The Passage (Passage Trilogy Series #1)
  • The Passage (Passage Trilogy Series #1)
  • The Passage (Passage Trilogy Series #1)

The Passage (Passage Trilogy Series #1)

4.0 4245
by Justin Cronin

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This paperback edition includes:

 * An excerpt of The Twelve
 * A revealing interview with author Justin Cronin

The Washington Post • Esquire • U.S. News & World Report • NPR’s On Point

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This paperback edition includes:

 * An excerpt of The Twelve
 * A revealing interview with author Justin Cronin

The Washington Post • Esquire • U.S. News & World Report • NPR’s On Point • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • BookPage • Library Journal

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl—and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies. When a secret project to create a super-soldier backfires, a virus leads to a plague of vampiric revenants that wipes out most of the population. One of the few bands of survivors is the Colony, a FEMA-established island of safety bunkered behind massive banks of lights that repel the “virals,” or “dracs”—but a small group realizes that the aging technological defenses will soon fail. When members of the Colony find a young girl, Amy, living outside their enclave, they realize that Amy shares the virals’ agelessness, but not the virals’ mindless hunger, and they embark on a search to find answers to her condition. PEN/Hemingway Award-winner Cronin (The Summer Guest) uses a number of tropes that may be overly familiar to genre fans, but he manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style. The first of a proposed trilogy, it’s already under development by director Ripley Scott and the subject of much publicity buzz (Retail Nation, Mar. 15). (June)
A literary richness that rivals Stephen King's The Stand.
Entertainment Weekly
Magnificently unnerving . . . A The Stand-meets-The Road journey. A-
[An] apocalyptic epic...Expect a lot of interest in this title.
The Wall Street Journal
A postapocalyptic vampire trilogy, which Stephen King has hailed as a captivating epic...a potential commercial blockbuster by an award-winning literary novelist.
This summer’s new 'it' book…a postapocalyptic epic…We've just found our summer escape! Top 10 Summer Books for 2010
Men's Journal
Addictive, terrifying, and deeply satisfying. Not only is this one of the year's best thrillers; it's one of the best of the past decade - maybe one of the best ever.
Library Journal
Wow! Nearly 40 hours in length, the unabridged audio recording of PEN/Hemingway Award-winning writer Cronin's detail-rich third novel is nothing short of epic excellence. The first entry in a new trilogy, the book is set in a bleak, postapocalyptic America at a time when the world is overrun by vampire-like humans infected by a virus. Divided into two huge parts—pre- and postoutbreak—the tale is equally gripping and frightening and the characters are very well developed. To boot, Audie Award winner Scott Brick's (see Behind the Mike, LJ 10/15/09) narration is nothing short of masterly. Impossible to stop listening to; highly recommended. [The New York Times best-selling Ballantine hc was an Editors' Spring Pick, LJ 2/15/10; a film adaptation is currently in production.—Ed.]—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Literary author Cronin (Mary and O'Neil, 2001, etc.) turns in an apocalyptic thriller in the spirit of Stephen King or Michael Crichton. You know times are weird when swarms of Bolivian bats swoop from the skies and kill humans-or, as one eyewitness reports of an unfortunate GI, off fighting the good fight against the drug lords, "they actually lifted him off his feet before they bored through him like hot knives through butter." Meanwhile, up north, in the very near future, gasoline prices are soaring and New Orleans has been hit by a second hurricane. Wouldn't you know it, but the world is broken, and mad science has something to do with it-in this instance, the kind of mad science that involves trying to engineer super-soldiers but that instead has created a devastating epidemic, with zombie flourishes-here called "virals"-and nods to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and pretty much every other creature feature. Bad feds and good guys alike race around, trying to keep the world safe for American democracy. In the end the real protector of civilization turns out to be a "little girl in Iowa," Amy Harper Bellafonte, who has been warehoused in a nunnery by her down-on-her-luck mother. Mom, a waitress with hidden resources of her own, pitches in, as does a world-weary FBI agent-is there any other kind? Thanks to Amy, smart though shy, the good guys prevail. Or so we think, but you probably don't want to go opening your door at night to find out. The young girl as heroine and role model is a nice touch. Otherwise a pretty ordinary production, with little that hasn't been seen before.
Ron Charles
…by the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night. It's a macabre pleasure to see what a really talented novelist can do with these old Transylvanian tropes…Cronin has stripped away the lurid religious trappings of the vampire myth and gone with a contemporary biomedical framework. Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King's The Stand and Salem's Lot in that lab at Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon's Swan Song, "Battlestar Galactica" and even Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
—The Washington Post
Mike Peed
While it relies at times on convention, The Passage is astutely plotted and imaginative enough to satisfy the most bloodthirsty reader…Cronin leaps back and forth in time, sprinkling his narrative with diaries, ­e-mail messages, maps, newspaper articles and legal documents. Sustaining such a long book is a tough endeavor, and every so often his prose slackens into inert phrases…For the most part, though, he artfully unspools his plot's complexities, and seemingly superfluous details come to connect in remarkable ways.
—The New York Times
Charles Taylor

How many of us, particularly as students, have dutifully set out with a summer-reading list of necessary classics and quickly abandoned them for some juicy story that called out irresistibly? Sometimes, as when summer goes by while you're journeying through The Count of Monte Cristo, those things coincide. But my favorite summer reading memories have very little to do with approved reading. My first brutally hot summer in New York City was saved thanks to a bedroom air conditioner and Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. A few years later, I endured my wife taunting me about reading a "girly" book during the few weeks I was happily enmeshed in Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber (which I use to annoy literary types by calling it the greatest novel of the 20th century -- most days I'm kidding).

In summer reading, size matters. Especially during the dog days, you want to look at the brick of pages in your right hand and know that you'll be happily turning them for a while, out of the heat, in a place that holds more appeal than vistas of baking asphalt or scorched lawns.

