The Passage by Justin Cronin is a heavy tome. Which is the reason why it had sat on my bookshelf for quite some time before I got around to reading it recently. Indeed at 784 pages and my copy being in large paperback format, I found myself selecting more comfortable reading matter time and time again over this one, despite a lot of nagging from the person who gave me the book to read that I really SHOULD read it. Comfortable reading matter for me, is not the subject of the book, but the thoughts of lazing about on the sofa, in bed, or in the bath with a good book and the Passage, despite its intriguing cover and blurb just didn't seem a good idea.
I suppose it is times such as this where I can see the advantage of owning a Kindle, however, I am sticking for my preference to hold an actual physical copy of a book in my hands for now.
Once I finally got around to picking up this book however, the comfort factor didn't bother me too much as The Passage proved to be a good read, despite the fact I couldn't take it into the bath with me.
I mentioned the interesting blurb which was short but intriguing nonetheless...
Amy is six years old and her mother thinks she's the most important person in the whole world. She is.
Anthony Carter doesn't think he could ever be in a worse place than death row. He's wrong.
FBI Agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.
As intriguing as this appeared to me, I can honestly say it doesn't even begin to describe the engaging content this book has.
At the start the book flicks between the three characters mentioned above and features Amy and her troubled mother who is struggling to earn money and then leaves her at a Nunnery after doing something bad and then Anthony Carter, who is ready to face the death sentence when Agent Wolgast turns up one day with a deal... go with him and he will be free from death row, as Wolgast is going round 'collecting' inmates from death row for a secret military operation. This storyline immediately had me hooked and takes an interesting turn when it is revealed they want six year old Amy too, which is too much for Wolgast to handle.
The sudden dramatic ending of the secret military operation, consequently puts the world in crisis, fighting off the creatures that are becoming infected by a virus released from the operation. Throughout the course of the book they are given different names such as virals, flyers and smokes, but ultimately they are vampires. Now if like me you are not a fan of the vampire craze, you would be forgiven for having a groan to yourself as I did at this point, thinking it was suddenly going to turn into another Twilight saga. However, I am pleased to say that the vampires in this book are far from the ones you'll find in your Twilight books and for that I was personally very grateful, as from the start I had a feeling that this book had more to offer and I was right. Whilst I am not knocking anyone who enjoys the Twilight series etc, it isn't really something which appeals to me personally and to be quite honest for most of the book I would say you can even forget that they were even vampires as such, as not only does the word vampire not feature much, they are more than what you may expect from a vampire amidst this current vampire craze. The book is also heavily focussed on its apocalyptic storyline and fight for survival, where humans have to fight against infected people who are out to attack. I didn't find I was thinking about 'vampires' to be honest.
The story actually spans a hundred years, however, the middle years don't really feature as one part ends amid all the carnage and we start up again 90 years later at a small colony surrounded by walls which are guarded at all times and explaining the most important thing, the lights. Without the lights at night, the virals will get in.
It is also at this point where we are introduced to some changes in character away from the main characters at the beginning as the story now features people from the colony, which again was another interesting turn. I was slightly disappointed by this sudden charge forward in time at first, but this feeling didn't last very long as it is written so well that, I found myself becoming quite attached to these characters and intrigued throughout as to what was going to happen. Here you have a small group fighting to survive, trying to figure out how to end it all and begin getting the world back to normal, whatever 'normal' is, as the group knows only the colony and what they are taught, as their world. They have little knowledge of how the world used to be, which makes for some interesting reading.
The Passage is well written and keeps a steady pace throughout, with plenty of interesting turns and unexpected events and the closer I got to the end, the harder I found it was to put down. Indeed sometimes it was only the fact that I was feeling a little uncomfortable holding the book which forced me to put it down for a while!
The way it ends gives scope to future sequels and indeed its sequel, 'The Twelve' has recently been released which is going on my wish list. I shall read without hesitation next time as my only regret about The Passage is that I wish I had picked it up sooner.
This is a review of the 2010 book 'The Passage' by Justin Cronin. At 977 pages, it's a bit of an epic and not a book you want to enter reading lightly. I must admit it had me absorbed completely, right from the beginning and I read the whole book in less than a week.
It gets there but a preamble first...
When I first read the book I was a little confused as the synopsis promised a dystopian society formed after the world has virtually ended due to a virus. I purchased the book on this premise and found the first 250 pages read a little like a detective novel. There were characters that were hard to connect and as I read further, I realised it was cleverly setting the scene and drawing the characters together to form the world's new beginning.
