Tag Archives: Ballantine

Review: The City of Mirrors

The City of Mirrors

The City of Mirrors
By Justin Cronin
Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345505002, May 2016, 624pp.

The Short of It:

There is a lot of pressure for the last book in a trilogy to be great and I feel that Cronin delivered with this one.

The Rest of It:

Long ago (2010), Cronin wrote The Passage and it was a huge hit. People hesitated to call it a “vampire” book because at the time, there were many vampire books out there for the taking. No, it was a little harder to describe.  Genetically modified creatures who happen to suck blood? Yes. That’s a better way to describe them. It was epic. Cronin created this desolate landscape and I loved it.

Then, book #2 came out, The Twelve. Although it certainly built upon the first book, which was mostly about the world going to hell in a hand basket, The Twelve focused on the effect of these “virals” on society as a whole.

This last installment,  is really very different. Cronin takes us back in time. The time before the virals roamed the earth. This surprised me. So much so, that there was one part of the book where I thought my Kindle malfunctioned and I was accidentally reading a different book. Nope, I was just reading about a viral before he was a viral but the back story was so well-developed that it almost felt like a different book to me.

It took me a long time to read this book because there was a tiny part of me that was very worried that it would not live up to the first two books but I worried for nothing. It was entertaining, thoughtfully told and I could tell that Cronin had a thing for some of his characters.

All in all, Cronin delivered and if you enjoy genre mashups of Science Fiction, Thrillers, Horror and the like, then you will enjoy this series.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Sparrow

The SparrowThe Sparrow
By Mary Doria Russell
Ballantine Books, Paperback, 9780449912553, September 1997, 448pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

This is one of those stories that innocently skips along and then delivers such a powerful punch to the gut, that you’ll want to forget what you’ve read as soon as you’ve read it.

The Rest of It:

I am not even going to attempt to describe the story to you in detail because that is half the adventure and this is definitely a novel you will want to experience on your own. I will say, that it’s about a newly discovered planet and the group sent to investigate it.

As you can imagine with a book like this, part of the suspense comes from WHAT is on the planet and how our group which includes Jesuit priests, a doctor, an engineer, an astronomer and an indentured computer specialist deals with what is thrown at them. And there is a lot thrown at them. Figuring out food and cultivating plants that they recognize is one challenge, determining the effects that the climate and environment have on their bodies is another challenge and really, just learning how to adapt to what they have in front of them is what keeps them busy much of the time.

What makes this an entertaining read is the group itself. Many were friendly back on Earth before their mission, so there is a lot of humor and well-placed sarcasm as everyone gets used to spending so much time together. They all fit, if that makes any sense even though many of them come from very different backgrounds.

But something terrible happens.

The story jumps around a bit between the before, during and after parts of the mission so very early on, you know that something horrible has happened and so this cake walk of visiting an unknown planet and the funny parts interspersed between the more serious issues, felt like I was being led along a very long plank and that any moment I would be plunged into the icy depths below. And that is EXACTLY what happens!

Everyone who reads this book says stuff like, “I feel totally wrung out”, “This book destroyed me” or “I cannot un-see what I’ve seen in my head.” I agree with these statements but what’s totally weird is that I saw it all coming and NONE if it really shocked me and yet, because I was strung along for so long, it hit me HARD. I read this for the #sparrowRAL (read along) and I finished it when others were still reading so when the air was sucked out of me, I had no one to turn to! I finished it at work too which added to my overall anxiety over the ending.

As far as science fiction goes, it felt very current to me even though much of it takes place in 2060. There is a sequel, Children of God, which I did not know about until after I finished The Sparrow but I feel absolutely no need to read the second book.

Things you should know:

  • Contains heavy religious themes but mostly deals with the question of whether or not God exists
  • Packs a punch and you will be a little ill after reading it. Make sure you have someone to discuss it with or you will lose your mind.
  • It takes a long time to get into the story (IMO). Lots of set-up and back and forth.
  • The idea of interacting with an alien race and how it’s handled here will fascinate you.
  • If you are at all interested in societal structure, you will have loads to consider.
  • After finishing the book, I suggest you gaze at pictures of cute puppies and kittens for a day or two because the images that Russell paints will be stuck in your mind for a very long time.

I can’t say that it’s a favorite of mine but it is a book that will stay with me forever and I am glad that I finally read it. Thanks Trish for hosting the read along. I probably would not have picked it up had you not chosen it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.