Review based on ARC:
When I received this book, I started to read the first few pages, even though I was in the middle of another book and was not able to yet devote my full attentions. Although I had only read a few pages, I found myself constantly thinking about it and eager to start.
After about 60 pages or so, I made the mistake of "doing a little research" on the book at work because I couldn't read it, but I wanted to at least read *about* it, if for only a few moments. I say it was a mistake because, even though I only glanced at a few reviews, it gave away information that I was not yet prepared to have.
However, for those reading this review, let me tell you that I would *not* categorize this book as a "vampire" book as so many have done. Not only is this really a mischaracterization of the novel and its characters, I believe it also diminishes what Justin Cronin has done in creating this epic tale.
The book is analogous to I Am Legend in that it starts in real life and science ("light" science fiction), and, although using elements of the supernatural, focuses on humans, the human perspective and struggles, and how humans might operate in an extreme situation.
The first 200 pages are some of the best pages I have read in fiction in a long time. Cronin perfectly sets up the tragedy that will befall the almost current world in which it is initially set. His descriptions of the characters, major and minor, are impressive. I found myself attached to many of the characters, some of who only graced the book for a relatively short amount of pages. Although the novel initially has several origins and characters with nothing (yet) in common, each line of the story was intriguing and clear, eventually coming together seamlessly.
The next 400 or so pages are very good to great. These pages are set a bit in the future, after the "tragedy" has settled in the world. We find ourselves in a world that is dealing with the consequences of its ancestors. I know I am being somewhat vague here, but I believe this novel would be best read with the least amount of information possible. These pages draw the reader into the daily lives of the characters and their motivations, actions, feelings, fears, and attachments -- without slowing the novel too much. Cronin, again, does an impressive job making his characters real, with real human qualities -- both the good and the bad.
The final 200 (or so) pages, the "climax", are, again, fantastic and wonderfully paced. I could not stop reading these last pages until the novel was complete. The ending is satisfying and yet ensures that the reader will be eager for the next installment in this epic trilogy.
I highly recommend.
(I prefer this second cover for the book, though I received the ARC with the first.)
FOUR AND A HALF of five stars.
FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN A SUMMARY, WHICH I CONSIDER ***SPOILER***:
In short, scientists and the army seek to create super humans that are not subject to the illnesses and typical lifespans of normal humans. A handful of super humans are created from death-row convicts, but in an imperfect and uncontrollable form. These super humans are "akin" to the oft mentioned vampires because of some of their characteristics and weaknesses. Finally, the scientist succeeds in creating the formula and successfully injecting it into Amy, "the girl from nowhere." The super humans break out of their "cages" and run rampant over the country (and perhaps the world).
Pass about 100 years into the future into a world in which the "virals" or "jumpers" reign. A small pocket of humans, protected by "the lights" rule themselves and attempt to survive in the world of the virals. However, the psychological pull of the virals begins to invade the humans at the same time as a few of the humans realize the batteries for the lights are beginning to fail (which would leave them in darkness at nights, when the virals are out).
Several of these humans, along with Amy, embark on a mission to find out what happened at the source of the virals and Amy, and if there is any help to be found there.