Justin Cronin does the same thing in The City of Mirrors that he did in the previous two books – he jumps ahead decades to follow our main characters. So in this book some of our main characters have grandchildren and the threat of virals is long in the past, though we know it’s not in the past because the first viral, Zero, is just waiting to strike.
While Zero waits, we also wait with an overly long novella about Zero’s past when he was Tim Fanning and in love with his best friend’s wife. I say novella because it was easily more than 100 pages and could stand alone. This is something Cronin has done throughout this series as he tries to provide a lot of character development, and it worked beautifully in The Passage when he told us about Carter, but here it was exhausting and most of it completely unnecessary. We hear about Tim’s parents, his high school life, time in college, parties, friends, love, sex, funerals, grad school, him becoming a professor, and all this time he’s pining over his best friend’s wife. It was the most boring sludge I’ve ever waded through. I almost quit reading, but at the end of his novella we hear about how he became a viral and started controlling the other virals, and even though this was still pretty boring, I kept reading because we were getting to the virals and what would happen in this final book.
When things finally started happening it didn’t dazzle me. There were too many new characters introduced, too many dreamlike sequences where virals were on another plane of existence, and just too much blah. A little blah here and a little blah there. When we did get to some interesting parts I knew it wouldn’t last long because more sludge was waiting around the corner.
Cronin still can write beautiful passages, but this time he was overly bloated in the backstory that he forgot to keep us entertained with the overall story. This final book was a total bummer.