On Amazon, the first few reviews talk of this book as a vampire novel which I think is completely misleading. Whilst the virus mirrors something like a vampire creature, it isn't really important what the creatures are. All you need to know is that in the hours of darkness they seek to find humans to feed on and not a lot can stop their speed, strength and intelligence.
This epic book really falls nicely into several chapters, each separated with an easy to follow time line. The earlier chapters involve the army and research facilities that are operated in secret and are pushing the boundaries of life as we know it. With all the safety precautions and weapons in place it seems a fail safe project. Of course it's actually the beginning of the end of life as we know it.
A hundred years later, there's a community which have survived the attacks of the virals and they seem to have a good system in place to enable survival. Are the people really happy there though and is it right that they keep all children locked in 'the sanctuary' until they are eight years old for their own safety and to keep their innocence protected. A few of the community are restless and return to the unspoken question about whether there is anyone else out there like them that are subsisting in their own safe zone.
Some of the characters are extremely interesting, yet an alarming number are killed off as the book progresses. We are introduced early in the book to the 12 death row convicts who are enlisted in the research project. They enter a dream like state as the virus is injected in them, saving them from their death sentence and promoting them to virtual super-beings who are able to poison the minds of people near them. In the colony, there are some key players that you know are going to feature heavily in the book. Brothers Peter and Theo are brave and unafraid to leave the Colony walls. Their first trip out to the power station is a test of their wits and nerves and you start to realise how different the brothers are. A few females also feature; Sarah the nurse, Mausami the pregnant girl, Michael the electrician and other people they meet on their long journey make for fascinating reading.
Things to worry about
One of the main threats to their lifestyle in the colony is the fact that the batteries have only got a certain lifespan and it is from these that the perimeter lights work. The lights keep the virals away from the colony and its people. Michael is sure he can find some supplies somewhere but he also connects up a radio which is strictly forbidden by the elders of the group and he finds a signal that needs further investigation. He is keen to get a group together to go and scavenge for parts and follow the radio signal he's picked up.
More things to worry about
In addition to the threat of virals attacking, the worry of the batteries packing in; the scarcity of food and animals dying out (they depend on horses for travel), life is uneasy and under constant threat. Not a lot is known about the past and the world as we know it. Only Auntie in the colony is old enough to remember and she is a bit dreamy and strange, speaking in riddles to those who visit her to drink her foul herbal tea with her. She remembers a train journey from a past life where the children were evacuated and eventually the colony began. A lot of people have come and gone in her time and she is a hoarder of many items, including old photos and the journals she is constantly writing to try and keep her wandering mind in check.
This book reminded me a little of a film I watched a few years ago called 'The Village' where the elders kept the truth from the youngers in order to try and give them a better life. Whilst it is not the same there were a few flashes of this for me along the way. I found that the book gave me a lot to think about, from the way relationships and pairings were agreed in the colony to the division of work and duties amongst the people. A constant night watch was coordinated amongst the soldiers and these people were so brave to protect the boundaries of the colony. The story constantly moves on, with new people arriving in the story and never a dull moment. I could easily see how this would transfer to a film or TV series, but wait, there's more! It turns out that the book is actually part of a series and book two is due out later this year. I don't know how I will be able to resist reading it really.
Additional pages were given in the book to the author's comments on how he dreamed up the concept of the book and where he was going with it. Notes and questions for reading clubs plus a few teasing pages of the next book 'The Twelve' plus a few suggested further reading books all added value to the book.
Whilst it was an epic read, a heavy paperback that was not good for drooping wrists late at night, the pages were a bit thin for my liking and many times I turned over two pages by mistake and had to go back, which is frustrating as it interrupts your flow - but I really felt this was a great value for money read. The author could have easily turned this into two or three books as it is and so to pack it all in to one book felt like a gift.
I feel that I haven't done the book justice with this review as I really enjoyed reading it but I also did not want to give away too much of the content as it really unfolds well when you read it. Definitely worth a read if you feel you can tackle a book of 1000 pages. Believe me, it goes quickly!
