I have been interested in this novel since it was released. At first I wondered why NPR (I mean all things considered even) did stories on this novel, but then when I listened to the story it became clear that Cronin was something the industry considers to be a author of fine literature. Sure it's a end of the world novel, filled with vampire but since this guy wrote some mushy over award nominated snoozer then it makes this novel beyond the genre ghetto and worth promotion on NPR. OK, maybe I am blowing this up a bit and honestly I have not read any other novels by Cronin so maybe they are not snoozers. I was interested to see if the publishers ignore the obvious fact that this was a Speculative horror novel.
The worst example of this was Mary Doria Russel's amazing novel "The Sparrow" (I reviewed it in Feb. 2009). That novel is 100% hard Science fiction and I would argue one of the most disturbing horror novels at the same time. Genre was completely ignored in the marketing of it, this was serious literature folks. I don't think Cronin and his publishers did that here thankfully. This novel has alot in common with multi-character end of the world novels like The Stand and Sawn Song although I would say it is not nearly as strong of a novel as those two. For my money Del Toro and Hogan's Strain trilogy was also a better take on almost the same story.
This novel is ambitious for a novelist entering into the genre for the first time, it has a grand apocalyptic canvas, several dozen characters, and equally as many story lines that weave together even if it seems they never will. It has almost an 800 page hardcover page count. Cronin's take on vampires is original enough, but in my opinion could have been cut into two different novels, and since it was left open for a sequel it might have been better served as a series of short novels.
The opening two and fifty pages are the strongest in the novel, there is a serious sag in the middle 2 or 300 pages like a tent missing a vital bar to hold it up. The first 250 pages were seriously so well written that it perhaps made the middle part look worse than it really was.
The ending pulled it out but there were several hundred pages where I was confused and wasn't sure how anything that was happening related to the brilliant opening. I kept reading thus proving Silence of The lambs director Jonathan Demme's writing advice "You can confuse me for twenty minutes but don't bore me for 5 seconds." He said something like that.