The Passage by Justin Cronin

Arguably one of the biggest books of the year, The Passage is literary author Justin Cronin’s first foray into the realm of speculative fiction. He was originally inspired by his nine-year-old daughter who told him she wanted a story about a little girl saving the world. Cronin plotted this vampire novel for adults with his daughter during their jogging expeditions and, incredibly, he was given a $3.75 million advance by a publisher. At a little under 800 pages, the size isn’t one that would typically intimidate fantasy fans, and luckily two tantalizing additions await readers hungry for more, as it is the first of a planned trilogy. The book has already been picked up by Fox 2000 with Ridley Scott and the screenwriter he worked with for Gladiator adapting The Passage for the screen. I can’t wait!

Not your sparkly vampire…
…but not exactly your typical vamp either. The vampires of The Passage are blood-sucking, indestructible creatures completely lacking humanity. They were transformed from human to beast by a highly contagious virus. Who let it loose? The government, of course! Set in the near future, this post-apocalyptic monster of a book is strangely addicting. The “virals”, or vampires, can psychically influence un-infected humans and can build a kind of collective consciousness. One of the virals, formerly a murderer named Babcock, is able to influence a group of humans at one point in the novel to kill each other.

No one is immune
The story begins with a pregnant teenage girl. She gives birth to Amy, the main character, and struggles as a single mother until it becomes too much to handle, eventually dropping the six-year old Amy off with a nun and disappearing. Amy’s life changes again soon after when she is kidnapped by two FBI agents to be used as a test subject for a new vaccine, along with death-row inmates. A little harsh, no? As it happens, however, Amy is immune. She “enjoys” all of the benefits of the vaccine without turning into a monster.

100 years into the future…
The book spans over one hundred years in time and consists of eleven parts of various lengths, but it can be summed up in two sections. The first follows the origins of the virus and its outbreak and the second is set a little less than 100 years in the future. A group of humans in California struggle for survival as the batteries powering the lights that are their protection against the virals run out. Amy shows up, still in her early teens thanks to the slow-aging effects of the virus, and everything goes a little crazy.

One of the fun (for me) treats of the novel is how Cronin plays on current events and uses them to give us an idea of how far into the future the novel starts. For instance, Jenna Bush is the Governor of Texas and a federal ID number has been mandated for all citizens of the United States. Radical attacks have increased within the borders and gas is thirteen dollars a gallon. I can see how Cronin extrapolated these events but I only hope they don’t actually play out as he imagines.

Narrative Devices
The writing is superb, the style engaging and the story intriguing. The only faults in my mind were some of the narrative devices. Early in the novel, for example, you read a set of emails, all one-way, that don’t add much to the story. I think some of the minute details throughout the novel like the emails detracted from its power and distracted me as I read, slowing down the pace.

Why should you read this book?
If you love Michael Crichton, Stephen King or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I think you’ll love this vampire novel for adults. Post-apocalyptic , dark and expansive, The Passage won’t let you down.

About Caitrin Clewell

Caitrin Clewell
Caitrin is a geek and proud of it. You can often find her leaving the library with at least five books. A big fan of fantasy and YA, she also enjoys science fiction, mystery/thriller, and urban fantasy. She also proclaimed herself RD's Guru of Everyth—OOH SHINY THING!

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  1. I definitely want to check this out, though the 800 pages thing is a little discouraging.

  2. It sounds so good! I will check it out!
    Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  3. I certainly enjoyed it! 800 pages is quite a commitment but it was worth it to me 😀 Then again I like really big books >.>

  4. Hmm, this book seems to be very disputed. I’ll probably try it, but it’s a bit scary how many people not only disliked the book, but will describe in many paragraphs how much they loathed it. I think some of them were trying to imitate what they saw as the pointless last 550 pages of the book after he randomly kills everybody off, except the girl.

    • I think with almost any book, there will be people who love it, like it, don’t care for it and hate it. We all have different tastes, likes and dislikes. I find it I pay too much attention to a certain review, it will color the book for me even though I’ve never read it. I prefer to read a large variety. If they are consistently negative, I won’t bother with it. Or if they point out things I don’t like in books. However if they are a mixture of good and bad, I will read it for myself and spend the time on it. I’m certainly not trying to say this will be a book that everyone will love, it’s my opinion and lots of people don’t have the same taste. I tend to read books I know I will like.

  5. absolutely loved this book. at times couldnt put it down. im not a huge reader but came across this book and was intrigued, love love love it. and am SO happy to find out its a trilogy!

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