I bought the passage after reading Deedee's review here. I normally would have read other reviews before buying it, but it was only £2.50, and her review made it sound very much like the type of book I would enjoy. I am not really certain what my genre is for fiction. I like books from a wide variety of subjects, but I tend to be very picky on writing style. When it comes to horror - I don't go for blood and guts. It doesn't annoy me, but I don't find it terribly interesting either. A bit of gore in a well written book is fine - trying to make a book out of gore just doesn't work for me. Likewise, I prefer books without graphic sexual scenes. I don't mind romance if it isn't too soppy - but really I know what two people do together - I don't need someone to draw me a picture. Some things are better left unsaid. But the whole craze of vampire romances to me is a bit stomach turning. Vampires are meant to be frightening. Also, I prefer things explained by science than supernatural means - again I can handle a bit of supernatural in story , but when it gets to the point that the story does not have to make sense at all, because everything can be explained by magic - I usually get fed up with book.
I've noticed looking at other reviews that most readers either love this book or are bored to tears. It all depends on what you are looking for. I won't go as far as to say I loved it, but I did enjoy it and look forward to reading the next book in the series - just not enough to pre order, I'll be waiting for a cheap second hand copy. If you are looking for traditional vampires, or the modern luvvy duvvy bloodsuckers, give this book a wide margin. If you want graphic violence or sex, or even unbridled romance, again skip this book. If you want a masterful suspense story that will keep your adrenalin pumping as you race through the pages, this book will not be for you. If you have a hard time getting into very long novels, this book won't be for you either. In fact this book could easily have been two books and it is clearly divided into two sections. But if you just want something a bit different from the usual book of the month varieties, this book might well suit you. In some ways it is similar to The Stand, but unfortunatley it does not have the same depth of character, urgency or pure talent that King displayed in that book. It is a good book, but I don't think many books are going to be in the same class as The Stand.
The book begins with Amy Harper Bellafonte. She will later become Amy NLN ( no last name), but her story begins with a normal childhood. She is born to a single Mom, but has a devoted grandfather and a normal life at first. But when her grandfather dies, Amy's mother can not manage the bills alone and the family falls into poverty, and eventually homelessness. From there, Amy's mother does the best she can, trying any odd job while they sleep in old car, but eventually even that is lost. Finally she turns to prostitution, and falls further and further into that lifestyle, as Amy sleeps alone in the hotel bath tub, while her Mother goes out - finds strange men and brings them back to ply her trade. Thankfully, there are no descriptions of what exactly she does ( I really do think we can guess) what Amy hears or anything else on these lines. But prostitutes lead a dangerous life and Amy's mother ends up shooting a wealthy young man dead - she has no choice but to go on the run, and makes the decision not to drag her child with her any further. Amy is abandoned at a convent with a very special nun, Sister Lacey from Sierra Leone. Sister Lacey has spent her life listening for the voice of her God, and she believe that voice directs her to shelter this child.
I do think both Sister Lacey and Amy are fairly well developed. In particular, one feels for Amy, and as far as horror goes - not much is more frightening than the thought of a desperate mother sinking to such depths trying to provide for her child. The sheer emptiness of this child's life, the loss, and the acceptance of intolerable conditions are touching if nothing else. Sister Lacey on the other hand is like a ray of sunshine. One of those very few gifted people who seem to be able to convey God's love with a smile despite the fact that she has been through something akin to hell in Sierra Leone.
Elsewhere a team of scientists have discovered a virus deep in the South American jungles. The U.S. Army helps out with the funding - which of course means the army takes over everything. I have read non fiction on this as well, and the US Army does have quite an interest in hemorrhagic fevers, which is what this virus is classed as - but it is not. Ninety percent of those infected by the virus will die, but in the other 10% a new species will emerge. The human and virus will merge to become one new symbiotic creature. This new creature bears many similarities to the vampire of folklore, but it isn't quite. They do not age as normal humans do, with a lifespan of perhaps 1,000 years, regenerate from any injury, and can not be killed only by completely blowing them up or hitting a small spot on the chest. They are fast, extremely strong and appear to be able to fly to some extent. ( personally I'd have left the flying bit out - too supernatural for me).
Naturally the military sees the value of infected individuals as soldiers. There are only a few problems, such as the fact that the infected lose all their humanity and turn into ravenous bloodthirsty creatures who would certainly kill any soldiers on their own side before turning to an enemy. The army wants to develop a strain that will give all the power , strength and near immortality to the infected without making them uncontrollable monsters - but things like this never go to plan do they....
Never short on bright ideas, the military decides to use expendable lives to test this virus - convicted death row inmates. A rather bad batch for the most part, whose humanity is somewhat in question even before the introduction of the virus, and not really the sort of fellows you want to endow with supernatural powers. But towards the end of the trials, the head scientist insists on a new subject - a child. A child who no one will miss. It doesn't take a rocket scientist so surmise this will be Amy. What happens, how she survives and the result for the rest of the human race are all things you should read the book to discover.
