is difficult at best, if not impossible in times of a crisis. And a cyberattack will be nothing like the recovery from a natural disaster. First you have to find the saboteur and what they did.

The geographic scope in BLACKOUT is immense, unlike anything ever experienced before. And hopefully we never will. The story shifts between Italy, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and France. Each country experiences its own set of issues in responding to the power outage and its aftermath. Transitioning to the various locations adds to the complexity of the book and there are a multitude of characters to keep up with.

ELSBERG gives us a small taste of what would happen to our society, if our food supply, transportation system, communication network, healthcare system, financial markets and water and wastewater systems were interrupted. He also raises awareness of how all of these systems are all interdependent on one another. Despite the magnitude of the story, BLACKOUT is very readable. It's a must read to truly understand the impact of a nationwide outage lasting more than three days.

Living in Florida, I have experienced many multiple day outages following hurricanes. We always stock up on groceries, water and batteries in advance. It is drilled into us to be prepared. In the aftermath, we have always been fortunate to have neighboring cities or states help with our relief and disaster recovery efforts. But what if there is no warning and the lights just go out. How long could we actually survive without power. What if our neighbors couldn't help? What if we were all in the same boat? What if the outage was nationwide?

MARC ELSBERG an Austrian author, researched this book by conducting interviews with intelligence, disaster, energy and computer security officials. His story has taken cues from previous large outage experiences in the U.S. and Europe. BLACKOUT was originally published in Germany in 2012 and has been translated into fifteen languages and sold a billion copies. It will be published in the United States for the first time in June, 2017.

Thanks to Netgalley, Sourcebooks and Marc Elsberg for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  LisaSHarvey | Aug 19, 2017 |
This book is subtitled "A Novel" but it really isn't. It is a movie treatment in prose. I paged through it for a while before deciding that I would rather just wait and watch the film on an airplane sometime.

I received a review copy of "Blackout: A Novel" by Marc Elsberg (Sourcebooks Landmark) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Jun 7, 2017 |
Blackout by Marc Elsberg is a recommended novel about the power grid going out across Europe. This was originally published in Germany in 2012.

When the power grid starts to go down, station by station, Piero Manzano, a former hacker and activist, figures out what may have caused the collapse. As Manzano battles the authorities to get them to listen to him, Lauren Shannon, an American CNN camera operator/reporter follows the story. As suspicions fly and answers are not evident, the grid in the USA goes down, and the disaster is becoming worldwide. While trying to help Manzano becomes the prime suspect and ends up having to run from authorities as he still tries to find the answers.

This is not a techno-thriller as much as it is a semi-realistic scenario of what would happen if the power grids failed due to the actions of a terrorist group. In this scenario the terrorists are well educated, well connected and wealthy, which wouldn't necessarily always be the case. The important fact to take away from Blackout is that we, all countries, need to safe guard our power plants. After all, it's not just electricity at stake. No power would affect so much more, like the food supply, healthcare, communication, and the water supply. The concern over what could happen is real and Blackout does a service pointing attention to this.

While the concept of the book is chilling and could be more frightening than many nightmares in the hands of some writers, in this instance the execution of the novel doesn't quite live up to the description. Elsberg did his research, which is evident, and that definitely helps the novel and gives it an edge, but the actual presentation of the action is not quite as realistic and the plot suffers. Manzano just keeps getting out of one desperate situation after another. While it is an interesting book and did hold my attention I couldn't help but think that perhaps a nonfiction novel would have been a better choice to present all the facts.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Sourcebooks. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Jun 3, 2017 |
Blackout is a fascinating, yet frightening story about hackers getting into the power grids and causing electricity to go out all over Europe and the United States. Life as we know it comes to a standstill as the governments, power companies and IT professionals try to restore power.

The story follows Piero Manzano, a reformed hacker who discovers how it may have started and tips off the authorities, which in turn makes him a possible suspect. As Piero tries to help find the bug, he also finds himself on the run with the help of an American journalist, who believes in his innocence.

This is a fast, easy read with a great subject, but not much in the way of character development. The story skips around from country to country, letting the reader know what was happening in each location. There is also quite a bit of technical talk about the power grids and internet security.

Going for days with no power had many life-threatening repercussions that were pointed out along the way, but the meat of the story was Piero and his attempts to solve the problem and expose the hackers.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for allowing me to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  tamidale | May 28, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marc Elsbergprimary authorall editionscalculated
Yarbrough, MarshallTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Piero Manzano hit the brakes as hard as he could and braced himself against the steering wheel with both arms as his Alfa hurtled towards the light-green car ahead.
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When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don't they? Surely it's a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere. A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don't believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn't just keep the lights on--it keeps us alive.… (more)

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