Review: “City of Mirrors” by Justin Cronin

CityThe City of Mirrors: A Novel (Book Three of The Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin. Ballantine Books. 624 pages.

Back when I was a kid, there was a well-known, very successful author named James Michener. He was known for novels centered around specific geographic locations, with perhaps his most famous being his book, Hawaii. He was also very, very thorough in his storytelling. The book on Hawaii is really about missionaries in the 1800s who come to what was then the Sandwich Islands to convert the heathen, but the book begins long before then. He tells how those natives came to Hawaii and goes back even further, back to when the islands themselves were formed. I mean, this guy is very thorough.

And while I was reading Justin Cronin’s book, I had flashes of Michener’s style. Cronin’s apocalyptic tale starts in the first book, The Passage with the story of a professor who returns from South America with a virus that promises eternal life. When the U.S. Army realizes that it actually results in something else, the decide to turn it into an experiment, and use 12 death-row inmates to test it. As you can imagine, what happens is far from good. The inmates and the virus get out, and a vampiric-like epidemic overwhelms North America, and eventually the world.

This isn’t your typical horror series however. It is very well thought out. Cronin is a multiple award-winning author, and it shows. The characterization is flawless, the storytelling is complex, and as I alluded to earlier, he is very thorough in telling his story. One of the things that caught me off guard with the first book was that just about the time you think the book is over, you look and realize you still have several hundred pages left. It is like life; when you think everything is resolved, something else, often highly significant, happens. The third book starts a hundred years after the virus hits the world, and ends a thousand years after the beginning of the story. And yes, it’s worth the wait.

Cronin has written other books, but I don’t think they are in this genre, and I am impressed with the quality of his writing. I put him at the same level as Cormac McCarthy. He’s that good. And so now that I have read his books written for general consumption, I will search out his other works.

I give him five out of five stars, and highly, highly recommend this series.