The second part of the book takes place roughly 100 years later. The change is arrupt, and it does feel as if you are reading a different book. It took me awhile to get into this section, just as it did the very start of the book. It takes place in a small colony where the descendants of survivors have known no other life. They live in a compound, all under one law - which sounds a bit ominous and in fact is. They do not know if any other humans exist outside the colony or not. They are able to raise food and survive, protected by high walls and massive floodlights that keep the infected, or virals at bay. There are still attacks, and some are lost, but the colony goes on. But this colony depends on the lights to survive and the batteries are growing old. Sooner or later the lights will go out and their world will no longer offer any measure of safety. There are those who wish to cling to one way, and one law, unable to face change and thrown into complete chaos when any is forced upon them, and those who somehow crave change, movement and growth.
A large part of the second half of the book is the conflict between those who will embrace change and those who dread it. But this also sees family loyalties and ties brought in, romance in a very realistic fashion, where things don't go smoothly, and there is not always a happily ever after. The romances in this book are of people with insecurities and doubts, and they sometimes make the wrong choices which makes it all the more believable. There are attacks, and battles, but these are not described in great detail, and are a minor part of the story. It is the fear of attack, and the way these people must live their whole lives in this fear that creates the story.
My overall opinion of this book was quite good. There were a few parts that dragged a bit, and some parts were just a bit too supernatural for my tastes. I would have prefered a more scientific approach, although of course I do realise all of these viral apocalypse stores are of course a bit far fetched. You can stretch reality all of shape in a good book - but it's best not to completely shatter it in my opinion. A few authors can get away with the most implausible ideas - but it's a difficult task.
I do think a couple of characters were pretty well developed, but this never approaches the depth of character that Steven King had in the Stand. They were fairly predictable though, and most of what should have been the big surprises in this book were seen a mile off. I can think of only one minor surprise in this book. He leaves you on a couple of cliffhangers when a chapter ends and you switch to another characters events - but in each case the cliffhanger is so easy to guess at it loses any intended effect. I despise reading spoilers so won't include any - but if I wanted to - it would be very difficult. There really is not anything you won't see coming. This is the main reason I am knocking a star off this book. It just needs a little bit of work in the department.
All my complaints aside though, I will read keep this book, and some day after enough years have passed to forget some of it, I expect I will read it again. I will also buy the second book in this series, and I do look forward to reading it. I did enjoy the book. It isn't perfect - it isn't The Stand, but it is a decent, original work that doesn't leave me feeling as if I have already read the same story a dozen times before.
Sometimes the people at Waterstones are just so nice that you can't resist their recommendations. One day I got talking with a member of staff about how the whole vampire craze is a bit tired, and how I wished there were more new horror books that were actually horror and not necrophilic romances. She recommended a new release, "The Passage", saying she didn't want to spoil it, but if I liked vampires and modern horror like "28 Days Later", I would enjoy it. When I saw it on special offer at the counter, I picked it up with confidence. Justin Cronin's work was new to me; he's written before, but this is his breakout novel, the first in a planned trilogy. The next book, "The Twelve" is due out this year, and film rights to "The Passage" have already been bought.
It's essentially a book with two main acts. The first act begins pre-apocalypse, following a government experiment that genetically enhances humans using a viral strain; it doesn't sound like a good idea, and disaster strikes when mutant inmates escape the facility, carrying a volatile contagion with them. A young girl called Amy is also used in the experiment, but seems resistant to its ill effects, and escapes to hide in the mountains with her rescuer, likeable FBI agent Brad Wolgast. There, they sit out the unfolding apocalypse in isolation. Then the book jumps nearly a hundred years into the future, post-apocalypse, to a colony of human survivors. They live in a self-contained, heavily fortified military facility called the Haven, miles away from anywhere - as far as they can possibly know, they're the only survivors left. They venture out of the facility during the day, but live in fear at night, when the "virals" (heavily mutated vampire-like creatures) come out to hunt. The Haven is protected by powerful flood lights during the night, but when their power sources begin to fail, it starts to look like their only chance of survival is to brave the wildnerness.
I have really mixed feelings about this book. Cronin's barren new America has some good ideas. The virals, bioluminescent freaks of science, are scary and challenging opposition. They are to vampires what 28 Days' "rage zombies" are to traditional slow zombies - not strictly canon, but an interesting twist. But the author was really onto something with the first act of the book, and I can't help feeling he threw the baby out with the bathwater in the big jump to the second act, and then wasn't able to cut it.
