A Final Voyage With Amy NLN


The City of Mirrors

Justin Cronin

Ballantine Books Hardcover

May 2016 ISBN 978-0-345-505-002


The City of Mirrors is the final book in a Pre-During-and Post-apocalyptic trilogy by Justin Cronin that began with 2010’s The Passage and continued in 2012’s The Twelve. “The Passage Trilogy” takes Post-Apocalyptic and Vampire tropes every horror fan knows and creates a saga infused with its own voice and storytelling style.


Our particular Big Bads in The Passage trilogy? Humanity itself. Spawned by (say it with me) an overzealous (Mad) Scientist working with a (of course) nefarious military super soldier program. From a single Patient Zero, twelve convicts are then infected. The only hope for the remaining human population of Earth is the youngest unwilling “participant” in this secret program, Amy NLN (No Last Name). As the books progress, the Alpha (Patient Zero) and the Omega (Amy) become the opposing beacons; Zero for the destruction of civilization, Amy for its possible rebirth.


I picked up a galley copy The Passage (2010) cold, with no prior knowledge of the author or specifics of the story. As a reading experience, this first book did everything right. It grabbed me as a reader, made me eager to commit for the long haul and see “what happens next”. A masterful combination of vivid, living characters in a familiar yet fantastical world kept me turning the pages.


I was less engaged The Twelve (2012) than The Passage. As a reader I couldn’t lose myself in the story. My lack of interest or “unputdown-ability” wasn’t the result from poor writing or a drop-off in quality from the first book to the second.  Maybe the absence of some of the characters I loved from book one? A second book spent following characters I found less interesting from point A to point B?

I finished The Twelve, but I didn’t consume it with the same intense attention I devoted to The Passage.

So here’s the conclusion, the final volume in the story of Amy NLN, humanity and happens after The End of The World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)

Is The City of Mirrors worth the reading?

Short Answer – Yes.

It’s a fitting conclusion to an epic story.

If you’ve read the previous two books, you’ll find The City of Mirrors a last adventure in a present and future that is sad and hopeful, epic and personal. The particular story of this book moves swiftly. Even digressions that seem unconnected to the main plot tie in nicely at the end.  There are startlingly intimate moments contrasted with epic plot developments. I may not have agreed with every end point, but I can’t argue with how they were reached

In particular, The City of Mirrors contains one of the best fictional destructions of New York I’ve read/seen. While the glut of CGI “destruction porn” has made me nervous about reading or seeing it yet again, our characters are in the action. It’s of the most cinematic sections of the book; I felt like I was both reading words on a page while seeing them unfold as actions in my mind’s eye.

I usually don’t regret time and money spent on a book or movie if the journey is worthwhile. Any number of perceived issues I have with specific points in The City of Mirrors in no way diminishes the enormous enjoyment of the reading experience as a whole. Revisiting this world and the people I’ve come to know was both joyful and sad. I look forward to revisiting them and reliving their story.


And the Tweak Shall Inherit the Earth



Peter Stenson

2013; Crown/Random House



What if the characters who wouldn’t make it past the teaser of The Walking Dead became the only people who could survive an outbreak? Heck, the main characters in Fiend wouldn’t even have speaking parts in a zombie movie. The addicts in this novel would be “Methamphetamine Zombie” and “Junkie Zombie”, shambling towards the main characters.

Chase and his fellow addict Typewriter definitely have one of the best reasons for sleeping through the Zombie Apocalypse I’ve come across – a drug-addled meth bender. Holed up in one of the less reputable areas of the Twin Cities, they make it back to “reality” only to find it’s gone, replaced by a little girl attacking a dog in the street and eating it raw.

These two try to survive, and more importantly, secure a new supply of meth, with Chase’s ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend. Fiend has a jarring mix of humor, surrealism and sudden violence that somehow works. It takes what can be a rote story of survival and makes its own spin on the tropes. The most likely zombie bait become, in this novel, the most unlikely survivors.

The very thing that’s helping these characters survive – meth – also the main reason they may not make it. Watching them balance those two opposing drives (think clearly or take more meth) when they can barely keep a coherent thought in their minds adds to the tension.

As I write this review, I’m just over halfway finished with Fiend. But even if the last 150 pages don’t match the first half, I’ll forgive a weak finish for a book that’s kept me reading.