That kind of book may be popular but it isn't common. So it will be no surprise if readers feel they've found one in Justin Cronin's The Passage. At 784 pages, it's fat. And as the first part of a trilogy, it holds the promise of two more long reads to come. Also, as a story about a band of human pioneers trying to ride out a plague of vampires that has turned America into a virus-ridden wasteland, it arrives without any promise of being good for you.

Which isn't to say it might not be good for fiction. Cronin, a professor of English at Rice University, is working here from an honorable, and unfashionable, impulse: to tell an epic story that will appeal to a broad swath of readers. Nobody embarks on an epic trilogy without ambition, but it seems to me that what Cronin is doing here is more about service. He's working for the reader, he wants to immerse whoever picks up the book and, to quote from Stephen King's advance praise, to make the ordinary world disappear.

For a while he does, though he begins in a recognizably quotidian setting. The book opens in rural Iowa where a teenage diner waitress becomes, in short order, pregnant, homeless, and a roadside prostitute. Her little girl, Amy, who will become both this book's heroine and its presiding spirit, is targeted for a secret government project doing human testing on a virus that may hold the key to immortality. But when Wolgast, the FBI agent in charge of procuring subjects, finds out that his orders are to get a little girl rather than the death-row inmates he's been signing up, he balks and goes fugitive to save Amy.

This tale of man and child going on the lam as a vampire virus sends an already precarious America spiralling into anarchy promises to be both narratively and emotionally enfolding. But when Cronin jumps ahead nearly a hundred years to follow a group of survivors who are carrying on as best they can in a forest fortress, something in the story goes flat.

The inevitable comparisons to Stephen King remind us that, even at his most fantastic, King's characters never feel distant from the reality of our lives. And King's propensity towards sentimentality is overcome by the accumulated force of his storytelling. By contrast, the spare, dry language Cronin uses calls up Cormac McCarthy at his faux-mythological worst:

She remembered people. She remembered the Man. She remembered the other man and his wife and the boy and then the woman. She remembered no one at all. She remembered one day thinking: I am alone. There is no I but I.

Reading The Passage was, for me, a divided experience. I wasn't held by the story even as I was cheering on what Cronin is doing for readers. Though his pacing falters, he already shows a feel for intercutting simultaneous strains of narrative.

Recently, a friend I got back in touch with after many years told me, somewhat sheepishly, that she enjoyed reading Stephen King. I told her she had no reason to be embarrassed by reading one of the contemporary novelists who will last. It's too soon to say whether Justin Cronin will last. But the impulse behind his wish to give readers a big fat piece of storytelling pleasure has already lasted centuries. Hell, it could outlive vampires.

--Charles Taylor

From the Publisher

“Magnificently unnerving . . . The Stand meets The Road.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Great entertainment . . . [a] big, engrossing read.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Mythic storytelling.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Cronin’s unguessable plot and appealing characters will seize your heart and mind.”—Parade
“Cronin has given us what could be the best book of the summer. Don’t wait to dive into The Passage.”—USA Today
“[A] blockbuster . . . astutely plotted and imaginative.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Justin Cronin has written a wild, headlong, sweeping extravaganza of a novel. The Passage is the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a bona fide thriller that is sharply written, deeply humane, ablaze with big ideas, and absolutely impossible to put down.” —Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
“Cronin gets it just right; the combination of attentive realism and doomsday stakes makes for a mesmerizing experience.”—Salon
“We’ve just found our summer escape!”—Elle
“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”—Stephen King, author of Full Dark, No Stars

“Great storytelling . . . vital, tender, and compelling.” —O: The Oprah Magazine
“Meet what is likely to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer.”—People
“Addictive, terrifying, and deeply satisfying. Not only is this one of the year’s best thrillers; it’s one of the best of the past decade—maybe one of the best ever.”—Men’s Journal

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Passage Trilogy Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.52(w) x 6.48(h) x 1.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Passage

By Justin Cronin

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2010 Justin Cronin All right reserved.
ISBN: 9780345504968

Wolgast had been to the Compound only once, the previous summer, to meet with Colonel Sykes.  Not a job interview, exactly; it had been made clear to Wolgast that the assignment was his if he wanted it.  A pair of soldiers drove him in a van with blacked out windows, but Wolgast could tell they were taking him west from Denver, into the mountains.   The drive took six hours, and by the time they pulled into the Compound, he’d actually managed to fall asleep.  He stepped from the van into the bright sunshine of a summer afternoon.  He stretched and looked around.   From the topography, he’d have guessed he was somewhere around Telluride.  It could have been further north.  The air felt thin and clean in his lungs; he felt the dull throb of a high-altitude headache at the top of his skull. 

He was met in the parking lot by a civilian, a compact man dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt rolled at the sleeves, a pair of old-fashioned aviators perched on his wide, faintly bulbous nose.  This was Richards.  

“Hope the ride wasn’t too bad,” Richards said as they shook hands.   Up close Wolgast saw that Richards’ cheeks were pockmarked with old acne scars.  “We’re pretty high up here.  If you’renot used to it, you’ll want to take it easy.”

Richards escorted Wolgast across the parking area to a building he called the Chalet, which was exactly what it sounded like: a large Tudor structure, three stories tall, with the exposed timbers of an old-fashioned sportsman’s lodge.  The mountains had once been full of these places, Wolgast knew, hulking relics from an era before time-share condos and modern resorts.  The building faced an open lawn, and beyond, at a hundred yards or so, a cluster of more workaday structures: cinderblock barracks, a half-dozen military inflatables, a low-slung building that resembled a roadside motel.  Military vehicles, Humvees and smaller jeeps and five ton trucks, were moving up and down the drive; in the center of the lawn, a group of men with broad chests and trim haircuts, naked to the waist, were sunning themselves on lawn chairs.  