Cronin's style just doesn't have enough grit. His world is sterile and unbelievable, killing off whatever was left of the first part's modern, urban vitality. The pace of the book becomes so indulgently slow that there's rarely a sense of real urgency or tension, no matter how dire the characters' plight becomes.
The whole world is limp. People can barely even swear, shouting "Flyers!" in times of distress, a bizarrely childish euphemism that I thought meant the paper things at first (though it's of course a reference to the virals). Enemies are "bladed" or "taken on a blade" instead of just having the living daylights stabbed out of them. Gritty precision would have served the story way better than that kind of faffing around. The whole middle of the book is full of sloppy mistakes and repeated phrases - couldn't someone have slapped his editor awake? I managed to slog through all of it, and I wasn't even contractually obliged to!
Not only is the prose flat as pancakes, but so is the new cast of characters. There's Peter, the reluctant hero (think Peter from "Heroes", another wet blanket with brother issues); Alicia, the fiery, independent redhead who Don't Need No Man; Michael, the techie guy that people insist on referring to as "the Circuit", even though "Michael" is shorter; Sara, the nice nurse lady, and then a bunch of other people who I didn't care about either. They all act in the same way and speak in the same toneless voice, coming and going and failing to make an impression.
Basically, it's a Stephen King doorstopper with none of King's conversational tone; "The Road" with none of the character and lyricism; "I Am Legend" with none of the brevity (and I mean no brevity, at all, anywhere); "28 Days Later" without the visceral intensity or benefits of Cillian Murphy's face. Then - I can just see Cronin patting himself on the back - the story just peters out in an obvious segue into the next book. Nigh on a thousand pages and "The Passage" isn't even stand-alone.
I think its big downfall is that Cronin has his apocalyptic cake and tries to eat it too, jumping from one big novel-worthy idea to another, expecting the reader to follow him without getting whiplash. As much as I love post-apocalypse survival stuff, it's been done better dozens of times in books, films, and games. "The Passage" fails to bring anything truly new to the table, and throws out its best ideas early on. A book about an apocalypse-in-progress would have been way more interesting, and something that hasn't been done enough already.
I don't hate it - I even loved the first part. It was taut and mysterious, and I was really rooting for the characters' survival. It's just the complacent twist that I was unable to forgive for the next six hundred pages. It's pretty much two books in one cover: one of them good, full of potential, and not long enough, and the other substandard, trite, and way too long.
So, though I love horror, monsters, and sci-fi, this just didn't do it for me. And what does a structure that looks "like an inside-out spider" even look like?
Just so you know what you're getting (because I have heard some people express disappointment), there is an abrupt time-shift in this novel after about the first 250 pages. The first part of the novel is set in the present - thereafter, the remainder leaps 100 years into the future where a small community of humans are dealing with the fall-out from a virus which escaped at the start of the book. However, it's this leap forward which makes the book so gripping. It's by no means a fast-paced book - and at a weighty 900 pages, you wouldn't expect it to be. However, it holds the reader's interest in a way many shorter books aren't always capable of doing. I found myself eager to pick the book up and escape, once again, into the thoroughly believable dystopian society that Cronin has created.
I also found it beautifully written. It would make a fantastic book club read and it posed tons of questions - what it means to be human, whether there is a point to existing if, potentially, there are no other humans in the world and how (and why) the existence of other people can shape our lives and give it meaning. Most of all - this is a book about hope and determination. Arguably, it would have been the no-brainer option for Cronin to have stuck to a present-day narrative of a post-viral world. But I felt that what he did provided for a much more interesting and intriguing read. He's given his readers a glimpse of what life would be like if the majority of humanity was wiped out.
I would also caution people to NOT approach this as a vampire book. I've heard some readers complain it wasn't scary enough - but I don't think that was the point of The Passage. The scary aspect of The Passage, for me, was that what Cronin has achieved is to paint a picture of a future which could be real. It's NOT a horror novel - it's a story about sacrifice, loyalty, love and hope; and all the characters stayed with me long after I finished the last page. I simply can't wait for the next instalment!
I literally could not stop reading this book; it's thrilling, gripping, exciting and touching. When I first began I wasn't sure if it was for me, yet I found myself turning the pages and suddenly I did not want to stop. The Passage is the only post-apocalyptic novel I have read and I'm not entirely sure what made me want to read it start with. Of course I was intrigued by the blurb, making me want to know more yet giving limited information about what the novel was actually about. To be honest though, what probably made the book stick out to me was it's size; it's like a brick. Bigger than average sized pages and 766 of them. I'm a fan of big books; they promise an in-depth story, the creation of a whole new world - and Cronin definitely did not let me down.
