What are you going to do after vanquishing the virals? Why, properly inoculated, refound civilization, of course.
Marilynne Robinson isn’t the only writer to situate a woman named Lila in the green groves of Iowa. Nope: Cronin (The Twelve, 2012, etc.) does so too, his Lila a warden to damaged young Kate, whose biblically named mom, Sara, has been shunted off into captivity by the Redeyes, unpleasant people made that way by genetic tinkering via the virals—they being, readers of Cronin’s predecessor volumes will recall, supersoldiers gone awry thanks to inevitable screw-ups on the parts of the mad scientists at Monsanto, or wherever mad scientists find work in these fraught times. Leave it to Amy, Alicia of Blades, Peter the martyred rock on which the future is founded (“Blood was dripping from his hair, flowing down the creases of his face”), and all the other good guys to hack and slash their ways across the landscape to the promised land of Ottumwa, or wherever it is that good guys make their ways to in the very bad near future. Cronin writes with intelligence and verve, and he serves up a good imitation of Sergio Leone: “Of Amy, the Girl from Nowhere,” he writes in a denouement, “there is no mention. Perhaps we shall never learn who she was, if she existed at all.” That there’s anyone to worry about literary archaeology 1,000 years after events means that humankind survived, so yea, but only after much gore and heroic talk befitting an apocalyptic yarn. Some of the story seems castoff Walter Miller, whose Canticle for Leibowitz imagines religious belief of the future as a reflection of oddball events in the distant past—our own time, that is. And overall, there’s a kind of slow-hissing-of-air-out-of-a-balloon feel to the whole enterprise, as if this trilogy might have better been served up as a twin set.
Of interest to fans who have followed the story through the first two books, but a bumpy ride without that background.