Stepping into the Chalet, Wolgast had the disorienting sensation of peeking behind a movie set; the place had been gutted to the studs, its original architecture replaced by the neutral textures of a modern office building: gray carpeting, institutional lighting, acoustic tile drop ceilings.  He might have been in a dentist’s office, or the high-rise off the freeway where he met his accountant once a year to do his taxes.  They stopped at the front desk, where Richards asked him to turn over his handheld and his weapon, which he passed to the guard, a kid in cammos, who tagged them. There was an elevator, but Richards walked past it and led Wolgast down a narrow hallway to a heavy metal door that opened on a flight of stairs.  They ascended to the second floor, and made their way down another non-descript hallway to Sykes’ office. 

Sykes rose from behind his desk as they entered: a tall, well-built man in uniform, his chest spangled with the various bars and little bits of color that Wolgast had never understood.  His office was neat as a pin, its arrangement of objects, right down to the framed photos on his desk, giving the impression of having been placed for maximum efficiency.   Resting in the center of the desk was a single manila folder, fat with folded paper.  Wolgast knew it was almost certainly his personnel file, or some version of it.  

They shook hands and Sykes offered him coffee, which Wolgast accepted.  He wasn’t drowsy but the caffeine, he knew, would help the headache.  

“Sorry about the bullshit with the van,” Sykes said, and waved him to a chair.  “That’s just how we do things.”

A soldier brought in the coffee, a plastic carafe and two china cups on a tray.  Richards remained standing behind Sykes’ desk, his back to the broad windows that looked out on the woodlands that ringed the Compound.  Sykes explained what he wanted Wolgast to do.  It was all quite straight forward, he said, and by now Wolgast knew the basics.  The Army needed between ten and twenty death-row inmates to serve in the third-stage trials of an experimental drug therapy, codenamed Project Noah.   In exchange for their consent, these men would have their sentences commuted to life without parole.  It would be Wolgast’s job to obtain the signatures of these men, nothing more.  Everything had been legally vetted, but because the project was a matter of national security, all of these men would be declared legally dead.  Thereafter, they would spend the rest of their lives in the care of the federal penal system, a white-collar prison camp, under assumed identities.  The men would be chosen based upon a number of factors, but all would be men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five with no living first-degree relatives.  Wolgast would report directly to Sykes; he’d have no other contact, though he’d remain, technically, in the employment of the Bureau.  

“Do I have to pick them?”  Wolgast asked.

Sykes shook his head.  “That’s our job.  You’ll get your orders from me.  All you have to do is get their consent.  Once they’re signed on, the Army will take it from there.  They’ll be moved to the nearest federal lock-up, then we’ll transport them here.”

Wolgast thought a moment.   “Colonel, I have to ask--“

“What we’re doing?”  He seemed, at that moment, to permit himself an almost human-looking smile.

Wolgast nodded.  “I understand I can’t be very specific.  But I’m going to be asking them to sign over their whole lives.  I have to tell them something.”

Sykes exchanged a look with Richards, who shrugged.  “I’ll leave you now,” Richards said, and nodded at Wolgast.  “Agent.” 

When Richards had left, Sykes leaned back in his chair.  “I’m not a biochemist, agent.  You’ll have to be satisfied with the layman’s version.  Here’s the background, at least the part I can tell you. About ten years ago, the CDC got a call from a doctor in La Paz.  He had four patients, all Americans, who had come down with what looked like Hantavirus – high fever, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, hypoxemia.  The four of them had been part of an eco-tour, deep in the jungle.  They claimed that they were part of a group of fourteen but had gotten separated from the others and had been wandering in the jungle for weeks.  It was sheer luck that they’d stumbled onto a remote trading post run by a bunch of Franciscan friars, who arranged their transport to La Paz.  Now, Hanta isn’t the common cold, but it’s not exactly rare, either, so none of this would have been more than a blip on the CDC’s radar if not for one thing.  All of them were terminal cancer patients.  The tour was organized by an organization called ‘Last Wish.’  You’ve heard of them?”

Wolgast nodded.  “I thought they just took people skydiving, things like that.”

 “That’s what I thought, too.  But apparently not.  Of the four, one had an inoperable brain tumor, two had acute lymphocytic leukemia, and the fourth had ovarian cancer.  And every single one of them became well.  Not just the Hanta, or whatever it was.  No cancer.  Not a trace.”

Wolgast felt lost.   “I don’t get it.”

Sykes sipped his coffee.  “Well, neither did anyone at the CDC.   But something had happened, some interaction between their immune systems and something, most likely viral, that they’d been exposed to in the jungle.  Something they ate?  The water they drank?   No one could figure it out.  They couldn’t even say exactly where they’d been.”  He leaned forward over his desk.  “Do you know what the thymus gland is?”

Wolgast shook his head.

Sykes pointed at his chest, just above the breastbone.  “Little thing in here, between the sternum and the trachea, about the size of an acorn.  In most people, it’s atrophied completely by puberty, and you could go your whole life not knowing you had one, unless it was diseased.  Nobody really knows what it does, or at least they didn’t, until they ran scans on these four patients.  The thymus had somehow turned itself back on.  More than back on: it had enlarged to three times its usual size.  It looked like a malignancy but it wasn’t.  And their immune systems had gone into overdrive.  A hugely accelerated rate of cellular regeneration.  And there were other benefits.  Remember these were cancer patients, all over fifty.  It was like they were teenagers again.  Smell, hearing, vision, skin tone, lung volume, physical strength and endurance, even sexual function.  One of the men actually grew back a full head of hair.”

“A virus did this?’

