Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: THE CITY OF MIRRORS, by Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Published 2016 by Random House. Literary Fiction, Science Fiction.

So, I finally ate the whole thing. Late Friday night I finished the last few pages of The City of Mirrors and with it Justin Cronin's Passage trilogy comes to a close. Wow.

To catch you up, humankind has been laid waste by a deadly virus that originated in the jungles of South America and came to the United States as an experiment by a Harvard scientist working for the US government. Timothy Fanning is Patient Zero, the first infected in the jungle and the leader of the general contagion. The government scientists infect twelve men on death row and a little girl named Amy in furtherance of a project which hopes to produce a race of supersoldiers but instead creates a race of monsters ("virals" or infected persons) from ordinary people. In The Passage (volume 1) and The Twelve (#2) we see the origin of the virus and its devastating, immediate effects, and then move forward and see how humanity is faring about 100 years in the future. In short, the news isn't all that great.

All three books concern a core group of survivors- Peter, Alicia, Michael, Sara, Hollis, Theo, Mausami and Amy- and the original 13 infected men. Cronin introduces new characters along the way too as people have children, or move, or supporting characters from one section move to the center of the stage elsewhere. The City of Mirrors is long like the first two, and mostly weighted towards action with sizable chunks of exposition and backstory. In particular we learn about Timothy Fanning in great detail through an extended soliloquy near the beginning of The City and get to know a new character that Cronin introduces at the very end.

Plot-wise, The City of Mirrors recounts the end of the viral period and the beginning of a new world. There are several endings as the characters branch off to different destinies, and then there is a final ending, poetic and emotional, that loops us right back to the beginning. Have your tissues ready.

Did I like it? Yes. Cronin does a masterful job tying up the loose ends and giving his characters appropriate and satisfying endings. There was a little bit of bloat and I will admit to some skimming when it came to the backstories, especially the final bit when the book was about to end. At that point I was impatient for the plot to move and wasn't interested in the life story of someone who I was going to stop reading about in ten pages. But never let it be said that Cronin doesn't create richly drawn characters; that's what kept me reading, these people I'd come to care about so much.

If you are new to the Passage trilogy you should start with book one, The Passage, because these books depend on being read together and that's the best one anyway. But once you read The Passage be ready to be hooked. And when you get to The City of Mirrors you'll be too busy crying to worry about anything else. If you've already read the first two you will want to read this no matter what I say, and you should.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

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