PositiveThe Cleveland Plain DealerHe sets Zone One a year or so after a zombie apocalypse. The disease came from nowhere and struck the entire world, spreading from the zombified to their victims via the traditional chomp ... His sentences are interesting, his plotting brisk, his descriptions lucid, and his asides clever. He favors uncommon words... But every time we start caring about Mark Spitz, some moronic zombie jumps in the way. I never wanted to stop reading –– Whitehead's writing is too entertaining –– but I could never take Zone One seriously, either.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerSo although I loved The Passage, the first book in Justin Cronin's vampire apocalypse trilogy, I opened the The Twelve hesitantly. Would he sustain our fascination or would the tale founder in a swamp of digressions and gore? The Twelve is even better than The Passage … At its heart, Cronin is writing a parable of damnation and redemption – a message emphasized by the story's host of Christian symbols. The weapon of choice against the virals, the crossbow, is called a ‘cross.’ And it is hardly coincidental that there are 12 tribes of vamps led by 12 hellish apostles, or that humanity's hope rests in a child. Cronin's apocalypse novels prove that good writers needn't stay mired in realism. And make no mistake. Cronin is a very good writer indeed.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerThis looks like the classic set-up for a science-fiction post-apocalypse adventure. The world we know has been destroyed (often by forces we ourselves created), and remnants of humankind are scrabbling through the ruins and hoping, eventually, to rebuild. But despite some familiar sci-fi elements, like a convoy of resurrected Age of Oil vehicles, The Passage is at heart a horror story … It's a story that works even though the plague of vampires at its heart is as completely, thoroughly ridiculous as having the Earth invaded by a civilization of extraterrestrial elephants.It works because Cronin is a superb writer. He drops us into a distressingly plausible near future by taking things like license-plate recognition systems and extrapolating just the bleakest little bit. He builds a discomfiting framework and lets our imaginations do the scary work.
RaveThe Cleveland Plain DealerIn this first novel, I love his elaborate virtual scenarios, from an '80s dance party on a cyberpunk-themed world called Neonoir to the climactic battle at the gate of Castle Anorak. I loved his shout-outs to favorite science fiction authors and his hidden citations of some of my favorite books … This novel's large dose of 1980s trivia is a delight, although I probably missed at least a quarter of the references. Buckaroo Banzai, flying DeLoreans and the Tyrell Building from Blade Runner all have parts to play, and the story is stuffed with lines like ‘The next ten minutes played out like the climax of a John Woo movie’ … Even readers who need Google to identify Commodore 64 or Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, will enjoy this memorabilian feast.