Sykes nodded.  “Like I said, this is the layman’s version.  But I’ve got people downstairs who think that’s exactly what happened.  Some of them have degrees in subjects I can’t even spell.  They talk to me like I’m a child, and they’re not wrong.”

“What happened to them?  The four patients.”

Sykes leaned back in his chair, his face darkening a little.  “Well, this isn’t the happiest part of the story, I’m afraid.  They’re all dead.  The longest any of them survived was eighty-six days.  Cerebral aneurism, heart attack, stroke.  Their bodies just kind of blew a fuse.”  

“What about the others?”  

 “No one knows.  Disappeared without a trace, including the tour operator, who turned out to be a pretty shady character.  It’s likely he was actually working as a drug mule, using these tours as a cover.”  Sykes gave a shrug.  “I’ve probably said too much.  But I think this will help you put things in perspective.  We’re not talking about curing one disease, agent.  We’re talking about curing everything.   How long would a human being live if there were no cancer, no heart disease, no diabetes, no Alzheimer’s?  And we’ve reached the point where we need, absolutely require, human test subjects.  Not a nice term, but there really is no other.  And that’s where you come in.  I need you to get me these men.”

 “Why not the Marshalls?  Isn’t this more up their alley?”

Sykes shook his head dismissively.  “Glorified corrections officers, if you’ll excuse my saying so.   Believe me, we started there.  If I had a sofa I needed carried up the stairs, they’d be the first guys I’d call.  But for this, no.”

Sykes picked up the file off his desk and began to read.  “Bradford Joseph Wolgast, born Ashland, Oregon, September 29, 1974.  B.S. in Criminal Justice 1996, SUNY Buffalo, high honors, recruited by the Bureau but declines, accepts a graduate fellowship at Stony Brook for a PhD in Political Science but leaves after two years to join the Bureau.  After training at Langley sent to—”   He raised his eyebrows at Wolgast.  “—Dayton?” 

Wolgast shrugged.  “It wasn’t very exciting.”

“Well, we all do our time.  Two years in the sticks, a little of this, a little of that, mostly piddly shit but good ratings all around.  After 9/11 asks to transfer to counterterrorism, back to Langley for eighteen months, assigned to the Denver field office September ’04 as liaison to the Treasury, tracking funds moved through U.S. banks by Russian nationals, i.e. the Russian Mafia, though we don’t call them that.  On the personal side: No political affiliations, no memberships, doesn’t even subscribe to the newspaper.  Parents deceased.  Dates a little but no steady girlfriends.  Marries Lila Kyle, an orthopedic surgeon.   Divorced four years later.”  He closed the file and lifted his eyes to Wolgast.  “What we need, agent, is somebody who, to be perfectly candid, has a certain polish.  Good negotiation skills, not just with the prisoners but with the prison authorities.  Somebody who knows how to tread lightly, won’t leave a large impression.  What we’re doing here is perfectly legal—hell, it may be the most important piece of medical research in the history of mankind.  But it could be easily misunderstood.  I’m telling you as much as I am because I think it will help if you understand the stakes, how high they are.”   

Wolgast guessed Sykes was telling him maybe ten percent of the story – a persuasive ten percent, but even so.  “Is it safe?”

Sykes shrugged.  “There’s safe and then there’s safe.  I won’t lie to you.  There are risks.   But we’ll do everything we can to minimize them.  A bad outcome isn’t in anybody’s interest here.  And I remind you that these are death-row inmates.  Not the nicest men you’d ever care to meet, and they don’t exactly have a lot of options.  We’re giving them a chance to live out their lives, and maybe make a significant contribution to medical science at the same time.  It’s not a bad deal, not by a longshot.  Everybody’s on the side of the angels here.”

Wolgast took a last moment to think.  It was all a little hard to take in.  “I guess I don’t see why the military is involved.”

At this, Sykes stiffened; he seemed almost offended.  “Don’t you?  Think about it, agent.   Let’s say a soldier on the ground in Khorramabad or Groznyy takes a piece of shrapnel.  A roadside bomb, say, a bunch of C4 in a lead pipe full of deck screws.  Maybe it’s a piece of blackmarket Russian ordinance.  Believe me, I’ve seen firsthand what these things can do.  We have to dust him out of there, maybe en route he bleeds to death, but if he’s lucky he gets to the field hospital where a trauma surgeon, two medics and three nurses patch him up as best they can before evacuating him to Germany or Saud.  It’s painful, it’s awful, it’s his rotten luck, and he’s probably out of the war.  He’s a broken asset.  All the money we’ve spent on his training is a total loss.  And it gets worse.  He comes home depressed, angry, maybe missing a limb or something worse, with nothing good to say about anyone or anything.  Down at the corner tavern he tells his buddies, I lost my leg, I’m pissing into a bag for the rest of my life, and for what?”  Sykes leaned back in his chair, letting the story sink in.  “We’ve been at war for fifteen years, agent.  By the looks of things, we’ll be in it for fifteen more if we’re lucky.  I won’t kid you.  The single biggest challenge the military faces, has always faced, is keeping soldiers on the field.  So, let’s say the same GI takes the same piece of shrapnel, but within half-a-day his body’s healed itself and he’s back in his unit, fighting for god and country.  You think the military wouldn’t be interested in something like that?”

Wolgast felt chastened.  “I see your point.”

“Good, because you should.”  Sykes expression softened; the lecture was over.  “So maybe it’s the military who’s picking up the check.   I say let them, because frankly, what we’ve spent so far would make your eyes pop out.  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to live to see my great-great-great-grandchildren.  Hell, I’d like to hit a golf ball three-hundred yards on my hundredth birthday and then go home to make love to my wife until she walks funny for a week.  Who wouldn’t?”   He paused, looking at Wolgast searchingly.  “The side of the angels, agent.  Nothing more or less.  Do we have a deal?”

