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Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Passage by Justin Cronin

When I have a few days off work I like to try and tackle one of the heftier tomes taking up space on my bookshelf. There's something so indulgent about immersing yourself in a really BIG book, the sort of book that you wouldn't usually pop in your handbag or take on the bus because it's just too unwieldy. So last week I was browsing my options and this Justin Cronin tome caught my eye. I didn't know too much about it but had swapped for a copy after reading several rave reviews of the recently published sequel, The Twelve. And at 900-something pages it fit the bill, as well as counting towards my RIP VII challenge.


The Passage is basically divided into three parts. The novel opens in the present day, where we see the US authorities conducting a dubious secret experiment which involves twelve Death Row prisoners and an abandoned 6-year-old girl named Amy being inoculated with a mysterious new virus. An accident results in the spread of the virus around the United States, resulting in national disaster as its victims exhibit vampire-like (vampirish? a real word?) qualities. Skip 100 years or so down the line and we meet Peter, one of the few humans untouched by this epidemic thanks to the bright lights that illuminate his Colony and keep the 'virals' away. But for reasons I will keep under wraps, he and his friends are finally forced to leave the safety of The Colony and go seeking a new life and a solution to save the human race.

The first third of this book is absolutely excellent. I was totally gripped. There is something really cinematic about Cronin's descriptions of devastation and chaos, and the scenes played out in my head as if I was watching them on the big screen straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. What's more, we meet a host of engaging and human characters who I was sorry to leave behind as the story moved on in time.

Unfortunately my interest dipped in the middle third of the novel, as the focus moved to Peter and the other inhabitants of The Colony. I didn't really find him to be a particularly inspiring hero, nor did I like any of his friends or neighbours. Much of this section seemed superfluous to the plot and I think I would have enjoyed the book just as much had large sections been cut. After they left the safety of The Colony walls, though, the action picked up again and I found myself engrossed, desperate for them to find the answers they were seeking.

I didn't love The Passage overall but it did hold my interest and I imagine I will probably read the sequel at some point, if not any time soon. The plot is excellent but for me it fell short when it came to the characters, with none being particularly distinctive. I loved that Cronin has taken pains to create a solid backstory for this post-apocalyptic landscape as I feel it's something lacking in many similar works. Nevertheless, I would have liked more information on why exactly the US government were conducting this ghoulish experiment in the first place - there were a few sketchy letters between scientists featured in the early chapters but I didn't feel their meaning was clear. The closest comparison that kept springing to mind as I was reading this is to I Am Legend (and it more closely resembles the movie adaptation starring Will Smith rather than the original novel) so definitely one to check out if you like your landscapes bleak and your vampires vicious (not handsome and sparkly!).

I read this book as part of my RIP VII challenge!

12 comments:

  1. I have this book though I haven't read it yet. There is something wonderful about sinking into a really big time! I'm currently on page 325 of 849 in King's 11/22/63. I'm not sure it needs to be so long, but I am enjoying the trip back to the 1960's. ;)

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    1. Do you know, to my shame, I have never read any Stephen King and feel that is something I must rectify soon, particularly as I have heard so many comparisons between Cronin and King now. Do you have any recommendations for me of where to start with King?

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    2. OOh you have to read Stephen King! Start with one of his older ones, Carrie, The shining or The Stand.

      Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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    3. Thanks Lainy! I don't know how his books have passed me by for so long, because I'm sure I would really enjoy them. I have put a few swap requests in for the titles you suggested above so we'll see how they go!

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  2. I read it 2 years ago and I loved it.
    I don't remember everything at the moment, but I think that the research with the virus was made in order to have inmortal soldiers, or inmortal people, I can't remember.
    I agree with you when you say that the first part of the colony was a little bit boring and the reader doesn't know what is all about, but then the plot goes better and better.
    I'm looking forward to reading The twelve, as you can imagine!! :)

    I'm Spanish and it is still not available here... The wait is terrible!!

    See you!

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    1. I think you're right, it was something to do with that, but I wasn't left with a very clear impression. I hope you don't have to wait too long to read The Twelve! Thanks for commenting, I have just visited your blog and you have a new follower :) your English is very good!

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    2. I've seen your comment in my blog; thank you very much!
      I'm workind very hard on my English! :)

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  3. I haven't read this but you make it sound very appealing. I think I'll add it to my Christmas list ;-)

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    1. Really Sarah, I had thought it was a fairly lukewarm review! But if you are in the mood for a break from crime fiction and want to escape with a chunky fantasy novel that you can really get your teeth into (ho ho) then I think you will enjoy it. To be honest I think my Christmas list will suffer at the hands of your blog too!

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  4. I gave it 2 stars, I liked half of it and then felt it went off into almost a different book (from what I remember, would need to hunt my review down).

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  5. This book is very long, running over 750 pages. The story is stretched out to infinity on details and characters which seem to have little to do with the main plot. But it is a very intriguing story dealing with the consequences of bio-engineering humans into an ultimate life form.

    Rowena Hailey (Hummer H1 Parts)

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