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The Paris Wife
The Paris Wife
von Paula McLain
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,90

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "And everything was very good and fine until it wasn't.", 9. Februar 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Paris Wife (Taschenbuch)
The fascination with Ernest Hemingway's years in Paris in the early 1920s seems to never die. Paula McLain explores the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson - the first of Hemingway's four wives and the woman to whom he dedicated The Sun Also Rises. She tells the story of their years together: 1920-27. Ernest and Hadley arrived in Paris in December 1921, and the next few years were clearly happy, until mid 1926, when the idyll in Paris ended with separation in 1926 and divorce the following year.

McLain spends 318 pages casually dropping names and moving on quickly as readers congratulate themselves for having picked up a book where they already know all of the characters - Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Sylvia Beach, Gertrude Stein, or Lincoln Steffens all make brief appearances in The Paris Wife. McLain's deft descriptions of Left Bank apartments and cafes and the excitement of creating a new kind of life are absorbing. Her Paris is a revelation, filled with writers and artists working in a kind of fever, set among "the working-class Parisians with their cards and goats and fruit baskets and open begging palms." Every day Hemingway goes to a cafe to write, leaving Hadley on her own. They live frugally, primarily on her small inheritance. At first Hadley is lonely, but slowly she meets people - Hemingway's artist friends, then her own small circle. One of them, Pauline Pfeiffer, befriends Hadley, only to become attracted to Hemingway and eventually destroy the marriage.

Unquestionably it was Hemingway's A Moveable Feast with its wealth of love and nostalgia for Hadley that provided the inspiration for Paula McLain's novel. The original version is a series of 20 biographical sketches of Paris in the 1920s. The memoir began, as the yet unproved story goes, as the result of the discovery of two trunks belonging to Hemingway, found by Charles Ritz in the basement of the Hotel Ritz in November 1956. The trunks were left there in 1928, when Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, left for Key West, Florida. The trunks contained notebooks he had kept during his early Paris years and thirty years later he began stitching together a memoir that included a long apology to Richardson and was itself full of regret. Three years after his suicide in 1961 his then wife Mary edited and published that memoir, without apology to Richardson; it was called "A Moveable Feast."

This is how myths are made. Which is fine, but let's be clear that the closer we hurtle toward myth the farther we get from the complex truth of those lives in that time. There's a scene in the novel (one of the best, and there are a few) in which the author reveals what is actually wrong with the book. Hemingway takes Hadley back to the place in Italy where he was wounded during the war. "It was green and unscarred and completely lovely," Hadley reports. "Nothing felt honest. Thousands of men had died here just a few years earlier, Ernest himself had bled here, shot full of shrapnel, and yet everything was clean and shiny, as if the land itself had forgotten everything."


The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Bob Lee Swagger Novels)
The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (Bob Lee Swagger Novels)
von Stephen Hunter
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,40

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "...three ejected Mannlicher-Carcano cases.", 29. Januar 2013
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr. said as recently as January 2013 (during a stay in Dallas) he believes the evidence was strong that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. His remarks were the first time a Kennedy family member has publicly criticized the Warren Report. So it's only fitting that Stephen Hunter joins the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination with a fictionalized account of events that arguably became the best-known gun crime in history. After all the reader can count on former Marine sniper and gun expert Bob Lee Swagger.

As the novel opens, Bob is spending his days quietly in middle-of-nowhere Idaho with his family. But then James Aptapton, a successful but alcoholic writer, cooking the JFK conspiracy pot, is killed by a black Camaro in an alley in Baltimore. It looks like a hit and run but it was murder. Until Aptapton's grieving widow Jean Marquez visits Bob to get him interested enough to look into the case. Apparently, Aptapton had come back from Dallas after checking on a story about an overcoat that was found in the Dal-Tex building, which is the building across Houston Street from the Texas School Book Depository. Dal-Tex figured high in the two hundred sixty-five formally recognized conspiracy theories. Aptapton needed to write a new book to fulfill his contract and thought that this might lead somewhere. As Jean is about to leave, Bob hears a whisper drifting down through the decades - but it's enough to get him interested in the events of November 22, 1963. Bob begins asking questions that few have asked before and quickly focuses on the "third bullet" of the book's title - "the head shot" that killed Kennedy.