The shook, and Sykes walked him to the door.  Richards was waiting to take him back to the van.  “One last question,” Wolgast asked.  “Why Noah?   What’s it stand for?”

Standing at the door, Sykes glanced quickly at Richards.   In that moment, Wolgast felt the balance of power shifting in the room; Sykes might have been technically in charge, but in some way, Wolgast felt certain, he also reported to Richards, who was probably the link between the military and whoever was really running the show: USAMRID, Homeland, maybe NSA. 

Sykes turned back to Wolgast. “It doesn’t stand for anything.  Let’s put it this way.  You ever read the Bible?”  

“Some.”  Wolgast looked at the both of them.  “When I was a kid.  My mother was a Methodist.”

Sykes allowed himself a second, final smile.  “Go look it up.  The story of Noah and the ark.  See how long he lived. That’s all I’ll say.”

That night, back in his Denver apartment, Wolgast did as Sykes had said.  He didn’t own a Bible, probably hadn’t laid eyes on one since his wedding day.  But he found a concordance on line. 

And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died

It was then that he realized what the missing piece was, the thing Sykes hadn’t said.  It would be in his file, of course.  It was the reason, of all the federal agents they might have chosen, that they’d picked him.    

They’d chosen him because of Eva, because he’d had to watch his daughter die.


Excerpted from The Passage by Justin Cronin Copyright © 2010 by Justin Cronin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Jennifer Egan
"Justin Cronin has written a wild, headlong, sweeping extravaganza of a novel. THE PASSAGE is the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a bonafide thriller that is sharply written, deeply humane, ablaze with big ideas, and absolutely impossible to put down."
Stephen King
"Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin's The Passage. Read 15 pages, and you will find yourself captivated; read 30 and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It had the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve.
"What else can I say? This: read this book and the ordinary world disappears."
From the Publisher
“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”—Stephen King

“[A] blockbuster . . . astutely plotted and imaginative.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Don’t wait to dive into The Passage. . . . Simmering in the background of this frightening thriller . . . is a heartfelt portrayal of the human capability to fight, endure and hope for a better world.”—USA Today
“Engrossing . . . By the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Mythic storytelling.”—San Francisco Chronicle

