Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

October 7, 2013 Books, Reading, Reviews 3 ★★★★

Review: The Passage by Justin CroninThe Passage by Justin Cronin
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.
Series: The Passage #1
Published by Ballantine on 8 June 2010
Genres: Apocalyptic, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 784
Format: eBook
Find this book on Goodreads
Buy the Book at: Amazon

It’s been a while since I’ve plowed through a book in a day and a half (and frankly, it would’ve been a day if it hadn’t been nearly 800 pages), but I got completely sucked into The Passage by Justin Cronin. Heh. Get it? Sucked into a novel about a bizarre vampire virus?

crickets chirp

But anyway, yes.  My friend Bees didn’t so much recommended the novel as begged me to read it so she could suck someone else into her web of creepy awesome literature have someone to talk about it with.  So I picked it up and when I finished reading Devil’s Punch, I got started on The Passage.

Dear god.  I plowed through nearly seven hundred pages in a single day.  I had to force myself to go to bed, and then I dreamed about the characters and the amazingly creeptastic monsters.  It was absolutely fantastic.

The Passage is both apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic with a little dash of budding dystopia thrown in for flavor.  The market is pretty saturated in post-apoc/dystopian novels right now, so I probably wouldn’t even have paid attention to this without the recommendation, but it definitely rises above the competition that I’ve read.

Not enough novels deal with actual apocalypses, in my humble opinion.  I like stories of survivors trying to make their way through a ruined world, but the part of me that loves disaster movies wants to know all the horrible details of how that world was ruined.  The one complaint I have specifically about The Passage is that during the actual fall, the point of view character is hidden away in the mountains and only learns of things that are happening through peripheral means, like an older newspaper in the nearby store.  However, the second book in the series seems to be diving a little deeper into the actual apocalypse itself, so my complaint might have to be retracted.

The story also jumps forward in time in a way that was kind of startling to me.  In one chapter, I was completely emotionally involved with a character, and the next chapter was set nearly a hundred years later.  It’s a surprise, but I was just as quickly drawn to the new cast of characters.

The characters, while I’m on the subject, are fantastic.  They’re very well-developed and everyone learns and grows throughout the novel.  I cried when horrible things happened to them.  I dove right into the second book because I couldn’t bear to take a break and read something else.  I had to know.

The action is paced pretty much perfectly, with the quiet parts leaving you dreading what will happen next.  You get a bit of a break during those parts, but there’s always the lingering fear that the other shoe is about to drop and smash your beloved characters.

And then there are the creatures, called virals or smokes or dracs depending on who’s doing the calling.  To me, they read a lot like the virally-induced zombies of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, except they’re vampire-like instead of zombies.  Cronin’s monsters feed on flesh and blood, and they also have amazingly creepy mind control powers.  I’m not going to go into too much depth here because slowly learning how that works was part of the gorgeous eeriness of the book, but they absolutely creeped me out.

If you’re looking for a new take on vampires and/or post-apocalyptic lit, I’d definitely recommend The Passage.  It’s the first book in a trilogy, followed by The Twelve, which is also available now.  The third and final book, apparently titled The City of Mirrors according to its Goodreads page, is set to come out… sometime in 2014.