Monday, July 18, 2016

The City of Mirrors - Justin Cronin

It was a long break between posts, but this was a long book! At 598 pages, The City of Mirrors is definitely not for the casual reader (and neither are the first two books of this trilogy). There was also a nice long vacation in Marquette and Northport in there, not to mention my return to technical writing, so I've been a bit distracted. (The technical writing is not nearly as fun as this, of course, but someone actually pays me for it.) It took a full two months for me to read the book, but read it I did.

Truth be told, I'm not even sure how to review a book that so completely captivated me. I haven't fully detached myself from that world yet to be able to logically assess the book's strengths and weaknesses, nor am I in any hurry to do so. The more I read, the more I was struck by the thought that words are the closest thing we have to magic in our modern world. They transmit ideas. They give meaning to every gesture we make. They let us share every feeling we experience within ourselves. They build upon themselves to create histories, histories we can reference as we forge new paths in life. Without this shared foundation, it would be impossible to understand one another, yet we just as often tell stories of fiction as we do stories of history. Fiction becomes intertwined with fact in ways that tug at heartstrings and influence decisions. What is that, if not magic?

This meditation was born from my sense, toward the middle of the novel, that I was reading modern a reworking of The Return of the King. Virals (bloodthirsty, vampire-adjacent monsters) come raining down upon civilization, decimating a population that had barely begun to rebuild from the last siege, evoking the same sense of desolation as the flood of orcs that all but takes over Middle Earth. In the midst of the despair, there are a few bright spots of hope: individuals who won't give up fighting for their loved ones until their dying breath. Peter Jaxon is Aragorn, the man who never sought power but was too disciplined and brave to avoid becoming a leader. Timothy Fanning is Sauron, the ultimate source of the evil that has spread across the country. My dad and I talked at some length about who serves as Frodo in this analogy. I think arguments could be made for both Amy Harper Bellafonte and Alicia Donadio. They seem to pass the torch back and forth a number of times as the plot unfolds. The parallels aren't perfect, nor do I think they should be. As it stands, the allusion is subtle yet powerful, making The City of Mirrors an appropriately epic conclusion to The Passage trilogy.

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

( Image courtesy of ) Blah. I was actually all set to do a VanDuinen Studio blog post this week, but that's going t...