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The Passage 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4245 reviews.
Dahna More than 1 year ago
I loved The Passage. It was shocking, suspenseful, intriguing, complex, filled with terror, horror, deceit, perseverance, and love. It begins in the future with the U.S. still at war with terror. The military is secretly attempting to bioengineer the 'perfect' soldier using death row inmates that no one will notice has gone missing. The inmates infected with the bioengineered virus escape and wreak havoc throughout the U.S. Ironically the Gulf of Mexico is referrenced as being so thick with oil that you could walk across it without getting wet. I can't imagine anyone not loving this book. I recommend it to everyone.
TomeLover More than 1 year ago
At 766 pages, The Passage, at first glance, can appear to be quite the undertaking. Don't let the length of this book scare you away. By page 25, you'll be unable to put it down, but wanting to at the same time, just so you can tell everyone how much you love this book. I could compare this to The Stand, The Book of Eli, I am Legend, 28 Days Later, and countless other books and movies, but I prefer to review it as it is meant to be read: a solitary work. I won't give anything away, I hate "reviews" that are actually plot synopsis and spoilers. This is a post-apocalyptic journey that is rewarding to the end and will have you contemplating the story for days and days after you've read the last word. There were a few slow spots, as expected in a book that spans a century, but they weren't cumbersome, and you can easily navigate through to the next nail-biting bit. I absolutely loved this book. The story and writing style are perfect for me. If you like books that tie up every loose end and present you with a pretty little package when you've finished reading, this is not the book for you. If you prefer to let your imagination take flight, to leave your world behind, plunging into a fictional escape, then you will thoroughly enjoy this novel.
Stonemaiden More than 1 year ago
In the beginning, I loved this book. Midway...a little less and the end...not so much. For 640 pages I expect a bit of conclusion, parts of this book felt like a task. It got long winded at times and gave me details that did not add or enhance the story, but seemed more for bulk. In the beginning the characters are well developed and interesting, the characters become less the later they are introduced. The story implies a mystery that you will be informed of and many of these things are never explained. I like series reading as well as anyone, but I expect each book to have a point and be a complete story. I do not like it when it feels as though you stretch one book to a possible 12, with no warning and a feeling of incompleteness. The plot has great potential and lots of creativity, however it was not as well developed as I hoped and thought it would be based on the beginning of the book.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
Close your eyes and put yourself far into the future. Imagine a newly discovered virus is being experimented with, that the people experimenting with it are the military. That out of twelve experiments they've created human-vampire-like monsters. Beings that glow, that fear light, that live off the blood of humans and animals, that kill and massacre and destroy the entire North American continent. That no one will survive their bloodlust, except a handful of the population, living in a Colony in California. So goes The Passage. Epically long, fantastically detailed, The Passage starts with the discovery of the virus and the creation of Project NOAH and takes us on an insanely intense journey. It's the end of the world as we know it, and Cronin has created our destruction. But he's also created our heros, a band of survivors from the Colony who embark on a journey to find the source of a signal. A signal imbedded in a chip implanted at the base of the neck of a young girl named Amy. A girl who doesn't speak, but sees and knows. A special girl. With Amy, a few survivors must risk their lives to save the world. The first part of a trilogy, The Passage is headed to the bestseller list and beyond. There's a reason the buzz is so loud about this book: it's amazing. It's dark and suspenseful; it's not a lighthearted read and many people die, but there is hope. There is always hope. And love, and destiny. It is impossible not to be immersed in the story, fully living with the characters and the things that happen to them. The virals are everywhere, and you can feel them in the dark, you fear for the lights to go out. Cronin has created an alter-universe where his imagination knows no bounds, but is creatively reigned in by the plot. Truly remarkable, this is a phenomenal book, thrilling and captivating, and the future movie had better do it justice. June 8, 2010. Mark that day on your calendars. Pre-order, get to the store, do whatever you want to get the book, but know that if you don't, you'll find yourself left in the dark. Read it and then wait, like me, for 2012 (The Twelve) and 2014 (The City of Mirrors).
equus3n More than 1 year ago
This book isn't the kind of book I would normally pick up, however I am a Stephen King fan and this book would fit well into his genre! I hate reviews that give away so much that you might as well not even read the book, so I'll just say this: apocalyptal. It made me think of the movie 28 Days Later, "The Stand" by Stephen King, The tv show "Jericho", and some elements of "The Village" by M. Knight. This book kept me up late at night. I'm glad the plan is for more!It's a good thriller that sucks you in!
avanders More than 1 year ago
When I received this book, I started to read the first few pages, even though I was in the middle of another book and was not able to yet devote my full attentions. Although I had only read a few pages, I found myself constantly thinking about it and eager to start. For those reading this review, let me tell you that I would *not* categorize this book as a "vampire" book as so many have done. Not only is this really a mischaracterization of the novel and its characters, I believe it also diminishes what Justin Cronin has done in creating this epic tale. The book is analogous to I Am Legend in that it starts in real life and science ("light" science fiction), and, although using elements of the supernatural, focuses on humans, the human perspective and struggles, and how humans might operate in an extreme situation. The first 200 pages are spectacular. Cronin perfectly sets up the tragedy that will befall the essentially current world. His descriptions of all of the characters are impressive. I found myself attached to many, some of who only graced the book for a relatively short amount of pages. Although the novel initially has several origins and characters with nothing (yet) in common, each line of the story was intriguing and clear, eventually coming together seamlessly. The next portion is very good to great. The story is set a bit in the future, after the "tragedy" has settled in the world -- one that is dealing with the consequences of its ancestors. I know I am being somewhat vague here, but I believe this novel would be best read with the least amount of information possible. These pages draw the reader into the daily lives of the characters and their motivations, actions, feelings, fears, and attachments -- without slowing the novel too much. Cronin, again, does an impressive job making his characters real, with real human qualities -- both the good and the bad. The final portion, the "climax", is, again, fantastic and wonderfully paced. I did not stop reading these last pages until the novel was complete. The ending is satisfying, yet it ensures that the reader will be eager for the next installment in this epic trilogy. I highly recommend. FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN A SUMMARY, WHICH I CONSIDER ***SPOILER***, see the remainder of the review at
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started out great, but somewhere along the way (about a third into it), it lost all its greatness and I wound up wishing I had never started it.
brjunkie More than 1 year ago