The story begins with Amy Harper Bellafonte, the main character in the story who ends up also being known as The Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In and a variety of other names - after her mother leaves her, no one really knows who this mysterious girl is. Brad Wolgast is an FBI agent employed to bring death-row inmates to Colorado, he's not sure what for and isn't supposed to ask questions. When asked to bring Amy to the military camp in Colorado, however, he finds himself attached to the girl and helps her. This is before the outbreak of a virus which began as an operation for a new immunity boosting drug. Afterwards the book goes ahead 90 or so years in a post-apocalyptic world where remaining colonies of people live their lives hoping the millions of virals (vampire like creature who have become infected with the virus) don't get to them. The novel at this point focuses on a group who have left their colony in California in an attempt to get to Colorado - Amy has come to them and the people believe she has to get back there.
The book is written in numerous different styles: emails, journals, newspaper reports but for the most part it is written in regular narrative prose. I found myself enjoying the narrative prose parts about Amy the most. I found myself becoming more and more captivated and intrigued by this girl who hardly talked, yet was undeniably a pivotal character in the plot. Some parts of the novel did confuse me and it was hard to keep up with all the characters mentioned yet this did not bother me as I knew whilst reading that I would happily read the book again at some point to understand it even better.
In my opinion this is a fantastic book and I am highly looking forward to the next in the trilogy being released in 2012. I was relieved when I discovered it was part of trilogy once I had finished reading the novel; there is so much more I want to know about Amy, what happens to those in the colony and what else happens in this dark world created by Cronin. Whilst reading I was so absorbed in this world that I found it hard to get my mind back into the real world, and to be honest, I didn't really want to.
(Also posted on my Tumblr account)
The Passage is a highly acclaimed new novel from author, Justin Cronin that has recently dominated the shelves of all good supermarkets and bookshops throughout the whole of the country. Weighing in at a little under 900 pages, it is a lengthy tome and something of an epic read that spans several decades and follows the survival of the human race after an attempt at its own destruction!
It is a difficult book to discuss because I do not want to give anything away and thus ruin your enjoyment with spoilers, so please excuse me if I do not delve too deeply into the plot. But the basic premise is that this is a book of two acts: one set before an apocalyptic chain of events, charting the means of our downfall and one set afterwards; following one groups attempt at survival in this new and dangerous era. Connecting both storylines is a little girl called Amy who plays a big part in events both before and after humanity's near destruction.
This book has been compared to many similar end-of-the-world novels that include Cormack McCarthy's The Road, Robert McCammon's Swan Song and even Stephen King's The Stand. In truth, this book is like none of these and yet at the same time combines elements of all of them. If I had to compare this book to anything, I would say it came closest to a mix between something like Watchers by Dean Koontz and Trevor Hoyle's little known sci-fi novel, The Last Gasp (check out my review); though it goes way beyond many of the themes explored in either of these to take the reader in a completely new and different direction.
To call this, as some have, a Vampire novel is a complete misnomer. Though the creatures that attempt to consume our world share similar characteristics, they are wholly original and unique and exclusive to Cronin's imagination! In The Passage, Cronin has created a highly original and believable world and it is a real pleasure to read something that tries to do something as ambitious as this and totally different from anything else currently available!
My only criticism is that some things in the plot are never adequately explained. In an early chapter, for example, there is offered no explanation as to how the Federal Agencies first locate Amy; Agents are simply told where she is and sent to pick her up which doesn't really follow considering the circumstances. And there are indications, again never explained, that Amy is "special" in some way long before the American Government get their hands on her from the way that animals behave in her presence.
The other thing I am not sure I like is the way this book is obviously written with the idea of it being merely the first instalment in a series (on Wikipedia, the only place I have found this mentioned, there is strong suggestion that it is the first book in a trilogy). The story ends very open-ended and many themes and ideas are left only briefly explored or just thrown out there for later books to finish off. Though there is much to like about this novel, it is true also that there is much that leaves the reader frustrated!
I really thought early on that this was going to be one of my greatest ever reads, and indeed there were plenty of times when I found myself really getting into this, but the end result is just that this doesn't really come together as a whole as much as I would like. It is good, it is quite well written in places but it is just soooo long and there is just so little reward in the final pages for the amount of effort the reader is expected to invest to get there! I could easily imagine more casual readers getting bored and giving this up long before the end because they could not imagine where it was going. The decision to use such a wide array of characters over two separate and yet connected acts of the story too could well lead to alienating certain readers!
