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Would you want to be a member of this colony?
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Member Name: katyj10
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Advantages: Epic read with another to follow!
Disadvantages: The usual niggles about how real it is and why some characters survive despite the odds
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!
Summary: Could be a film