Hunter is at his best in unmasking problems with the evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman and proposing an alternative scenario that provides seemingly logical answers. However, his narrative involves a rather numerous cast that includes not just the usual patriotic CIA officer determined to protect the nation from Kennedy's recklessness but even Russian oligarchs who follow their own script. Plots and counterplots take our aging hero on a lengthy and rather wordy trip to Russia and back through a hail of gunfire and sometimes produces less tension than bemusement. Although fictional, Hunter's theory about the assassination that started one of the most enduring controversies of our time has a certain elegance of simplicity that's more compelling - and indeed a whole lot more thrilling - than most "scientific" conspiracy theories.


A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast
von Ernest Hemingway
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,10

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5.0 von 5 Sternen “Paris was always worth it.” (Hemingway), 29. Januar 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A Moveable Feast (Taschenbuch)
This biographical work is a series of 20 sketches of Paris in the 1920s. According to one story, the memoir began when Charles Ritz, owner of this famous palace in Paris discovered in November 1956 two trunks belonging to Hemingway. The trunks were left there in 1928, when Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, left for Key West, Florida. The trunks contained notebooks he had kept during his early Paris years.

Ernest and his first wife, Hadley, arrived in Paris in December 1921, and the next few years were clearly happy, until mid 1926, when the marriage broke up. After finishing his breakthrough novel “The Sun Also Rises,” some wealthy people, sensing Hemingway was about to become famous, enter his life. One of them, Pauline Pfeiffer, befriends Hadley, only to become attracted to Hemingway and eventually destroy the marriage.

The 20 sketches are each titled but not numbered, and they rarely provide dates, so the reader my not feel much continuity from beginning to end. But the whole portrait Hemingway provides of Paris and of how it was to live there during the 1920s is as vivid as emotionally powerful, as his reader expects in the best of his writing. This is especially true in the parts where he writes about Paris itself or his struggles with writing, rather than the people he knew there. The reader walks with Hemingway along the streets, watching fishermen along the Seine, or dropping by at Sylvia Beach’s bookstore on the Left Bank (Shakespeare & Co.), sits by him in “A Good Café on the Place St.-Michel,” There is a portrayal of Scott Fitzgerald and the motor-trip the two make from Lyon to Paris, which already has its place as one of the great comic journeys of literature.

Whether some stories are made up or not, they show a Hemingway who has turned his back, sometimes with a great deal of animosity, on a number of former friends. This animosity shows particularly in his descriptions of Ford Madox Ford, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Zelda Fitzgerald, and even Scott Fitzgerald, who was one of his closest friends during those early years.


Imperial Bedrooms (Vintage Contemporaries)
Imperial Bedrooms (Vintage Contemporaries)
von Bret Easton Ellis
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,10

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4.0 von 5 Sternen "Sadness: it's everywhere.", 18. Januar 2013
In this sequel of Less Than Zero, the reader follows Clay from New York to Los Angeles for a hedonistic Christmas, although now, 25 years later he possesses money, having become a successful screenwriter and producer. The temptation to read the author into the protagonist of the earlier book and now into its sequel is strong because, in addition to the first-person narration, Clay is deliberately a blank, a receptor for impressions of those around him. Also there are many familiar characters from Less Than Zero still indulging, or at least trying to in their youthful debauchery, and acting like reckless teenagers. Just the e-culture has caught up. Cell phones, e-mail and websites devoted to helping married couples cheat on each other have made meaningless sex ever easier. However the author makes no real attempt at achieving the kind of satire as in American Psycho.

Despite the ubiquitous reality of corrupting lust and murderous vengeance, the fun jabs at the casting couch, all these sordid details don't play in Ellis' dark sequel. Clay's degradations are his own - separate from the degradations of the world around him. Clay has never been good at sharing - sharing a girl, sharing his feelings, sharing his life. Small wonder he refuses to give up his desire for a woman he cannot possess.

It has been said that the book is steeped in L.A. noir, even Chandleresque. I'm not sure about that claim, sure Ellis' characters have always been cool, especially in Less Than Zero and American Psycho, but here they demonstrate that there are more ways to be bored and boring in Los Angeles in 2010 than there were in 1985. But instead of misanthropic detachment, the book can be seen as a demonstrative act of desperation. To demonstrate is what this new book does best.


Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth
von Ian McEwan
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 19,95

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "I took a bath and made myself fragrant.", 3. Dezember 2012
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Sweet Tooth (Gebundene Ausgabe)
The narrator is Serena Frome - "rhymes with plume" - who recalls her brief career as a spy. The opening of Sweet Tooth implies a dramatic, if not dangerous intent: "Almost 40 years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. Within 18 months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing". But first lines can be deliberately misleading. This is Ian McEwan, after all, metafiction supremo.

The Encounter scandal, in which it was revealed that the respected cultural periodical was funded by the CIA, has been a source of epic controversy since that funding was revealed in 1967. Here it serves as a backdrop to operation Sweet Tooth that takes place in the early 70s. Serena joins the MI5, England's equivalent of the FBI but is tainted by her poor third-class degree and most of all by her sex: at the time, women in MI5 are little more than secretaries or honey traps, used in sex stings where enemy diplomats or spies are compromised and then turned. It is a version of the honey trap - Operation Sweet Tooth - that the comely Serena is recruited for. The MI5 conducts its own salvo in the Cultural Cold War: they single out a promising writer named Tom Healy who seems like he might be naturally sympathetic to the political aims of the Western Allies, and give him financial support and greater visibility. Serena is there to offer herself to Tom and to keep tabs on him. Predictably they fall in love and she keeps him in the dark about his true patrons. Meanwhile, her adulterous "old MI5 hand" turns out to have been a Communist asset, putting his protégé Serena under suspicion. As in any spy story, it's unclear who's lying to whom until late in the game.

This isn't really a novel about MI5 or the cold war or even the 70s, this is a novel about writers and writing, about love and trust. It's about our own peculiar responses to the magic of narrative. McEwan has always been a good old-fashioned teller of tales, and the suspense and surprises in this book are well engineered. Always the metafictional con he uses his game to reinforce and deepen the pleasurable illusions of reality.


Winter of the World (Century Trilogy 2)
Winter of the World (Century Trilogy 2)
von Ken Follett
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 16,95

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4.0 von 5 Sternen "You overrate freedom. It doesn't make people happy. They prefer leadership." (Franck), 26. Oktober 2012
As Fall of Giants ended in 1924 with a defeated Germany collapsing beneath the effects of runaway inflation and the demands of the Treaty of Versailles, it makes sense that the story begins in 1933 in Germany, where people are screaming about why the economy is so bad and why there are so many jobless on the streets. It's the time of the Reichstag fire and Hitler's rise to power. In an early scene, brutal thugs sic dogs on a gay man; later, an intrepid nurse discovers that the disabled are being sent to a so-called hospital from which they will never return. Much like the previous installment, Winter of the World clips along at a brisk pace. It takes readers inside the political battles and atrocities of Nazi-era Germany to fascists fighting a motley crew of rebels on the battlegrounds of the Spanish Civil War, and on to Joseph Stalin's Russia, where the revolutionary government has grown increasingly repressive and corrupt. The most riveting portion of this book is the description of events in Germany during the time of Hitler's reign. It was a horrendous time and Follett does not hold back in his depiction of some of the worst events that took place there. But the centerpiece of the narrative, that occupies fully two-thirds of its considerable length, is Follett's chronological and inevitably selective re-creation of World War II.

However, the author is relatively uninterested in military detail and makes no attempt to describe every major campaign. He does offer some unique perspectives on certain key events - the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the London Blitz, the invasion of Normandy - but he is content, for the most part, to move his characters quickly from one significant location to another, contrasting personal lives with a persistently shifting historical framework. Taking into account the twists and turns of history, Follett allows his characters plenty of room to roam on the stage. Historical fiction, by its nature, ups the ante for the writer to come up with compelling people to match the real-life characters always threatening to overwhelm all else. Once again, Follett concentrates on five fictional, interrelated families to bring the period to life. They are hailing from Russia, the United States, England, Germany, and Wales and mingle with real characters, including FDR and Harry Truman. Most of Follett's characters are interesting, imperfect people straining to make sense of a world gone mad. Their journeys are plausible, intertwined, and intriguing. They stumble through messy relationships, harbor insecurities and jealousies and, on occasion, surprise themselves with acts of grace and courage as well as cowardice.

There is Lloyd Williams an idealistic young Brit visiting Germany with his MP mother, we meet several members of the Fitzherbert family, or a young Spanish girl leading covert border crossings, And there is Volodya Peshkov a Russian military intelligence officer who assembles a network of spies that extends from Berlin to Los Alamos, N.M., in pursuit of information on the Manhattan Project and the construction of the atomic bomb. Follett takes us into the early years of the postwar world, ending his narrative in 1949, setting the stage for the Cold War era that is about to begin.

