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  • Reviews for Blackout by Gianluca Morozzi
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Reviews for Blackout by Gianluca Morozzi
'Anyone suffering from claustrophobia is likely to find Blackout by Gianluca Morozzi a disturbing read. Three people get into a lift in a building on the outskirts of Bologna. Sixteen-year-old Tomas is about to elope with his girlfriend, who will be waiting for him at the railway station; Claudia is longing to get out of the skimpy uniform she has to wear in her job as a waitress in a sleazy bar; and Aldo, a demented serial killer, is on his way to another torture session with his current victim.
When the lift suddenly stops between floors they are condemned to hours of imprisonment in the tiny, almost airless space. 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.' - Sunday Telegraph
'In Morozzi's overly clever psychothriller, three people get trapped in an elevator in Bologna, Italy-Claudia, a student moonlighting as an exotic dancer; Tomas, a teenager planning to rendezvous with his girlfriend in Amsterdam and elope; and Aldo Ferro, who looks like Elvis and just happens to be a serial killer. When chance brings them together, stuck between floors in a deserted building on a summer weekend, they first try to survive. But as the temperature rises and tempers snap, all three react to the stress in ways true to their nature. Clearly influenced by Hollywood movies and such classic Japanese manga as Battle Royale, the story offers plenty of suspense and well-drawn characters. Unfortunately, some unnecessary sadism and a contrived closing twist will leave some readers feeling less than satisfied.' - Publishers Weekly
'Another translated treat from Bitter Lemon Press, Gianluca Morozzi's BLACK OUT plays upon the situation of being trapped in an enclosed space for a long period of time - particularly, three characters trapped in an elevator seemingly stuck between floors. It all takes place during a holiday weekend, so no one is around to help them. If that was not enough to add to the stress, one of the three is a serial killer.
Aldo Ferro is our killer, who slowly tortures his victims in a brutal way, gaining ideas from the comic book PREACHER. After Aldo has skinned a poor boy's face, he decides to put it back on with a nail. Aldo is part of the faithful elevator trip because he's headed to his secret apartment, where he keeps the movies he makes with his victims.
Claudia is a waitress at a local bar and hates everything about it, working there just to pay for her tuition. She's disgusted with how she is treated by her boss, a total pig and leech who spies on the women when they change and makes them dress in some hooker-like outfit while on the clock. While returning home in the oppressive heat ,she reflects about her girlfriend, who is off filming a movie somewhere. She just wants to ride the bus home and avoid any men in the area, who she feels are all after her.
Making this trio complete is a teen named Tomas, a young music fan who likes to start flame wars on some low-rent Pearl Jam message board, until he strikes up a relationship with a member named Bee Girl. After weeks of exchanging messages, they meet at a Pearl Jam cover band show, and it's love at first sight. Her name is Francesca and they plan on running off together to Europe. Tomas gets on that elevator to grab what he needs from his home, with a train ticket in his back pocket, all ready to go.
This is when the fun starts for these three. Between the 11th and 12th floors, the elevator makes its final stop for the day. What adds to the tension is that none of their cell phones get a signal, in addition to the initial shock of the stop adding to the nervousness of everyone. When it becomes clear the alarm is not signaling, they really start to worry, with the passage of every minute adding to the pressure.
Aldo starts talking about theories, like maybe it's just a local blackout or, worse, a terrorist attack. But that is nothing compared to what Morozzi has written for them. His style makes it so claustrophobic for the readers, knowing what we know and only hoping for the best to come out of it all. There is a boiling point within that elevator, when nothing will be the same for one of the three.
