Good Reading : June 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING JUNE 2016 28 COVER STORY Naples vampire is our most interesting monster,’ he says. ‘Sex, death, immortality, contagion, the seductive power of evil; it’s all there for the taking.’ After the mass breakout, the novel leaps 93 years into a post-apocalyptic future. We’re introduced to a small, fortified pocket of humanity called First Colony, heavily guarded by crossbows and huge spotlights that keep the stalking virals at bay throughout the night. As far as the survivors know, First Colony is the only organised community left in America. The world has been ravaged by disease, madness, and rows of razor teeth. According to the last official documents released by the government before it collapsed, the world is crawling with at least 42 million starving virals. They have faintly luminescent skin, titian eyes and fingers bent into claws. Travelling in trios, they hunt in trees and drop down on their prey, cleaving them from crotch to jaw. These horrifyingly imagined creatures may sound outlandish, but Justin’s series is grounded in reality, based on scientific research and the pragmatism of survival. ‘I’m not a big fan of magic in fiction,’ Justin explains. ‘It gives the story too much licence and makes the book a kind of logic-free zone. The real world is scary and interesting enough for me.’ Born in 1962, Justin is a Cold War kid who grew up on a diet of novels centred on existential and apocalyptic crises, such as Earth Abides by George R Stewart, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. Justin describes the Cold War as a kind of golden age for post-apocalyptic fiction, but the end of civilisation is an event to which readers still flock. Why? ‘I think it has something to do with the nature of reading itself, the fact that we experience a story as a temporary reality and do so from a safe vantage point,’ Justin explains. ‘When you read a novel about the end of civilisation, just the fact that you’re reading it casts you in the role of a survivor. The message is actually a positive one: you, dear reader, have the guts and wherewithal to carry on. And when you finish the book and look up, the world is still there.’ ‘The Passage’ series began over a decade ago; Justin’s daughter is now 19, his books have featured for months on The New York Times bestseller list, and he’s turned horror-writing supremo Stephen King into a fan. The epic trilogy is coming to an end with The City of Mirrors, which is a showdown of sorts, the story that will either seal humanity’s coffin shut or allow the casket to open a tiny bit and let a stray ray of light shine onto the ragged remnants of humanity who have clung on. The title of the book is typically enigmatic. ‘Every title needs to refer to multiple things in a book and ricochet throughout its pages. There are mirrors everywhere in the story, and New York City, where the story ends up, is a kind of giant mirror, with all those glass-paned skyscrapers. That’s the physical stuff. Metaphorically, a mirror is the physical embodiment of the books’ persistent question: Who am I?’ ‘The Passage’ series is a search for immortality gone catastrophically wrong. But if the FBI offered Justin a vial that would allow him to defy death, would he accept? ‘No way. Can you imagine the boredom? It’s the sell-by date that gives life its bittersweet beauty. Every party has to end.’ The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin is published by Orion, rrp $32.99.