Let's preface this review with...no, I don't like vampire books. Okay, I admit I read all four of the Twilight books. It was like eating Lay's potatoe chips - you know it's bad for you (ie. the writing is terrible and the editor actually needed to edit), but you can't stop with just one! Also, Interview with a Vampire was incredibly well-written and fascinating, but gave me nightmares every night until I finally had to put it down. With that said, Justin Cronin's book is not a 'vampire' book, though they're in it. I'd describe it more as a post-apocalyptic book, which yes, I always 'bite' on those (okay, stupid pun but bet you still smiled:).
Let's start with how Cronin even got the idea. As a big runner, he would go for his morning jogs and think about book ideas. There came a day, however, when his little girl who had just learned to ride a bike, wanted to join dad on his run. Knowing he would lose that book-planning time, he realized it could be fun to talk out a book with his young daughter. So, on their first run/bike-ride, Cronin asked her, "What kind of story shall we write together?" His daughter replied, "Dad, write a book about a little girl who saves the world"... Aah, the wisdom of youth turned into a HUGE best-seller and the cause of many missed dinners, appointments, and tennis games for me.
The first fifty pages is confusing, following emails from research doctors in South America, stories of government agents, and a sad confused little girl. However, those first few pages set the scene for everything else; I can't tell you how many times I went back to read the emails from South America (helped explain a lot). The story moves from a science experiment gone REALLY wrong (yep, think vampires but not the creepy, Bela Lugosi kind, but the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kind). As the plot thickens, it moves well into the future, with a glimpse of the havoc poor lab security can do on our world. And Cronin can write - not only is the plot provoking, but the characters are rich and the themes of love and family ring true. Yes, I had nightmares all the time, thanks to the 'smokes' as they're called, but not a chance I was putting this book down. It was one of the most gripping, hair-raising, addictive books I've ever read. I am counting the months until the second in the series comes out, and would like to hurry Cronin on quite a bit, as next summer cannot come soon enough!
Be cautious when you pick up this book, be patient and get through the first 100 pages, and then be prepared to let your life slip away as you live in the world of the future, waiting to see if Amy really can 'save the world.'