Overall, I really like this but it is far from a perfect novel and Cronin really needs to work on his execution before attempting another novel this size and length (the next instalment in this series perhaps??!?). In his defence, this is apparently a complete change in direction for the author and a change of genre. Interviews with the writer suggest that his other work is more literary and that the idea for this epic came about because his daughter told him his other books "sounded boring!" When asked what she would like to read, the author's daughter told him "a story about a little girl who saves the world!" and thus The Passage was born. It is a charming little anecdote but there are times when you wonder with this if Cronin has bitten off more than he can chew. The thought of two more books in the series this size or longer, right now feels pretty daunting!
Still, for an end-of-world epic it certainly delivers and ultimately what you see here is pretty much what you get!
I went on holiday with work for a week a while ago and worked nights. Although I had taken entertainment with me, I just didn't take enough and ran out of things after one night. So during my day off, I popped over to Tesco to pick up a book. Tesco usually have a lot of books in but this store had a small selection so I just grabbed two on the two for £8 offer that jumped out at me. One of these was 'The Passage'.
** The Passage **
The Passage was published in 2010 and is written by Justin Cronin. I have never heard of him before reading this and wasn't sure that I would get into the book, as I usually go for the same author as I like their writing styles.
The Passage is set in the near future and begins by following a young woman who has recently given birth to a girl, Amy. We see Amy's mother flee a violent relationship and take Amy on the run with her. After a series of events, she leaves Amy at a convent where we first see that Amy is 'Special'.
At the same time, the story follows an FBI agent who has been given the 'special task' of visiting a series of death row inmates and offering them their lives back if they join a top secret government project, all of them agreeing.
When we get an insight into this project, it is clear that the government are researching a virus and using these inmates as subjects in their research.
I don't want to give too much of the main plot away so will leave it there with the first section.
The novel then goes into a new section, which is set further in the future and many people in the world have been killed by a deadly virus. In California, there is a colony of what is believed to be the only survivors left.
When a handful of these survivors go astray, we follow them as they begin a search for more survivors and get in insight into just how much the world has changed.
** Well worth a go! **
I don't want to give too much of the plot of this book away as it really is an amazing novel and surprises you throughout, even though you may think you have guessed what is coming.
Although I was worried about not getting into this book as first, I really enjoyed it and struggled to put it down. Unfortunately, as I have been working so much over the past month, it has taken me a month to get through the whole book (which has around 1000 pages in all) and I wish I could have read it quicker and all I wanted to do was get stuck in!
Cronin plans to write a further two novels and make this into a Trilogy. 'The Twelve' and 'The City of Mirrors' are due for release in 2012 and 2014. I am already itching to get my hands on 'The Twelve' and when I realised there was a sequel was straight on Amazon to order it, I was almost heartbroken when I realised I had to wait another year!
I have also seen on Wikepedia that movie rights to 'The Passage' have already been purchased, however, I'm not sure how true this may be.
This novel is not the kind of thing that I would usually read, again as I don't want to give away the plot I don't want to say what it would come under in genres. I usually read a lot of fiction, but things that are easy to read. Although this was easy to read, it wasn't Twilight or a girly novel.
It is quite an intense novel, Cronin goes into a lot of detail with everything and it is the kind of novel where you really have to concentrate on what is happening, if you drift away for even a few sentences you may lose the plot!
The two sections of the novel are quite different, I found that I really enjoyed the first part but struggled to get into the second as the characters and the environment changed drastically. However, once I got stuck in again, I really enjoyed the second and was gutted when it finished!
I definitely cannot wait for the sequel to be released, my boyfriend has recommended that I wait until late 2013 to read it so that I don't have to wait two years for the third instalment, but I don't think I can wait that long!
I would definitely recommend this book if you like something that gets you thinking throughout and trying to work out what will happen next. But don't read it if it upsets you when you cant guess what is coming, as it is difficult to predict what may happen next!
I first heard about this book when I was on lovereading.com (a brilliant website, see reviews on it later) and read an extract from it. It sounded very good, and I'm not giving anything away when I say that the start of it was heart rending. My view on it at that point did not match the ominous cover. I resolved to pick it up when I saw it next, and got it in the airport for the whopping price of £16.99 from WHSmith. I realise that was a bit unwise, so if you decide to buy it, get it from Amazon, which has it in hardback for £9.99. I was just so excited to read it that the huge price didn't really matter to me.