Due to his earlier role churning out tidy thrillers, Follett knows how to keep the pages turning and how to make the reader feel with the characters. World War II may be considered a great war fought by the Greatest Generation, but Follett steers clear of glorifying battle. Instead, he shows its destructive nature in the field, in London, Berlin, and other cities, and among the children, wives, and parents left behind to worry about the soldiers.

Do you have to read Fall of Giants first, to fully understand this book? Not really, Winter of the World stand alone, but if you got the time and are sufficiently interested in 20th century history, reading the first installment will certainly enhance your reading pleasure.


Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice
von Thomas Pynchon
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,10

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to.", 26. Oktober 2012
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Inherent Vice (Taschenbuch)
In his essay The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler famously wrote, "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." It was his idea to give the murder mystery a certain dignity. Inherent Vice is set in the early republican 1970s when Dick Nixon is in power at the White House and Ronnie Reagan at the capitol in Sacramento.

Still sticking to the Chandler and Hammett tradition, Vice begins when a beautiful woman knocks on the door of Doc Sportello's thinking parlor. But here the similarity ends, sure Doc Sportello is a shamus but he is neither hard-boiled nor comparable to Phil Marlowe or Sam Spade in any other way. He is a weanling with a serious dope habit and doesn't seem to have realized that the 1960s are over. He promotes himself with the claim, "What I lack in al-titude, I make up for in at-titude." All the way the psychedelic gum shoe.

The woman, Shasta, is Doc's old girlfriend who comes up with a plot to kidnap the wealthy and married real-estate developer Mickey Wolfman with whom she's having an affair. Mickey's wife and Shasta apparently want him institutionalized. Almost as soon as Doc takes the case, the developer becomes a missing person and as such he is a thread that, once pulled, unravels a complex conspiracy of murder, greed, lust, and so forth. Pynchon's celebrated fondness for goofball invention is limitless. An abridged list of a cohort of hippie-dippy characters might be enough to suggest the variety of the narrative texture: Ensenada Slim, Flaco the Bad, Dr. Buddy Tubeside, Petunia Leeway, Jason Velveeta, Sledge Poteet and Leonard Jermaine Loosemeat. The plot is probably too convoluted to be detailed in a review, and it's not immediately clear where every piece fits. Readers of The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow might agree.

Amid all the conspiracies, Pynchon finds time to acknowledge the ARPAnet, the precursor of the internet established by the Department of Defense and various universities. And, inevitable in the Pynchon tradition, there's a vast and secretive organization, this time dentists, a spy outfit known as the Golden Fang. A pimp informs Doc that the Fang is in fact an Indochinese heroin cartel, vertically organized, they provide the funds, grow the poppy flowers, process and smuggle the stuff and run networks of local street dealers. Of course they take a separate percentage off of each operation. Sober people would call such a system capitalism.

Pynchon also creates the ideological antithesis to the Golden Fang and comes up with the legendary lost continent of Lemuria, the name of Shasta is an early hint, because Mount Shasta, located in Northern California is considered by some to be the center of Lemuria. In Vice it is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean, whatever the location, surfers and hippies believe it to be an anarchist utopia, at least when they're on a good trip.

Among all his shenanigans one can easily forget, that Pynchon writes razor-sharp beauty, there are thoughts demanding a place next to classic passages by Ken Kesey, Bob Dylon, Hunter S. Thompson, the Beat poets and others. Inherent Vice has a climactic moment, a cushiony denouement and ties up all the loose ends.


The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy)
The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy)
von Justin Cronin
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 20,61

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4.0 von 5 Sternen "I Am Last Stand in Denver", 22. Oktober 2012
This is the second installment of a planned trilogy that started with The Passage, an instant runaway bestseller published in 2010. If you haven't read The Passage, don't worry, Cronin opens with the assumption that it has been a couple of years since most of his readers have finished the first volume, so in practically biblical format he recounts each and every event that we are reminded of the basics. We are thrown back into events already covered in the first book during Year Zero when the virals first escaped, as there are new characters we're yet to meet, then he springs ahead to 79 A.V. (After Viral) and then proceeds to where The Passage left off. The flip side of this lengthy interlude is that it moves at the speed of a sick cockroach. Whereas The Passage concerned itself primarily with the dynamic of good people struggling to survive a world infested with bad monsters, The Twelve focuses largely on an aspect of the apocalypse that Cronin touched on only lightly in the first installment: the vampires remain terrifying, but they're less terrifying than the humans who have decided to collaborate with them in order to survive.

