The City of Mirrors

By Justin Cronin

city_of_mirrorsI wasn’t going to review this book because it is the third in a trilogy in which I’ve already discussed the first two. However, the third book pissed me off so much that I had to rant. I am also about to spoil the hell of this book, starting right now, though I’ll throw a page break in before the more specific spoilers.

The City of Mirrors has a problem, and that problem is Timothy Fanning. The character Fanning is also known as “Zero,” as in Patient Zero, the original vampire. He is the main villain of the whole series, having orchestrated the spread of the vampire virus purposefully, though he has stayed mostly behind the scenes in the first two books.

Unfortunately, in the third book we get a much more in-depth look, via a 100-PAGE MONOLOGUE in which he gives his entire history, starting almost from birth, and it is just the most undiluted example of white male entitlement that I think I have ever read. I really wanted to believe that this was on purpose, to make a commentary on how dangerous this kind of unacknowledged privilege can be, but I had increasing suspicions that Cronin intended it to create a more complex villain with a sympathetic backstory. The monologue itself was insufferable, but the recipient of it, a previously strong woman, appears to receive it with sympathy and understanding.

Here’s where I’m about the spoil the hell of this book, by sharing a breakdown of his backstory.  Continue reading

The Passage

By Justin Cronin

The_PassageI’ve returned to apocalypses, this time with vampires! The Passage is basically the opposite of On the Beach; still very good but also very stressful. This apocalypse is caused by a virus that turns people into what the survivors call vampires, but also have some elements of zombies to them. The infected have an insatiable hunger and are very, very fast and strong, reminding me a great deal of the movie “28 Days Later,” which I also loved.

Author Justin Cronin gives this premise an amazingly wide scope, addressing the inner lives of the surviving humans, the viral-infected “vampires,” and the ineffable plan of the Old Testament God over almost a century of time. He is able to do all this because this book is over 700 pages, which I didn’t realize until I saw the long line of dots on my kindle. I was initially extremely daunted, but it starts with three very different storylines, told from multiple points of view, so it almost felt like reading three different books, thus breaking it up a bit. I was almost immediately hooked, but while I found it really hard to put down when reading, I also found myself resisting picking it up again, too, because it was just so emotionally devastating.

The thing is, both good and bad things happen to the characters, but the good things tend to be basic survival, like they were sure they were going to die and then they didn’t, while the bad things are horrible, heart-wrenching things done by garbage people in a garbage world. It wouldn’t be so rough if the author wasn’t so good at writing realistic characters. The first chapter was the most difficult for me, though: such a grim look at humanity that I felt that the vampires would be a relief. (They weren’t.)

It was both a relief and a bit of a shock to the system when I finally finished it, but it turns out The Passage is just the first in a trilogy. I wasn’t sure my heart could stand it, so I took a break for a week to read my previously reviewed Mycroft Holmes, and then jumped right back in with the second book, The Twelve.

The_TwelveThings…don’t go well in The Twelve. Even though there is a third book due next spring, I wasn’t convinced that anyone was going to survive this one. While some do, humanity itself has gotten even worse, so this book has less of the small hopeful details of the previous book, while it ups the game on the gritty ugliness.

Spoiler/trigger warning: Continue reading