Warning: If you want a well-written, critical review, stop now. I’m about to gush words all over the page.
I’m not sure where to start with this book – it’s epic. I’ll get that out of the way before I start nit-picking.
My issues, and they are minor, are similar to Book One (The Passage).
- It jumps around a lot. I should have known better than to expect a simple continuation of where the story left off. Story arcs and characters were left hanging as they were between the two sections that make up The Passage. If you want your fiction served up in a straight line, this series is not for you.
- There are a lot of characters. It was easier to keep track having read Book One, but even so, there were times when I struggled.
- It dips a little in the middle as characters are being moved into place for the final push.
- Would the chapters dealing with escalating viral problem be better in Book One? After all, The Passage skips the immediate issues of the virals/ dracs/ Twelve* and leaps almost 100 years into the future. I’m split on this. I think I would have preferred that overall, but it is also nice seeing the origins of First Colony already knowing what happens to them. Alicia’s ancestory, in particular, is nicely tagged on. (Almost like the literary equivalent of a post-credit scenes you get in certain types of overly-muscled superhero movies.)
- Michael seemed like a new character rather than a development of Book One Michael. I know people change, but this guy was so different to ‘Circuit’ that it threw me.
Not many nits to pick, are there?
Now… the good stuff.
- The section that deals with the immediate problems of the virus hitting is superb. #istandwithlaststandindenver
- The section that deals with the concentration camp is harrowing. Not so much for the red-eyes but the normal people who willingly go along with their evil.
- The ratcheting up of the tension towards the end is compelling.
- The prose is sublime: minimal descriptions that paint so much better a picture than books stuffed full of adverbs and adverbs; alternating sentence structures that have their own internal rhythm; and a use of language that is, simply, beautiful.
- There is an attention to detail that doesn’t swamp the plot. (i.e. it doesn’t read like a Wikipedia page)
- Some of the most effective horror is hinted at: a growing, luminescent green light; a clicking noise; tree-tops rustling (‘They come from above.’); and, worst of all, the inevitable terror heralded by waning daylight.
- Characters that are so flawed and so real because of it. There’s not even a mention of a kick-arse heroine who can speak multiple languages, holds multiple black belts in multiple mystic martial arts (Including the Approach of Aggressive Alliteration) but suffers from a deep dark secret that only one person knows. As for hard-bitten detectives with marital/ drinking/ authority* issues but are good at their job? Forget it.
- And how the author manages to bring all the disparate characters and arcs to the climax as he does, I have no idea.
In short this book is phenomenal, a classic example of ‘just one more chapter before I switch the lights out.’ It has played hell with my insomnia. Not only because I wanted to know what happened next, but because the shadows in my bedroom grew claws and teeth.
But despite that pace and prose, the masterful weaving of story lines and complicated/ real characters, despite all that brilliance, there was one line that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go for days: a moment of tenderness in a world beyond hope.
“I’ve got you,” he said, hugging Tim fiercely; and again, over and over, so that the boy would be hearing these words. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”
Last Stand in Denver
Read The Twelve, you’ll see what I mean.
It is awesome.
*delete as appropriate
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