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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Blackout

by
Gianluca Morozzi


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Blackout



Title: Blackout
Author: Gianluca Morozzi
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 251 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Blackout - US
Blackout - UK
Blackout - Canada
Panik - Deutschland
  • Italian title: Blackout
  • Translated by Howard Curtis
  • Blackout was made into a movie in 2008, directed by Rigoberto Castañeda, and starring Amber Tamblyn

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Our Assessment:

B : gory psycho/-(not-so-)logical thriller, with just enough redeeming cynicism

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Telegraph . 17/8/2008 Susanna Yager


  From the Reviews:
  • "Morozzi gradually cranks up the tension until events in the lift reach a horrific climax, and then produces a stunning twist which turns a psychological suspense novel into a savage satirical commentary on Italian society." - Susanna Yager, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Much of Blackout takes place within the confines of an elevator, in which Aldo Ferro, Claudia, and Tomas find themselves stuck together when it breaks down on a hot August afternoon. Young Claudia is just tired, coming home from work and pining for her girlfriend, while teenage Tomas does have a rendezvous he's desperate to keep, but it is the presence of Ferro that is destined to spice things up: as is made clear in the introductory opening chapter, describing what Ferro has been up to before he gets on that lift, he is a bona fide psychopath -- a psychopath of the absolute highest (lowest ?) order.
       Ferro has some business he needs to finish with, too, but he also has to be a bit careful. He can't afford to have anyone nosing around in his apartment, for example, or become otherwise suspicious of him, lest his very messy, ugly hobby be discovered. Unfortunately, his self-control only goes so far. And unfortunately in his rush he brought along his jack knife .....
       The novel begins with the characters' outside lives, and what brings them together in the lobby and then the elevator (as each also considers taking the stairs, though none of them do). It's only on page 75 that the elevator actually stops, between the eleventh and twelfth floors; only then do: "three rational people suddenly become mere wasps in an upturned glass".
       The comparison to caged animals recurs in the novel, as, for example, Claudia recalls her childhood, when she and her brother would capture lizards in a jar -- three, "the perfect number for their experiments" -- and then observe them:

     They were always hoping to see the lizards eat one another. It never happened.
       Ferro may be a well-liked bon vivant and family man, but the readers are privy to his concealed, dark other side -- and, as the three remain trapped in the elevator, his thoughts -- and understand that he is capable of anything. The situation is inhibiting -- he likes to be in control (and to work in secret), and here he's not (and faces the elevator doors opening at any moment) -- but it's hard not to be led to believe that the point will come where he's just got to snap.
       Morozzi takes us in and out of the elevator, padding the characters' backstories, but Ferro's overwhelms the other two. Claudia and Tomas are rounded-out a bit, presumably meant to become sympathetic characters -- and one does feel for Tomas as he worries about having missed his rendezvous, and the consequences of that -- but after a while one just wonders exactly what form the surely inevitable mayhem will finally take.
       Ferro is a cruel sadist, and several scenes describe what he does with his victims. It is about as gory as anything one could imagine (really: this is nothing for weak stomachs), though at least Morozzi shows some restraint in not going into too great detail (i.e. you find the equivalent of descriptions of the chainsaw revving up and then the final carnage, but not a precise account of the scraps of flesh and splintering bone flying off as the chain slowly whirrs through the body-parts ...). In a nice touch Ferro also likes to surprise his victims with what he's done to them: working under at least partial anesthesia, they remain unaware (at least for a while) of what has happened to them -- and that reveal, that look in the mirror, makes for one hell of a surprise.
       Ferro also videotapes his misdeeds, and has amassed quite the little snuff-film library -- and voyeuristic obsession and fascination (think Claudia and her lizards) are a major part of the novel. Obviously the reader has been put exactly in this position: reading this book is like watching a video of these caged animals .....
       It almost doesn't matter exactly what happens in the elevator: it's all just building up to what surely will be a violent confrontation. Still, Morozzi presents it well enough, from the initial reactions as they try to figure out what might have happened and how they will be rescued through the escalating hostility to the final conflict.
       They note that there are some odd things about their situation: the alarm bell doesn't seem to work, their cell phones all don't get any reception, there's no escape hatch in the elevator, and the doors don't seem to function like they should given the circumstances. But they have no idea what is going on outside, and there's little use in speculating: they're just stuck -- with each other. Still, as Ferro observes, it's clear: "This isn't a normal blackout."
       There is, of course, more to it, and though the whole thing (beginning with Ferro's hobby) is hardly believable, Morozzi's almost gleeful cynicism -- which comes to full bloom in his denouement -- is what makes the novel.
       Sure:
     To be honest, there were so many holes in this version of events, you could have driven a truck through it. But weren't the Italians the people who had made the bosses of private television millionaires ? Hadn't the Italians swallowed fifty years of the most complete bullshit, dubious official explanations for how an aeroplane just happened to blow up in mid-air off the coast of Italy, or how an anti-globalization demonstrator just happened to be hit by a stray bullet, things like that ?
       There are quite a few flaws to Blackout, but it achieves most of what it sets out to do. Decent suspense-horror for most of the way, it offers a satisfying (if, like most of the rest of the book, not ideally presented) turn of events -- and in its view of life as spectator-sport is cynical and cold enough to ultimately redeem (or at least excuse) many of its weaknesses.

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Links:

Blackout: Reviews: Blackout - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Gianluca Morozzi was born in 1971.

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© 2008 the complete review

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