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Entertaining end of the world epic......
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Member Name: sparkymarky1973
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Date: 15/07/11, updated on 15/07/11 (20 review reads)
Advantages: Gripping storyline.....good, strong characters
Disadvantages: Leaves things too open at the end! Some plot holes in the story.....
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!
Summary: A young girl holds the fate of our world in her hands.......