Taken by the stream

Marc Elsberg: Blackout. Tomorrow Will Be Too Late Penguin Books, UK

Blackout. Tomorrow Will Be Too Late
Forfatter: Marc Elsberg
Forlag: Penguin Books (UK)
Marc Elsberg's terrifying bestseller about how electricity terrorism can steer a society is now available in English.


You sit unsuspecting in your car on a cold winter's night, you look forward to an evening while at home with fireplace and wine. But suddenly everything is chaos. The streetlights strike. You are hit from multiple angles. Injured and traumatized you will come to the hospital, which is being filled by more and more traffic injuries. Slowly the messages tick in. Large areas across Europe have been hit by power outages. Nothing works. The transport sector is paralyzed, houses become cold, food rots, stores are emptied, credit cards become useless, water supply ceases and gas stations lose power to the pumps. You are an IT specialist trying to track down the cause of the problem, but the batteries run out and electronic communication is turned off.

The power outage persists. And this is just the beginning.

Thriving brutality. I rush out to the bathroom, press the light switch – and breathe a sigh of relief as it gets bright in the room. Elsberg describes the disaster so credibly, and with such professional accuracy, that he turns the fiction into a terror scenario with soaring this-can-really-happen factor. That is why critics have also called the book a "science thriller".

The blackout lasts for two weeks due to malicious hackers manipulating software into "intelligent" power meters and power plants. It triggers a nuclear accident. People in hospitals die, as technical equipment and personnel lapse. Brutality and save-the-can-mentality explode. We're back in the Middle Ages. Governments and all other authorities in society are powerless, as everything from emergency power to transport means is put out of play after a few days. On top of that, the suspicion of who's behind the whole stick in the wheels sticks for the only one who is actually on the right track. This is high-tech terrorism targeting the civilized, open society – it is hardly more politically relevant.

With the international bestsellers Blackout, ZERO og Helix Elsberg has established himself as an expert in scientific crime with a message. When Blackout came to Germany in 2012, he became a frequent guest in the media. Where on the danger scale should one place his scenario? Questions asked about how secure the winter power supply really was showed how serious Elsberg's fiction was. The president of Germany's power grid had to reassure the people. He assured that in the event of a power outage there were crisis teams and that the power plants' software program could not be attacked from outside. Elsberg recalled the computer virus Stuxnet, which attacked nuclear power stations in Iran. He added that through the development of the modern, "smart" power grid, we are dealing with the same type of security risk as credit card companies – and that the FBI has actually issued warnings that smart power meters can be manipulated from outside.

Death over the West. Elsberg's narrative style is, the complicated theme taken into consideration, reader-friendly and gives a breathless effect. The language is simple and direct. The author has focused on a clear structure with titled sections. We are part of the countdown, and there is hardly any doubt as to where and with whom we are. In relatively short sequences, he moves from place to place, from person to person. The disaster inexorably accelerates over 438 pages.

Only passengers with the anonymous heading "Command Center" are completely without geographical or personal information. This is the place from which the terrorists control the events, without ever making themselves known physically. But the intention is clear: “[This is] unlike previous blackouts, where the consequence was a jump in birth rates nine months later. This will leave the so-called Western civilization desolate. Only then can a new story be written. "

Always have food for a longer period in the house and the gas tank full, and think about where you want to go in an emergency.

Before the final battle, the terrorist announces more of his credo: "You have no idea what war is. In Latin America, the United States and Europe used their puppet regimes to carry out brutal campaigns, with hundreds of thousands of victims. Later came the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – established nations' instruments in the process of stifling competition from so-called developing countries. Similar things happened in the Arab countries […] Nothing has changed, not even with the sixty-eight. They protested, formed alternative housing associations, threw stones – and today? They are bank directors, doctors, lawyers, industry lobbyists – anything to pay for their homes. […] Young people today are as conservative, apolitical and pathetic as their grandparents. We are destroying the environment more than ever. Do I need to list more things? ” No, we understand where it carries – and where Elsberg wants: Real weaknesses in our democratic, advanced societies, associated with political fanaticism, personal narcissism and technical expertise are an explosive mix.

Still – Elsberg cannot be stuck with ideology. It's about solving the problems, surviving – and ending the enemy. The action moves fast, despite an overwhelming amount of technical and administrative information, on the verge of case prose. And we have to do with a suitably incorrect and charming, particularly enduring hero. As a skilled hacker, Italian manzano has also moved outside the law on a couple of occasions. Therefore, he is used as a helper, until he is himself chased as a suspect. But Manzano is ultimately the one who understands most of what's going on, and consequently the one who can best solve the herd.

knowledge Narkomani. To fight high-techTerrorism is a modern discipline that has few guidelines. There were also challenges for the author, who says in an interview with Die Zeit Online that the book became more difficult to write as the drama developed. “From halfway into the action, it became more and more challenging; it lacks scenarios, theories and models for such long-lasting blackouts. Moreover, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get the figures out of disaster situations. I had phases during my work where I swore that in the future I should only write love novels. ” This intention totally spoke to the next books. ZERO is another scientific thriller, where online activism is themed further: "They know who you are, where you are – and what you are going to do." Her latest book, Helix, was about gene manipulation – "They Will Replace Us" – and came out last fall.

Marc Elsberg describes himself as a "knowledge junkie", which is easy to believe. But Blackout is more than a fabulous researched crime novel. It is a warning – and an encouragement. In today's jungle of energy choices, consumers have more and more opportunities for control. And despite all his meticulous research to substantiate the disaster scenario, the author has confidence in the system – especially if everyone is preparing for the worst: always have food for a long time in the house and the gas tank full, and think about where you want to go in an emergency. Well, at least that's what the author himself started with after gathering all the facts.

Author became Elsberg after studying economics and industrial design, while working in advertising. There he quickly became angry that reality was being manipulated – and switched to journalism. The ambitions grew. He wanted to print his own ideas, write books he never found himself.

Blackout began with an electric toothbrush. Even such an insensitive product has ingredients from all over the world. The question of what happens when a link in a production chain lapses led to the major theme of critical infrastructures. There were two main topics: communication and energy. Thus, only the necessary professional knowledge was left, and to be able to write this knowledge into an exciting story.

Elsberg has achieved this: Blackout has been translated into 15 languages ​​and has sold over a million copies. It is to be hoped that Norway will not be the last country on the planet that finds it too good to translate Elsberg's books. Meanwhile, the English edition is available.

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