We reconnect with Lila, Wolfgast's ex-wife. She is fractured, unique and has a significant role. Grey who was a sweeper in book one, is back and attempts to change his life. We meet Kittridge, a war veteran and sniper who helps save a band of refugees. We are also reunited with Alicia, an army lieutenant and loner, and of course, Amy, our 100-year-old supernatural heroine who may hold the key to everlasting life. She is leading the attacks against the original 12 virals. Guilder is a new character and straight from your worst nightmare. The Twelve performs its always-tricky middle chapter of a trilogy, expanding on its predecessor, but at the same time telling its own story without simply rehashing the past.

By now, Cronin has got a firm handle on the thriller genre. He is fluent in military operations, weapons and violent killings, never mind ham-fisted product placements. There are some minor missteps, the prose is in imminent danger to crash and burn. The religious allegory of "The Zero" (the first scientist infected by the virus) and the dozen blood-drinking virals follows no clear logic and sounds a bit forced. Many scenes are suffering from over explanation, draining them of suspense. But if you hang on till Page 300, you'll make it to a despotic Homeland, Cronin's Orwellian militaristic colony, almost 100 years in the future. Here, thousands of hopeless people are kept imprisoned by a class of collaborators who stay eternally young by sipping infected blood. There are gladiator fights against caged virals (one of the most riveting sections but a tad too close to the camp south of Las Vegas described in The Passage). Nevertheless, this section lets an engaging story develop about a despotic bureaucrat (the most tragic character in the book), an insane queen and the wily rebels determined to bring them down. Echoes of Nazi concentration camps are mixed effectively with satire of the War on Terror.

The ending of The Twelve delivers a paler version of the thrilling climax of The Passage. However, Cronin has superbly handled the difficult task of writing a character-driven adventure story and at its core, The Twelve remains a remarkably frightening and tense novel.
Kommentar Kommentar (1) | Kommentar als Link | Neuester Kommentar: Dec 5, 2012 1:39 PM CET


Savages
Savages
von Don Winslow
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 8,70

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5.0 von 5 Sternen "Ben reached the limits of his hydrocrisy.", 17. Oktober 2012
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Savages (Taschenbuch)
The "surf noir" tales (The Dawn Patrol and The Gentlemen's Hour ) have enough sparkle to recommend them, yet "Savages" is a totally different ball game. Its wisecracks are so sharp and its characters so mega-cool they spit icicles. About a Latino neighborhood: "You hear English here it's the mailman talking to himself." About an Iraq war veteran who feels overlooked in Orange County's smug atmosphere: "Without men like me, the clubhouse whores would be wearing burqas, my friend."

The action takes place in Laguna Beach and the protagonists are Ben, a "Baddhist" (bad Buddhist), and Chon, a former member of the Navy Seals and vet of two tours in America's current war. They have gotten rich doing what they love: get high. Chon brought home premium seeds from "Stanland" (Afghanistan) which Ben cultivated into potent blends sold by happy dealers for whom the benevolent Ben even provides health care. When Chon entrusted these seeds to the wonkier Ben, he says, it was "like giving Michelangelo some paintbrushes and a blank ceiling and saying, "Go for it, dude." As the story begins, Chon is with Ophelia. Ophelia is called O for short, and nicknamed Multiple O. She enjoys her life in Laguna Beach as a part-time dysfunctional daughter, her mother is known as PAQU, for "Passive Aggressive Queen of the Universe" and full-time slacker.

Life is good until the Baja Cartel decides to muscle in on their business and kidnaps O, to make sure the boys obey. Big mistake, because Ben and Chon, who suffers from PTLOSD (Post-Traumatic Lack of Stress Disorder), show they can be David to the Goliathan cartel, igniting an explosive series of events that leave more than a few people dead. Now Ben wants out of the drug business. He's become interested in philanthropy in third world nations. He certainly doesn't want to grow crops for the Mexican cartel. "He appreciates the irony, though, that the Mexicans basically want to turn them into field workers," Mr. Winslow writes. Of course, Ben digs the reverse colonialism of it, but it just isn't his thing. As the peril in "Savages" escalates, Chon finds himself forced back into military mode.

