Thursday, July 05, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3) by Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors is the third and final book in Justin Cronin's epic version of an apocalyptic, vampire/zombie horror story which started in The Passage and continued in The Twelve. In my opinion, this trilogy was different from most, where typically the first entry is amazing but the story is not completed so requires further development, which occurs in a second entry, which while engaging almost always never fully recaptures the excitement and excellence of the first entry and then (in the best examples) concludes in a breathless, superlative third and final entry which wraps up all the loose ends not tied up in the first two entries. By contrast, (in my humble opinion) the best book in The Passage trilogy is the second entry, although I would say that there is not a large difference in quality between the three books, but The Twelve was the most effective entry in the trilogy for me.

As the last book in a trilogy which is about the collapse of human civilization and the "reality" of a zombie apocalypse, The City of Mirrors has a lot to do and does it well. The events of the second and third books are set well after the initial collapse of civilization, with a decimated human population trying to cobble together some semblance of society despite the existence of supernatural creatures substantially more powerful and lethal than humans. In the third book we get the complete backstory of the individual responsible for the entire zombie/vampire apocalypse: Tim Fanning a.k.a. Zero, the progenitor of the original Twelve who were the primary nemeses (and slaughterers) of humankind in the first two books. The third book goes back to pre-apocalyptic days and follows Fanning through his entire college career until the events which lead to the apocalypse depicted in The Passage. It's definitely interesting to get another perspective on how The Catastrophe came to pass but ultimately Fanning is not as compelling a character (to me) as other members of the dramatis personae we are introduced to in The Twelve.

Other characters who have been with us since the first book (Peter, Amy, Alicia, Michael, Sara, Hollis) appear in The City of Mirrors and because we have spent so much time with them my interest in their fates was extremely high. It's not really a spoiler in a book with 99% of humanity being wiped out to reveal that not all of our named characters survive. But I was okay with that, and a strong feature of the book is the suspense of not knowing who will make it to the end, and to learn/observe how humans who act/look/think/feel like the reader respond to extraordinary events and circumstances. In my opinion, that's the key reason why apocalyptic fiction is compelling (and is the main reason why I consume it).

One of the things which caused me to mark down both of the first entries in the trilogy was the author's habit of including (long, it appeared to me) asides of supernatural/lyrical scenes which were either reveries/dreams/fantasies of the particular character or simply fantastical interludes. I'm not even sure how to interpret them; generally I viewed them as chaff. Since I read the entire trilogy on Kindle (borrowed eBooks from the library!) I almost always just sped through these sections until the story (i.e. events and circumstances occurring to our named characters) resumed. The key reason why The City of Mirrors is not the best in the series for me (despite the quite amazing stories of survival and slaughter depicted) is that the frequency (and length) of these supernatural asides increased to the level of annoyance and distraction.

However, overall I am very glad I read the entire series. The wisdom of crowds is true: 200,000 readers and raters on Goodreads were not wrong to give each entry in The Passage trilogy (The Passage: 4.0,155K; The Twelve : 4.0,74K; The City of Mirrors: 4.2, 33K) an average score above 4.0, which is quite extraordinary. If you're a reader who likes speculative fiction (i.e. you are willing to suspend disbelief about the reality of depicted events in a story) and you enjoy suspense and human drama then you will probably enjoy The Passage trilogy at least as much as I did, which was quite a lot. Don't let the violent, bloodthirsty superhuman vampires keep you away!

Rating: 4 stars.

Title: The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3).
Justin Cronin.
Paperback: 602 pages.
 Ballantine Books.
Date Published: May 24, 2016.
Date Read: June 22, 2018.

★★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.5/4.0).


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