Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE tells the story of what happens when research takes a wrong turn and the world is inundated by humans infected with a vampire virus. Think Stephen King’s THE STAND only with really nasty vampires then cross it with Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and you have THE PASSAGE. I’ve no idea how I ended up reading THE PASSAGE. I’m not a fan of post-apocalyptic literature and this is one very long book, the first of a proposed trilogy no less. I think the attraction was a vampire story where the vampires weren’t glamorized. Well, THE PASSAGE certainly is that. Cronin’s pre-apocalyptic America is riveting, character driven fiction at its best. Post-apocalypse? Not so much. Cronin is a fine writer and storyteller, but there were far too many characters for me to get to know any of them. Live or die, I cared, but not nearly as much as I should have. At least not the way I cared about the characters from the earlier chapters. Also, I knew there was a deeper meaning to the story that I just wasn’t getting. I haven’t decided whether I’ll give the sequel a try, but I have a couple of years to decide.
In spite of parallels to the DEXTER series, Dan Wells’s I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER offers a decidedly unique twist. Teen protagonist John Wayne Cleaver is convinced he’s a sociopath. He’s obsessed with serial killers, revels in helping out at the family mortuary and adheres to strict rules of behavior so as to appear normal. But when a homicidal demon starts slaughtering townsfolk, John allows his darker side to surface in his efforts to stop to the killings. Despite sociopathic tendencies, John Cleaver is infinitely relatable. More than anything, he fears himself and his own inadequacies. And what adolescent (or adult for that matter) can’t empathize? This is the first in the John Wayne Cleaver series and I look forward to book 2, MR. MONSTER. I do wish John’s foil had been human rather than demonic, but only because I find reality more terrifying than fantasy.
My favorite book of the month was HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, a ghost story by Audrey Niffenegger, author of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (which I haven’t read yet but now intend to). In her will, Elspeth Noblin leaves her London Apartment to her twin American nieces Julia and Valentina. There’s only one hitch, Not only is Elspeth’s ghost still in the apartment, she can’t leave. Despite a convoluted and sometimes ridiculous storyline, Niffenegger’s exquisite writing makes up for the difficult-to-swallow plot twists. I found all five primary characters intriguing if not always likable, and the portrayal of London was spot on and fascinating, particularly the description and history of Highgate Cemetery. What was good about HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY was so good, it overshadowed the bad.