Then Morozzi takes it one step further with the reveal of the reason for the breakdown and its aftermath. For those searching for a top-notch page-turner, BLACK OUT delivers. This is a British translation, so some terms are of the UK variety, but only a little. Bitter Lemon should be congratulated again for another fine addition to its crime line.' - Bookgasm.com
'I you will pardon a short digression into the language of Poststructuralist and Marxist literary theory of the 1980s, Gianluca Morozzi's novel Blackout (recently translated by Howard Curtis and published by Bitter Lemon Press) is "overdetermined," in the sense that rather than a single, straightforward series of related incidents there are a large number of influences underlying a single event. So little of what's actually going on in the story is revealed (while so much is apparently being revealed) that I could not until the very end understand why the story has been made into a "Major Film" as the cover of the paperback announces. Rest assured, all will become clear. It's actually difficult to say much about the plot without revealing too much (though the reader will figure it out a few pages before the ultimate revelation, as the author may well have intended). Three unrelated people converge on an elevator in a high rise in the deserted city of Bologna on the weekend of the August Bank Holiday. We know from Aldo Ferro, is a sadistic serial killer as well as a bar owner and a self-styled ladies' man. We learn a bit less about the other two at first, Claudia (a cocktail waitress whose girlfriend is out of town making a movie) and Tomas (a boy who is about to run away with the girl he met on-line). Their interactions once stuck in the suspended box are tense and not totally predictable (though also not startlingly original) for the central part of the narrative: panic, heat, thirst, personality clashes, despair. There are a few interludes developing further the "back stories" of the characters and the plot and also delaying the resolution of the tension in the elevator, and adding complications to a narrative that starts out as a serial killer thriller, becomes a psychological thriller, adds in a ghost story and a star-crossed lovers plot, and then ties it all together with a completely different plot that I'm not going to reveal here. As I said, overdetermined, and I don't mean that as a put-down--Morozzi's novel ultimately adds up to more than the sum of its parts. What seems for a while like a disappointing though occasionally lively and funny novel of one sort turns into a lively and entertaining satire of itself and of popular culture generally. While there's at least almost enough of the several thriller and sadist plots to satisfy lovers of those genres, the unexpected shift in the plot takes it all to another level. Just as the reader gets over the excitement of being sucked into the sudden and rapid resolution of the stuck-with-a-serial-killer-in-an-elevator story, there's a brief lull and, as Monty Python used to say, "now for something completely different." Overall, Blackout is very enjoyable. I found the two sides of Aldo's personality a bit difficult to reconcile (he's a bon vivant on the one hand and a sadist on the other--aren't serial killers supposed to be moody loners? But maybe that's only on TV shows: remember that Bundy was a charmer and the BTK killer turned out to be a popular church elder, and then there was perhaps the most vicious of all, Gacy the clown). If Tomas and Claudia seem a bit less vivid, they're supposed to be plain, ordinary folks in an extraordinary situation. And Claudia in particular turns out to have depths beyond a mere screaming-girl-victim from a slasher film (though slasher films are also evoked here). All in all, a much better story than I expected even halfway through the book--so stick with it. I don't know about that "Major Film," though--it seems to be removed from Italy and who knows what other changes will be made before it's out there in the movie theaters...' - International Noir Fiction
'This latest Italian import will remind fans of Giorgio Faletti's I Kill (2008), though it's considerably bloodier. The novel opens with Aldo Ferro, Elvis impersonator, successful businessman, torturer, and serial killer, working on his latest victim. Returning to his private bachelor apartment for more supplies, late in the afternoon on one of the hottest Bank Holidays ever seen in Bologna, Ferro gets into an elevator with Claudia, a young waitress returning from work, and Tomas, a teenage boy about to run away to Amsterdam with his girlfriend. Halfway up, the elevator stops. No one's cell phone has any service, and the emergency call box fails to work. Throughout this fast-moving, compulsively readable, and horrifying story, narration alternates between Aldo, Claudia, and Tomas as they struggle to escape, gradually descending into despair and even madness as the hours tick by. The tiny cast accentuates Morozzi's skill at deep and detailed characterization, and he never once fails in pace or plot. The twist at the very end will leave readers questioning the very underpinnings of our world. A superb one-sitting read.' - Booklist
'Claudia is hurrying home from a nightmare day at work as a waitress, desperate to get out of the skimpy uniform which makes her look like a porn star. Teenager Tomas is dropping off his beloved Vespa, collecting some clothes and heading off to meet his girlfriend and elope. Creepy Aldo, with his Elvis obsession and flick knife, is anxious to get to his apartment filled with guilty secrets. Everyone else seems to have left the city for the beaches, so it's something of a coincidence that all three get in the same lift. And then it breaks down between floors. They are trapped, they can't get a mobile phone signal, no one can hear them shouting. And one of them is a serial killer. Blackout (£8.99, Bitter Lemon) is a spine-tingling and claustrophobic thriller from Gianluca Morozzi. And it's not for the squeamish. It begins with Aldo - a sadist who makes Reservoir Dogs' Mr Blond look like a choirboy - torturing a young man in unspeakably horrific ways. That Morozzi could think up such a gruesome mutilation makes one question his sanity. Leaving his victim still alive and tied to a chair ready for another session later, he goes to the block where he keeps a bachelor pad, only to get stuck in the lift.As the hours pass and hopes of rescue fade, his fragile self-control wavers. Will he flip and kill Tomas and Claudia? Or worse? The characters are well drawn and the tension is wound tight. It could easily be made into a play and,apparently, has been made into a US film by director Rigoberto Castaneda.' - Newham Recorder