I reread the start and began it, and then I couldn't put it down. It fills you with a huge manner of emotions- sadness, when characters are lost, loneliness, when a character goes out alone, with only his hypnotising dreams for company, revulsion, at the thought of stealing a 6 year old, surprise and happiness, at certain characters turning up unexpectedly, and pity, for the creatures themselves. Cronin manages to twist your thoughts so that between 2 pages, your whole view of a world or a character is changed.
He brings a great many surprises too, although i think that the manner in which he does this is quite crude, almost unskillful (although, I'm not a writer- who am I to judge?)- you can either guess at his hints straight away, taking away the mystery, or you can't guess until he tells you through his characters what the mystery is. he hasn't quite perfected the art of keeping you guessing until the right moment.
(Warning-this paragraph contains a tiny spoiler)
The story is about 'virals', a creature stemming from humans who've contracted a particular virus. They're almost invincible- a nearly perfect killing machine. The plot sometimes makes you think they're vampires, but the general idea you achieve soon after starting has nothing at all to do with them, and you forget about comparing them with vampires after a short while.
Back to the ominous cover. To be honest, this book is not as scary as the evil-looking little girl on the front might have you believe. It is about death, and survival, against all the odds- but Cronin always has some hope left in his characters, and you never feel that bottomless emptiness when a writer makes you believe that it's all over.
When The Passage appeared on my Amazon Vine list I didn't even really know what it was about, as it was a bit vague. I know you should never judge a book by it's cover but it's short mysterious blurb and menacing cover did intrigue me, after reassuring myself it wasn't one of those 'misery novels.'
The Passage is a huge tome of a book. I own an uncorrected proof copy of the book and it's 790 pages thick making for an arm aching read and meant no chance of reading this in the bath. I dread to think how heavy the hardback version of this book is!
== Plot ==
Amy is six years old and her mother thinks she's the most important person in the whole world. She is.
Anthony Carter doesn't think he could ever be in a worse place than death row. He's wrong.
FBI Agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.
It's this rather intriguing blurb that appears on the back of the book however it doesn't even begin to describe the amazing story line this book has. At the start the book flicks between those very 3 characters, Amy and her troubled mother struggling to earn money who then leaves her at a Nunnery after doing something bad. Anthony Carter is ready to face the death sentence when Wolgast turns up one day with a deal, come with him and he's free from death row. Wolgast is going round 'collecting' death row inmates for a secret military operation, however he decides it's going too far when they want six year old Amy, only a child and too much for Wolgast to handle.
The secret military operation suddenly comes to a dramatic end, which suddenly puts the world in crisis, fighting off the creatures that are becoming infected by a virus released from this secret operation. Through out the course of the book they are given many different names; virals, flyers and smokes, but ultimately they are vampires. Yes, when I got to the part in the book where it began to hint at vampires I groaned. I'm not a fan at all of this latest craze of all things vampire related however the vampires in this book are far from the ones you'll find in your Twilight books and films and for that UI was hugely thankful. To be honest for the most part of the book I could forget they were even vampires at all as that word is rarely used, and it quickly becomes another apocalyptic story where humans are fighting off infected people out to attack them.
== My Opinion ==
I love all things apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic and I was over joyed to see this story turning into just that genre, as humankind fight for survival. The book spans a hundred years however the middle bit is missed out for the most part and actually makes for brilliant reading. We finish just at the midst of all the madness and start up again at a small colony, surrounded by walls guarded day and night, and the most important thing, the lights. Without the lights at night, the virals will get in.
The main characters we follow at the start of the book suddenly differs and you follow a few characters from the colony, and I quickly warmed to them and learnt all about them very quickly. For the rest of the book I became quite attached to these characters and just what would happen to them. The story keeps good pace, with lots of unexpected events and mysteries, and the last part of this book is the most unput-downable part of the whole book. Here you read a story of a small group trying to survive, and trying to figure out how to end it all and begin getting the world back to normal. Even the small details are brilliant, for example the group knows only the colony and what they are taught as their world, and they have little knowledge of how the world used to be.
== Summary ==
This book is set to be hugely popular, it's alright receiving brilliant reviews and the film rights have been bought by Ridley Scott. People are comparing this to Stephen King's The Stand, and I would say this really just as brilliant a read. The way it ends gives scope to future sequels, which I hope does happen as I enjoyed reading every bit of this huge tome of a book. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Published by Orion, available in hardback on Amazon for £9.99 with a whopping 784 pages.