Written by Justin Cronin
Published by Ballantine Books (June 2010)
This book is long. It’s so bloody long I thought I was reading four books. But stick with me.
Essentially, this is a vampire story for people who want some kind of scientific explanation for why people become vampires. Granted, there’s a lot of hand waving, and you don’t get a very detailed explanation — something involving bats in South America, I think — but at least there’s an attempt to make the vampire make sense within the context of the modern world. These vampires are the result of genetic engineering gone bad, and the story centers around a young girl named Amy, who becomes humanity’s last best hope.
About 100 years after the vampires have essentially taken over the planet, a group of survivors set out from their base in California to take Amy back to the military base in Colorado where everything begins. It’s essentially a quest story set just slightly into the future. With vampires.
Quite frankly, this book was far too long and it took way too much time to get where it was going. Having said that, however, it doesn’t feel padded. Nothing really unnecessary in the story, really. There were just so many detours and distractions from the main spine of the plot.
The details are well-crafted. The survivors camp, the power station, their way of life… all have a very keen sense of realism. It does feel like a way of life that would have developed in the wake of a disaster of this magnitude. Of course, there’s still that whole “loss of knowledge” thing. Personally, I find it very hard to believe that in only 100 years we would lose so much knowledge of how to use our technology. Granted, after a world-wide catastrophe, we might not have the power resources to do certain things, but it’s a challenge for me to think that we would forget how. That’s one of the problems that I have with so many of these dystopian post apocalyptic stories; they always seem to take “civilization” back to some near-barbaric mode of behavior… it’s annoying.
On the flipside, I found the book engaging in its narrative voice. It was easy to keep track of the players because they were all very distinct. There were a couple of moments that could have been clarified a little better, especially as it concerns the fate of FBI special agent Wolgast, but overall I found it to be a good story, even though it took me way too long to read it. The coming of age arc for Peter — essentially the main character in the last half of the book — is very reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s adventure. Young boy takes on a quest to redeem his family, save his home, and in the process ends up becoming a leader and heroic figure.
Fans of Falling Skies or Red Dawn (or even The Talisman) might take a shine to this book.