The long awaited finale to the Justin Cronin Passage series, The City of Mirrors, has finally arrived. This is a title I’ve been keeping my eye on for some time. I would say eagerly awaiting, even. A lesser author would have lost my interest after a wait of three and a half years, but Justin Cronin is not a lesser author. The world he has created is one I am emotionally invested it. Not only is it inhabited by characters I care about, but it has something to say about the nature of people, desire, destiny, and the unknown.
The City of Mirrors starts out by taking stock of where everyone is now, months after the events in The Twelve – Amy, Alicia, Peter, Lucius, Sara, Michael. Save for Amy and Alicia, everyone has gone back to the settlement to restart their lives. The virals are gone, time to rebuild. Amy and Alicia have their own paths; Alicia to find Zero and Amy to hide away with Carter in the belly of his wrecked ship, building her strength so she can kill Zero when the time is right. Through this they are all dreaming of the future, but what the dreams mean is anyone’s guess. And then there is Zero, Timothy Fanning, the one who made The Twelve. A good portion of the first half of the book is dedicated to explaining his past, but once that task is complete the rest of the book takes on the familiar feel and pacing of The Passage once more. All the players are in place and it’s just a matter of how it all is going to play out.
Ultimately, the story in The City of Mirrors seems to be about the sway memory can hold over a person. For some, a single memory can define them completely, both for good and for ill. For others, memory can be what anchors them to their true identity, holding them steady, preventing them from careening off into the maelstrom. And still, for others memory can imbue them with a sense of freedom, that sense of knowing who you are and where you come from which allows you to never be chained to uncertainty. It’s a conundrum that memory can do such different things for people, and for each character in The City of Mirrors memory does do something unique, for at their core each character is different, seeking something different in this life.
At times while reading I felt a sense of utter futility. At some point, after so many characters had died, many without ceremony, I questioned why I kept on reading. If it’s all going to end in pain and suffering and death anyway, why are you all trying so hard? It seemed as if the author was just toying with me. But like the unbeatable spirit of the human race, I trudged on, for I had to know what happened to the rest of them. What came after, for the human race, once it passed through the crucible? How did these events ripple through time, like the waves in a pond so frequently alluded to in the characters thoughts and dreams? I was not let down. The book answered my question.
Throughout the series, and especially in this book, the characters ponder a lot about God and destiny, ideas that are elusive to them who have grown up in what could be humanity’s final days. But despite this, the end of each of the characters feels less like something final or preordained, and more like simply a passage into another realm. In one sense this can be completely unsatisfying, knowing the heights of heroism and depths of depravity exhibited by various characters. You could even say nobody really gets what they deserve. But on another level it is satisfying, because in life it’s rare people get what we think they deserve, and who gets to say what one deserves anyway? The world turns blindly on, dawning on each new generation, and each lives with the effects of all that came before. So whether, for some, love really conquers all or not, it doesn’t matter all that much. A thousand years from now things will keep rolling on, no matter who survives. The passage of time never ends, there just may be different people to witness it.
This series is powerful and engrossing. I highly recommend it!
Justin Cronin will be at BookPeople for a speaking & signing event on Saturday, June 11th at 6pm. If you cannot attend the event but would still like a signed book, order one online and type “signed copy” in the comments field. We’ll get your book signed for you!