Book Review: The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

20 Jul

The City of Mirrors is the final volume in The Passage Trilogy, which details the outbreak of vampirism virus in modern day America and the struggle for survival for the few remaining humans about a hundred years later. All three volumes switches vantage points in time between the modern and the post-apocalyptic eras. They are also all written with a passionate eye for detail and human nature by the virtuoso writer Justin Cronin. My feeling upon finishing this amazing series is that it belongs in the handful of truly original and landscape changing works of vampirism that I have ever read. My personal list goes as such:

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin

To try to sum up the effect this trilogy had on me is very difficult. Justin Cronin writes beautifully, his descriptions heighten the hardships and horrors that come from living through and beyond the apocalypse. His characters are fully human and fully realized, from the patient zero (the leading baddie) to the provincial members of the surviving human walled cities. I would argue that this work stands tall amongst any writing today as a work of literature. The allegories and social commentaries throughout are varied and profound. At times I am reminded of Watership Down, other times I think of The Stand. If you haven’t read the first volume, start there, and frankly, I’m jealous. I am sure this is a work that should I ever need something to read again, I would do so gladly.

In this volume, the survivors are living in Kerrville Texas and beginning to spread out into the “frontier” resettling the surrounding land, believing that the dracs and dopeys have all been destroyed at the end of the previous volume. We get to see the young people that survived the harrowing journey to get there in the first volume as middle-aged leaders of the remnants of humanity. Then, when Alicia, having succumbed more and more to the virus inside her, ventures to the ruins of New York City she meets Patient Zero, Tim Fanning, who tells Alicia (and the reader) his origins as an alienated middle class kid from Ohio who enters the world of privilege as a biochemistry student at Harvard.

Admittedly, there is a slow build up in this final novel, and it might not be for every reader, except that anyone who has read through the first two volumes will stick around to see how each detail is woven into the greater whole. Tim’s experiences in college reminded me of many of the literary works I had to read as an English Major in College. We get to see the characters warts and all, as well as fully understand what brought about this horrible pandemic.

After this, Fanning admits that all the virals are not gone and he isn’t through taking out his frustrated pain on the scanty remnants of humanity. The citizens of Kerrville must rally to defend themselves and avoid division as some characters are following a psychic vision and preparing an ark in which to save the hopes of humanity’s future. Finally, four stalwart heroes led by the enigmatic Amy, must travel to do battle with Fanning in the Big Apple.

I loved reading this series and was only annoyed once. Cronin is fair and just in showing all sides of his characters, but in the end, I feel that he lets the despicable Fanning off too easy, but that did not change my overall love for this work.

5 out of 5 stars.

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