The Winslow effect is to fuse the grave and the playful, the body blow and the joke, the nightmare and the pipe dream. It's flippant and dead serious simultaneously. Did I mention the book is also funny? It's dark humor, sure, but there's levity among the violence. And the dialogue is so hip, you feel a little more gangsta after reading. It's no surprise Oliver Stone snapped up the movie rights since the action is cinematic and some of the scenes are actually written in script format.


The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)
The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)
von Justin Cronin
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 6,00

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4.0 von 5 Sternen "Something was wrong with Subject Zero. For instance: Subject Zero glowed.", 17. Oktober 2012
The story opens in 2016 A.D. (or 5 B.V. in Cronin Count) with the discovery of a virus found in some nasty Bolivian bats that has the disagreeable effect of transforming you into a rampaging, blood-drinking beast that glows in the dark. But don't call them vampires, they're virals. You'd think that the sensible response to this discovery would be to send in the military to napalm the bloody jungle, but when was the military ever sensible in apocalyptic fiction? No, the army thinks the whole thing is totally awesome and wants to create a new breed of soldiers by reengineering the virus to give the infected superhuman strength and eternal life and promptly begins the usual "let's-create-indestructible-super-soldiers" experiments on death row inmates they've shipped to super-secret underground labs in Colorado to start Project NOAH. Predictably, the project goes kablooey: things aren't exactly working out as planned with the prisoners, to put it mildly. Enter Amy Bellafonte, a six-year-old orphan child who may or may not hold the key to save the project. Morally conflicted FBI Agent Brad Wolgast, is ordered to locate and transport her to Colorado because the military's medicine men got the feeling that the virus's development might be easier to control and direct in the developing system of a child. But the military will never know the effects of the virus on Amy - which are indeed profoundly different - once all hell breaks loose.

The second part of the book picks up about 90 years later with an abrupt jump in locale and tone because large parts of the American population are wiped out - no spoiler here. We follow the fate of a small community of descendants hanging on in a walled compound powered by antique technology, ever watchful of the roving packs of virals that emerge without warning in the night. Cronin's portrayal of the personal and political dynamics of "First Colony" is sobering in a long-drawn-out sort of way. The internal politics are tiresome, their endless battle against the "virals" now stalking the world outside repetitive, and their love lives and criss-crossing relationships, as fully fleshed and well written as they are, they merely present another padding device to build the tension. In part it's a vampiric version of Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us": Nuclear plants melt down and explode, vegetation retakes the cities, and the Gulf of Mexico fills with oil from untended wells (like that could ever happen). Fortunately, Cronin has a wry sense of humor that runs from macabre to silly. A passing reference to Jenna Bush as governor of Texas may be the scariest thing in these pages. Then events take a decisive turn, impacting the entire colony's fate, when a daylight expedition to a power station results in the discovery of Amy, living a near-feral existence in a shopping mall and (unbeknownst to the colony folks) barely aged after 92 years.

It's hard to separate "The Passage" fully from all that's come before (Bram Stoker, et.al.), and from which it's unapologetically derivative. An extended sequence set in the ruins of Las Vegas is the book's most on-the-nose reference to "The Stand". However, Cronin is a skilled writer. Most of the characters are well drawn and he tackles the philosophical issue of gaining eternal life at the cost of your soul in between the throat-ripping battle scenes. But he does have some annoying quirks. He's weirdly coy about using the word vampire - his creations are variously called Virals, Flyers, Dracs and Smokes. There are trivial cliffhangers grafted on the end of each chapter, like "There's something going to happen." Also, the only character who appears in both sections of the novel is six-year-old Amy (or The Girl from Nowhere, as Cronin has it) who should be fascinating but readers have no access to her interior life and she barely speaks. But once vampires start leaping from the treetops, you're hooked. Indeed so addictive is the story's allure that you may be wondering if you are not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Thankfully this is in many ways a hopeful book: civilization hangs on, and a hardy few even begin to put the pieces back together. Anyway, be aware that even at the end of the book there is a cliffhanger grafted on, which is kind of frustrating after having read 780 pages. But then, it's only the first volume of a trilogy - "The Twelve" has already been published, and if the marketing wizards have it right, the last part, "The City of Mirrors" will drop in 2014.


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