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USA Today has named The Passage as a must summer read: Booksellers across the country are buzzing about this novel, which features a jacket blurb by Stephen King. Film rights have been bought by Fox 2000 for Ridley and Tony Scott.
“[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
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.
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.
This is not an easy question to answer without sounding self-congratulatory. First of all, I think it's simply a good story, in the old-fashioned sense. Characters you care about. High stakes. Moments in which everything depends on what someone chooses to do or not do. A certain kind of economy, even as it's quite a long story - by which I mean, everything matters. That's the kind of book I hoped to write.
I do think, too, that the story taps into a great deal of our shared anxieties about the world we live in. These are fraught times, to put it mildly, and the dangers we face, internal and external, in ourselves and in others, seem like strange new monsters to wrestle with. But at the same time, THE PASSAGE is not an unremittingly bleak story. I think we're all wondering what will redeem us. It's a hopeful thing to think that it could be something as simple as love for a little girl.
You are a PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of literary fiction. Does THE PASSAGE represent a departure for you?
You write how you write. That said, the differences are there. I think of them mostly as a matter of scale. I've always said that I never want to write the same book twice, and I deliberately took up THE PASSAGE as a novel (and ultimately a trilogy) that would operate on a much broader canvas than anything I'd done before, with a very energetic plot. I wanted to take ordinary people and place them in circumstances of such dire emergency that they couldn't help but reveal their truest selves in the choices they make. I've heard it said that character is "what you are in the dark". Strip away the distractions of daily life, and what have you got? I wanted to put my characters to this kind of test.
The character Amy begins her life with a stuffed rabbit and there are points in the narrative that resonate with Richard Adams' Watership Down. Why is there so much rabbit imagery in THE PASSAGE?
The Watership Down reference is one I didn't recognize until you mentioned it, actually; I remember reading that novel, being completely occupied by it, in fact, for one whole summer. But I couldn't have said I remembered, consciously, any of its details. I'm pleased and a little amazed to discover how big an impression it made. Books go into you, and stay there, and make their presence known in ways you can't predict and often don't notice.
Agent Wolgast becomes a surrogate father to Amy. Is he modeled after you at all?
He is probably the character who is closest to me. I'd like to think I'd do the things he did under the same circumstances. I think I'd be very happy spending a year alone with my daughter on a mountaintop, playing board games and reading old books. One of my favorite moments in Shakespeare occurs in King Lear, when Lear is arrested with Cordelia and expresses his happiness that, after everything terrible thing that's happened, the two of them are going to jail together; at that moment, she is all he needs.
How close do you think we really are to the kind of near-future scenario you envision?
We've lived in this very dangerous neighborhood for sixty years. There's no question that we're capable of atrocity; the 20th century (and now the 21st, I fear) is a history of mass extinguishment. I take some small comfort in the fact that the most dangerous moment in human history -the Cuban Missile Crisis - was one we managed to survive. The parties didn't have the stomach for it. But would this always be true? People strap bombs to their chests and wander into crowded markets and blow everyone to bits. Half a country rises up to slaughter the other half over ancient tribal slights. We build something called a large collider, conceding that there is some statistical chance, however small, that it will annihilate the universe. (But there's so much to be learned! Careers are on the line! What will the investors say! Quickly, throw the switch!) Fanaticism, venality, arrogance, stupidity, plain old sloppiness. It's a scary world; I worry all the time.
What do you think motivates your characters the most -love, faith, the search for identity?
That's easy. What they do, they do for love. The rest will follow.
Posted June 24, 2010
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.
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Posted July 4, 2010
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.
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Posted August 22, 2010
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.
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Posted May 28, 2010
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).
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Posted July 5, 2010
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!
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Posted May 5, 2010
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 tometombfidelity.blogspot.com
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Posted July 28, 2010
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.
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Posted June 26, 2010
This book was difficult to get into. I am on page 300 and I have read 6 books by the time I started this one. I am trynig very hard to move on but once you get interested in the characters i.e. Amy then they switch characters all over and SO SLOW AMG to slow.
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Posted July 31, 2010
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.
17 out of 30 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 24, 2010
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.
16 out of 22 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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.
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Posted July 5, 2010
I Also Recommend:
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?
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.
14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2010
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.
13 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I actually created an account to warn people from buying this book! I was about to buy another book when I overheard a rave review on "The Passage" and I thought I would give it a try. The author starts off well and then it is as if someone else picks up the story and turns it into a bad Hollywood chase scene. There are huge plot gaps,not to mention the main character being a mild afterthought. I finsihed only because of the time I had invested in it.
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Posted July 14, 2010
I read about a 3rd of the way through the book and couldn't take it anymore. And a book really has to turn me off to make me do that. This was just ramblings on and on without a point. I would not suggest this book to anyone. I am not sure what you all saw in it but it wasn't there for me at all. The parts where the character is talking about being put on the train. Oh my word could you have made that any longer. I don't think so. This is a summer read alright because it will take you that long to force yourself to get though it.
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Posted June 3, 2010
"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.
10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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!
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Posted August 4, 2010
I am a very avid reader, and love to "get lost" in books. However, I wish I had passed this one up. It seems as if Cronin got paid by the word, introducing us to even the most minuscule and obscure characters and expecting us to remember every one of them, going into completely unnecessary details just to take up space. In doing so, he left so many loose ends at the end that I was actually convinced that my nook didn't download the whole book. Alas, I had reached the 836th page, and none of my questions were answered. It seems like he ran out of time/money/space and just decided to end the book. It was a huge disappointment. There is a way to be crafty and enigmatic in ending a book, leaving the reader to make his or her own conclusions, but I was just left angry and without closure and more confused than I should be after delving into an 800 page + book.
I also feel like a book should have one, two, or, maybe as a stretch, even three main characters, not 10 to 15. My primary problem with this is that I didn't feel like any of them got the attention that they should have in having the reader identify with them; Cronin was too busy going into the dozen or so sub-plots that had NOTHING to do with the overall story. Most didn't relate in the slightest bit, and left me scratching my head thinking "Why was it necessary to tell me this mundane detail?" I kept reading on with the hope that the end would offer an earth-shattering conclusion, thereby tying all the details together--it didn't. Not by a long shot. It seemed like Cronin simply forgot--forgot characters, forgot details, forgot doors that he opened. After such a long book, I shouldn't be left feeling like I got gypped.
9 out of 19 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
There has been some points on punctuation and the like, but for my money, it is kind of hard to believe Justin Cronin is a more 'literary' author than say Stephen King. King himself, who endorsed the book, aggrandized this guy's talent and the quality of the work overall. In my opinion, this isn't any better than what the duo Preston and Child churn out. Having won the PEN/Hemingway, I figured stylistically this author would be on par with Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan or Kazuo Ishiguro; instead, I was underwhelmed and left wondering how his other work was so recognized. This isn't all bad; there was Oprah's endorsement of 'Pillars...', which was one of the worst books I ever tried to read and the reason I would never buy an Oprah book club nominee again without researching it fully; but this is not that good either. Thematically it is flat and tired, and stylistically it is boring--and incidentally doesn't outdo King, who, when he's settling in and being conscientious is a darn good writer himself. If you're going to drop the pretense and thrill us, do it ala King's 'Under the Dome'. The idea that this is any more than a perfunctorily written, hackneyed novel that doesn't live up to the hype is pure delusion. For a real compelling read, and one that isn't being touted as horror by Graham Greene, try reading 'The Descent' by Jeff Long.
9 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 24, 2010
I Also Recommend:
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!
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.