'This dark, psychological thriller is already a bestseller in Italy and a commercial success in Germany. It has been adapted as a US film starring Amber Tamblyn and Aiden Gillan, filmed by Mexican director Rigoberto Castaneda with the screen play written by the author and Ed Dougherty. Set in Bologna in August, in unbearable heat and an empty city, three unlikely people find themselves trapped in a deserted lift over a holiday weekend. The players are Claudia, a waitress on her way back from work, desperate to get out of the skimpy uniform she loathes, Tomas a young man on his way to eloping with his girlfriend and Aldo, sleazy barman, unfaithful husband, errant father and serial killer with a penchant for making snuff movies. Well written, expertly translated by Howard Curtis, and not short on graphic description, the reader will be surprised at the ending and not a little disturbed at the possibilities that this work of fiction leaves in the mind. Don't even start this book if you are of a nervous disposition, I would imagine that the film might make 'Psycho' seem quite mild.' - reFresh

'It's an intriguing premise: three strangers are trapped in a lift-and one of them is a serial killer. There's Aldo, husband, father and Elvis Presley lookalike, with a sideline in murder; Vespa-riding Tomas, who is about to elope to Amsterdam with his girlfriend; and Claudia, a young student anxious to get home after her shift as a waitress. They cram into a lift one sweltering afternoon in Bologna, only for the lift to break down in the middle of their twenty-storey apartment block. For the next twelve hours, the tension and the tension rise, until the inevitable outbreak of violence. With such a restricted cast and location, Morozzi does well to prolong the drama, fleshing out the characters with flashbacks and interior monologue. The translation from the Italian is sometimes clunky, but you'll be turning the pages to find out what happens.'

- Western Daily Press
'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' back stories, 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 airplane 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.' - Complete-review.com
'A novel that reflects a deranged Italian society, a nation devoid of identity, infected by the dreams and nightmares of US subculture.' - Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno
'A chilling and claustrophobic thriller with an unpredictable ending. Morozzi joins the best in the genre.' - LINUS
'You'd think this is too simple a set-up to sustain a full-length book, but Morozzi manages it. Three people are trapped in a lift in a run-down block of flats in Bologna on August Bank Holiday weekend - and one of the three is a particularly vicious serial killer! The other two are an attractive gay waitress in her sexy work kit, and a timid young man hoping to run away that very night with his girlfriend. The lift stops, an emergency light comes on, and none of their phones can get a signal. Outside there is no sound. It's as if they're the only people left in the city. Hours go by. How long can they hold out? How long before the increasingly crazy killer cracks? This is a great page-turner, and it's no surprise it's now a film, but you're bound to wonder as the tension mounts whether the ending will pay off. Well, yes it does. Big time. On the one hand it's the ending you expect but on the other hand comes a totally unexpected and satisfying twist. You put the book down, well pleased, and realise you've been reading a fine suspense tale that is also a biting indictment of contemporary society. Pretty damn good for a page-turner.' - Crime Time
'Everyone who can is escaping the summer heat of Bologna, Italy for the long August Bank Holiday weekend. Three people ride an elevator in a high rise apartment building in a city increasingly turning into a stone quarry as it empties of people. However, the elevator gets stuck trapping the trio inside between the eleventh and twelfth floor. In a somber greenish light that makes the BLACKOUT seem even eerier, the alarm fails and so does their mobiles. The two males struggle, but manage to open the door only to find a solid wall blocking the opening.
There is no place to go except to wait for help or the elevator to suddenly work. Claudia works as an exotic dancer to pay her bills while going to school. Teenage Tomas is meeting his girlfriend Francesca in Amsterdam; as they have planned to elope. Aldo owns a club, believes music died when Elvis died, and finds passion as a serial killer. As the elevator's heat rises to unbearable levels and increasingly hope for help coming soon diminishes to zero, the trapped threesome begin lose it as tempers ignite and sadistic interchanges occur. Each of the trapped is a unique character with flaws that make them seen like real people spending unbearably heated time stuck in closed environs with no hope for immediate rescue. The suspense grows as each becomes testier and angrier. Although an inane coda feels out of place and unnecessary, fans will enjoy this tense psychological suspense of three individuals sharing a horrific experience.' - MBR Bookwatch
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  • BlackoutGianluca Morozzi