One of my favorite things to do in the world is to settle in with a great big, thick book. When I used to shop for books at bookstores randomly (I still shop for books, but I’m much more selective as to what goes in my bookshelf. Like my dogs, I like to give homeless, abandoned books in good shape a home. I buy most of my books in e-book form, to save space and money. But I’ve discussed this , and will probably be another post here soon), I usually chose the one with the most heft. Of course it had to be the right book, but, if it came down to having to choose between two books, I always went for thick and heavy.
The worst and the best feeling when you finish a big book (or any book, for that matter) is realizing it’s meant to be part of something bigger. A ‘series’ of books. A trilogy.
And then you realize that the other books have not been released. And you have to wait. Sometimes years. Meaning you forget the details in the first two, so you have to go back and re-read them. Or, the worst, when the final book is a huge and utter disappointment.
But there are times the final book is worth the wait, fulfilling all expectations. Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy (although the last one isn’t out until June).
And Justin Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy.
If there is a more perfect trilogy than Cronin’s , I haven’t read it.
It is the perfection of Stephen King’s (yes, I LOVE Stephen King) The Stand combined with Robert R. McCammon’s Swan Song (both great big fat books written before dystopia was a thing). If you haven’t read either of these books AND you like post-apocalyptic or dystopian, you need pick these two up.
Justin Cronin released The Passage, the first book in the trilogy, in 2010. It was lovely, and long, and all about the ending of the world brought about by shadowy government forces hoping to create perfect soldiers (with the help of a virus that makes them into ultra creepy vampires). As their experiment with 12 death row inmates goes horribly bad, the hope of the world lies in one orphaned six year-old, Amy, the last to be infected with the original virus. As the world falls apart, readers are held in thrall as Amy lives quietly with her protector Brad Wolgast, an FBI agent-turned protector. As decades pass, Amy is drawn out, searching and finding a colony of survivors that will become her family of sorts.
The second book, The Twelve (released in 2012), reels the reader into the future of this post-virus world, introducing the true power of the original 12 infected, those evil death row inmates turned immortal killers. Well, 11 of them are evil. As the world changes, Amy and her band of survivors must find others and make a choice as to how to save the world.
It took forever, but the third book finally released on May 24th, 2016 (two days ago).
And it was worth the wait. I was pretty much sure I was doomed to an anticlimactic finish. Thank GOODNESS I was wrong.
In The City of Mirrors, Cronin finishes the trilogy. Leaving nothing out of his final installment, Cronin even gives the reader a complete history of Zero, the first infected (not part of the twelve), inserting almost a novel within the novel in the telling of his history. Cronin made me almost like Zero, before revealing what a broken heart can become after centuries.
As the band of survivors divides and then comes back together, we learn that forgetting the lessons of the past can be deadly.
Cronin’s trilogy is the perfect blend of horrific, apocalyptic, mystical, and hopeful. Readers are wined and dined with a full range of emotions; terror to tenderness, dread to hope, despair to faith. Showing us humans in all shapes and sizes, proving that monsters are born of monstrous imaginations, but also demonstrating that the best answers to the worst atrocities are hope and love.
But, as perfect as the trilogy is, the best part is the ending. Cronin ends it all definitively, providing readers with a resolution that is beautiful and hopeful and fulfilling. I finished it with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.
To Justin Cronin I say thank you. That was wonderful.
Five stars. Actually, five stars plus five more.