I agree with Stephen King when he said this about 'The Passage'. "Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: read this book and the ordinary world disappears." Justin Cronin had me crying, already. This fantastic book begins with the story of Amy NLN. It tells us who her mother was, the sacrifices that she made for Amy from the love that only a mother could have for her child, and finally how she ended in the hands of Wolgast. Wolgast is a federal agent who works for the government. He has suffered a loose as well, which makes him into the man that he is when he, Doyle, and Amy meet. This lose allows him to connect to Amy in a way that no other person can. Scientists return from the Amazonian jungle, with the hopes of prolonging human life. What they actually bring back is something much more evil and disastrous than their good intentions could ever deliver to the world. When the Twelve escape from Colorado, the story jumps 94 years into the future. (It was a bit of a jolt and an unexpected surprise that left me with some questions. What happened in the meantime?) A new narrator tells her story and slowly answers a few of the questions of how and what happened to the world in the meantime. (This book is true of it's not the destination that's the reward, but the journey itself that's the jewel.) The stars are gone. You are scared to death of the dark and of night. You are ready for responsibilities and training at the age of eight. You know nothing of the world or of its history and past, because of the extremely limited resources and books within the compound. But when a mysterious 15 or 16 year old girl shows up at your gates, a questionable radio signal is established that will answer one question and lead to so many more. Because the batteries are going dead for good, (They were never made to be recharged indefinitely. They were made to be replaced.), they are forced to go out beyond their protective gate and walls. What will they find? Are there others out there like them, living in a tiny world inside their own protective walls? Why did the army not return for them? Who is Amy, and how can a 16 year old girl save them and the world from the Twelve? SPOILER!: Justin Cronin had me saying out loud, "W. T.. F.?!" I'm hopeful that he will write another book as a sequel to this, or even one to fill in the blanks in the jump in time of over 90 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to reading this book since it had some really great reviews. However, I was really not captivated by the story. There were way too many characters and I found myself wanting it to end so I could start something new. I thought about not finishing it, but I convinced myself there would be some thrilling surprise ending, but it never came. Since the book was so long, I feel like I wasted a lot of my summer reading something I didn't like. It definitely had potential, but I expected much more.
Lannie More than 1 year ago
THE PASSAGE is a huge book, over 700 pages, but the journey is well worth your time! This isn't your typical vampire novel, however if you enjoy epic novels featuring interesting, in depth characters that are thrown into perilous situations and have to use their brains and ingenuity to overcome almost impossible obstacles, this will thrill you to no end, as it did me! "The Passage" begins in the tumultuous future, with the introduction of the story's main character, a mysterious little girl named Amy. There is the collapse of civilization, a miracle virus, and experimentation gone wrong as now monstrous beings escape from prison spreading a plaque throughout American civilization. This is not for the faint of heart!
Encharion More than 1 year ago
"The Passage" by Justin Cronin is so much more than any kind of vampire book you've read before. Do not be fooled by the labeling of his creatures as vampires because they share very little with the literary and mythological creatures of old. Cronin has created a world with such life-like characters and creatures that the story will terrify you as much as it envelopes you. To say this book is a thrilling summer read may be an understatement. It will be hard for other authors to compete with this book for the summer read, it would be hard to come close. Cronin has written a book that has bridged a gap few others have- that is the gap between horror and contemporary fiction. Some see the horror genre as a suburb of a bigger fiction genre. This is a sad fact, but books like this bridge that gap. Cronin's masterful prose and enthralling storyline drag you in and won't let go. You'll find yourself worried about the characters when you aren't reading. When you finish this book you will turn the last page feeling that you have traveled in the same footsteps as the characters only to wish there were more miles to travel. This book is about finding hope in hopelessness and courage in a landscape riddled with terror. And, ultimately, this book is about the love and perseverance that humans have when all else seems lost. If this book is not on your list this summer, It's time to pick up the pencil, erase whatever is at the top of yours, and make this the book to read.
Astrohman More than 1 year ago
This book starts like gangbusters. The initial characters are set up in such an interesting way that I felt compelled to keep reading. But right around the 300 page mark the entire book veers so far off track that it could never recover. Cronin went for epic when he should have just let the story flow. He chose to ignore what should have been the most interesting aspect of the book in favor of creating a Stephen Kingish story...only one with so many plot holes, unanswered questions and dropped story lines that it becomes a complete distraction and kept pulling me out of the world he was trying to create. I finished the book because Cronin does write certain types of actions scenes fairly well. So when I would get to a point where I was about to put it down, I'd find a 30 or 40 page sequence interesting enough to keep me in the game. But then Cronin would meander. Especially troubling is the significant lack of time devoted to the antagonists in the story. I feel this book could have been terrific. I feel like the first act was as good as any in this genere. But I also feel that Cronin neeeded to have gotten out of his own way.
AJLaFleche More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading THE PASSAGE, and was left frustrated and unsatisfied. Yeah, it's supposed to be THE big read of the summer. It felt like a cheat. Questions are left unanswered (not those to possibly be addressed in part two of what is expected to be a trilogy), characters who "die" at the end of a chapter may not really have died. Characters disappear for hundreds of pages to suddenly become pivotal to the story. There are several deus ex machina events that left my thinking, "Huh, how could THAT have happened?" The plot line...THE STAND/ANDROMEDA STRAIN meets DRACULA meets George Romero's various takes on THE lIVING DEAD meets 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER with a little MAD MAX tossed in for good measure. The author has the ability to move the action along at a brisk pace and does so several times but often gets bogged down in irrelevant minutiae, slowing the story. There came a point when I felt I'd already put too much time into the book to not finish it, despite my temptation to put it down and walk away with a big, "Who cares?" The use of excerpts from journals and e-mails make a nice change of viewpoint and are actually the most poignant passages of the entire book. A much better read on the same general subject was WORLD WAR Z, with it's dark humor, satire and significantly better action sequences.
SZurch More than 1 year ago
i recently received an arc of this novel and i've had such a hard time putting it down. when trying to describe it, i often find myself sorely lacking for the right words, so bear with me... the story begins with a researcher going into the amazons to do some investigating. he thinks it strange that the military not only signed on to fund the operation, but sent a crew of heavily armed men. on the expedition, things take an unexpected turn, but genuine brilliant research is done and information is acquired. the military then uses the researcher to find how this can benefit the soldiers by making them develop almost impossible physical abilities... until things go wrong. without giving a spoiler, the next several hundred pages tell the story of how the research, the virals, and their exposure to the world threatens life as we know it. it travels across a hundred years time to tell this incredible story, unlike any other i've read. mr. cronin writes this novel with what, at times, i can only describe as prose. if you're not one for thrillers, don't be discouraged. this tale is more about love, the desire for human connection, and our resolve to live and thrive than it is of savagery and pain. there isn't a single genre this book does not venture into. its mixture of sadness, adventure, emotional bonds, and warmth run the gamut of emotions and make this book great.
smtailor More than 1 year ago
When I bought my Nook, I mentioned that I enjoy Stephen King. The Passage was highly recommended by the lady who sold me my Nook. As soon as I got it home and charged, I was riveted. I really enjoyed the book, but the ending was a HUGE HUGE HUGE let down. Not happy, not sad, just ended. It was almost like he just got bored of writing and said "the end." Unless you are OK with let down endings, I would waste my time on the 800+ pages.
The_Alternative More than 1 year ago
In my humble estimation Justin Cronin's "The Passage" qualifies as an Instant Classic. It has all the elements of a great work - brilliantly written characters that are flawed but oh, so very real, a twisting mystery that will keep you immersed in the narrative and engaged by the characters, the promise of a good scare right around the corner, viral vampires, unwitting heroes, and a huge, early following of fans. Do not be swayed by the occasional naysayers who proclaim the book too long or too wordy (whatever that means). It is worthy of your attention and a worthwhile read. The characters are real people, the narrative descriptive, and in some cases bloody, gory, and disturbing. The premise, which is not your average vampire story, is reminiscent of earlier post-apocalyptic literature but with a twist and it has something many of the others do not, a grand epic, fantasy feel to it and not because of its heft but of its engrossing content. Sweeping across almost one-hundred years in the post-apocalyptic vampire-infested plains of western America "The Passage" is an engrossing and epic tale which begins when a government experiment creates twelve different strains of vampire-zombies that escape and infect the entire world. However, small pockets of humans have survived and while the "virals" stalk the landscape some communities have managed to survive and even thrive in a world swarming with flesh-eaters. "The Passage" is an end-of-the-world road-trip filled with discovery, mystery, pain, and loss. But buried deep underneath all that is the promise of love, new life, and happiness. It's ours to find. A more detailed review can be found here:
lynniesd More than 1 year ago
I loved the book - the middle was a bit slow - but a great read. I just hope there is a sequel to this - there sure could be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough about this book. I was a little skeptical at first to purchase it because I havent read a thriller in quite a while. I'm so glad I did! The story is fantastic and I felt attached to the characters. There is nothing better than loving a story so much that you are thrilled that its a big book. This is a BIG book. I found myself looking at page numbers on my Nook to make sure I still had a ways to go because I loved it so much. When I was down the last 100 pages, I had to put it down for a day because I didnt want it to end. As soon as I finished it I went right to the computer to find out if there is a date for the next one in the trilogy to come out. The only problem I had was purchasing it on my Nook. The are A LOT of characters to keep track of. I would have liked to been able to go back at some points to verify who I was reading about or something that was said. It would have been easier in book form. It was a minor problem though and wouldn't stop me from recommending it on the Nook or hardcover. Can't wait until the next one comes out! Read this won't be sorry!
Reptile More than 1 year ago
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this book is WOW! The story The Passage is amazing. To describe it I would have to say it's a very mysterious, thrilling, adventurous, and compelling novel. The story takes you through an amazing journey from a joungle in South America, to the deserts of California, and through Las Vegas to Colorado. The story The Passage is a fiction novel with a great deal of fantasy but at the same time it has a deep sense of reality. if you're reading this review, you probably already know what the story's about so I'm not getting into too much detail. All I can tell you is: READ IT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. You won't be disappointed.
TJ-New-Orleans More than 1 year ago
I'm by no means a 'vampire' fan, but this story has great characters, intensity and was fun to read in a 'car taking hairpin turns at 100-miles an hour sort of way'. It held my attention from start to finish and that takes good characters, plot and style. Read it and enjoy!
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
I've been gushing about this book to everyone I know and the first thing they say is, "I don't like vampire stories." To be honest with you, neither do I. However, the vampires in The Passage are not your typical vampires. They are government created super-soldiers gone wrong. Horribly wrong. What IS typical, is the good vs. evil theme. As readers though, do we ever tire of this? No! We love a good battle and there are plenty of battles fought as these "soldiers" run amok and wreak havoc upon the world as we know it. Although this book has been compared to Stephen King's, The Stand, and I did find many similarities between the two novels, I felt that The Passage had a completely different feel to it. It's a tad more clinical, a bit more mysterious and has more of a futuristic feel to it. The immense size of this novel has intimidated many readers but don't let the length fool you. It's nearly 800 pages but you don't notice the length at all. Some have mentioned the need for a good editor, that perhaps a few pages could have been shaved off of the final product but honestly, I enjoyed the extra detail and found myself completely absorbed in the world Cronin created. You may be wondering just how nasty these vamps are. I pictured these creatures as a cross between a human and say.the alien from Aliens. Maybe a tad more bat-like, but definitely something huge and menacing. Yes, there's a bit of gore as these creatures can be a bit brutal when they do their thing but it wasn't anything that kept me up at night. If you like epic novels to sink your teeth into (pun intended), then this might be the book for you. If you enjoy the whole good vs. evil thing, then you will like it more. If you like to feel as if you are in another time and place and that place happens to have creatures with wickedly sharp teeth, then you will love it. I know I did.
bookcollector101 More than 1 year ago
Although i am not done with this book, i can honesty say this is not one of my fav books. I begged for the chapters to end ASAP and i had trouble following along at some points. It's perfect for when you're bored or when it's raining outside. I guess i fell in with all the hype. Despite what King said, i was was not captivated by pg 15 and was not reading late into the night by pg 30. I just want to get this book over with. Again, i am not done with this book so i can't say this book is horrible. this is just my opinion and the beginning of a book is always boring, but can't someone make a book that actually has an exciting beginning??????
catpaws1982 More than 1 year ago
after hearing that this book was supposed to be so wonderful and entertaining i decided to buy it on my nook. it started off ok but then started to get really boring. it isn't a page turner at all. it took me forever to finish it because i would read a few pages and then put it down to do something else because it just didn't grab my attention. the general plot or premise of the story is great but i think it should have either been shortened or had more action in it. some of the characters i came to love -- like Amy, of course -- but many of the others i didn't get attached to. i wish i could say that i loved it but i can't. i love the idea of the story but not the book itself. :(
hellokittyreader More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic! I decided to download it after reading the reviews, and I am soooo glad I's an incredible book that will keep you reading late into the night. Many different story threads intertwine to keep you interested and wondering what the outcome will be. This book is a little bit "I Am Legend", a dash of Michael Crichton, and a little Stephen King (when he could still creep you out), all with a new twist. I devoured this book, and I want MORE! It even managed to make me feel a little creeped out walking around outside at night (without the writing being gross or gory), which an author has not managed to do in quite some time. I'm still thinking about the ending and I finished the book four days ago! Can't stop telling people to go and pick this up, I hope anything else he writes is just as good.
ArmchairCampaigner More than 1 year ago
While the genesis of the vamps may have been approximated in other works. The manner in which they are delivered is new and refreshing. The characters are both well crafted and emotionally believable. Full of twists and turns, the story leads you on a haunting trip across a ravaged American wasteland.I recommend it to anyone who has ever enjoyed fiction. The most common complaint seems to be with the story stepping between characters and points in time. Which feels to me like saying a book is bad 'because' one cannot keep up with it. A lot of people don't like War & Peace because it changed perspective so often, but does that make it bad or challenging? I say challenging, and unlike Tolstoy, who remains challenging throughout. Once this tale hits its stride, it is impossible to stop. I read it cover to cover in under 24 hours. Can't wait for more.