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The Passage

A book by Justin Cronin.

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The Passage

  • Aug 5, 2010
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Rating:
+3
The basic premise of The Passage is scary enough to be true: The U.S. Army has been conducting clandestine experiments on humans (death row convicts) that go horribly awry, creating a species of former humans now crazed for blood and capable of tearing all living beings limb from limb. When these creatures, called variously smokes, jumps, and virals, escape, it doesn't take long for the U.S. to be overrun. Those who aren't killed outright make the transition into being a viral themselves; the only way of stopping a viral is to stay in direct light or to kill them with a blow to the "sweet spot". The world as we knew it is gone.

The Passage is divided in two distinct sections: The first 250+ pages are devoted to the time leading directly up to the incident that releases the virals onto the human population. We're variously taken into the lives of Agents Wolgrast and Doyle, two men in charge of convincing convicts to take part in the experiment; Sister Lacey, a nun in Memphis; and Jeanette, a young single woman who gives birth to a daughter, Amy, who becomes vitally involved in the story. When Wolgrast and Doyle are told to bring six year old Amy to the Army post as the next participant, they at first comply but it doesn't take long for them to realize that they are going to have to rescue her. As the escape takes place, Wolgrast ends up with Amy, becoming her de facto parent in a world gone mad.

Part Two takes place almost 100 years in the future and focuses on The Colony, a small settlement of survivors in California. The people in The Colony have established an elaborate set of rules for survival and are aided by the large lights that shine down all through the dark night in order to keep the virals out. The story is mostly about Peter and Theo, two brothers who stand on The Watch, and Alicia, a headstrong young woman not afraid to stand up for anything. Things are going pretty much as they always have until something astonishing happens: Amy shows up, looking only slightly older than the last time we saw her.

There's lots more to add about this story but it would just take too long to encompass in a review. I went into The Passage having heard how much my reader friends loved it, and yet it took me a long time to get into the story. The whole first section seemed to drag for me; there's way too much detail about people and their backstories. Perhaps it was necessary in some degree, but I nearly put the book aside 200 pages in because I just didn't need to know everything about every character. But I stuck it out, and I'm so glad I did.

For me, the book really takes off when the section opens on The Colony. Peter and Alicia are engaging and realistic, and the urgency of the batteries that power the lights beginning to fail kept me on edge. In fact, the whole aftermath of the situation, while fantastic in many ways, had the essence of what could really happen. The sense of terror and desperation that dogged the daily lives of the characters is palpable. When Amy appeared, I knew I was hooked. I *had* to know how she had survived, and Cronin revealed the layers in precisely the right amount.

This book is overwhelming; you can crawl into the lives of the main eight characters as they make the decision to leave all they've ever known in hopes of finding a way to finally defeat the virals for good. There are areas that did need an editor to relieve the excess, but I cannot recommend it highly enough once the second half gets in gear. I just wish it hadn't taken so long for me to reach that part because I seriously felt like I was mired down in details before that point. But this one's filled with such a vivid atmosphere and so many great characters that it definitely will stay on my keeper shelf as I wait impatiently for the next one in the series.

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More The Passage reviews
review by . August 05, 2010
Magnificent - the best book I have read in YEARS
Justin Cronin's newest novel is a masterpiece.      The novel begins a few years into the future, where the military is experimenting with a virus which has the potential to prolong life, using death row candidates who have literally nothing to lose.  When they decide they need a child to experiment on, the story takes quite a different route, and the outcome is not at all what is desired.  Project 100 years into the future and humanity is decimated, living in fear …
review by . July 05, 2010
   This book is supposed to part of an upcoming Trilogy from a professor from Rice University in Houston, TX, Justin Cronin.  The beginning starts with many separate and seemingly unconnected stories...A mother and her child, a FBI agent capturing criminals, and an educational voyage to South America.  However, they do all become connected in quite an interesting manner.       SPOILER      The world as we know it gets destroyed by …
review by . July 28, 2010
I really enjoy end of the world novels and movies. It's the fight to survive, the burned out cities, the ruin. Death, destruction and devastation. Perhaps that makes me a little macabre, but whatever.    I don't think you can talk about this book without mentioning The Stand by Stephen King. I won't say it's as good as The Stand (which is by far the best post-apocalyptic novel ever written), but it has that same feel. It moves slowly in places while it sets up the back story, …
review by . June 08, 2010
Ivy League scientists discover evidence of a vampyric virus and get a military grant to help find and study it. Right away, we smell trouble, and before long, but not before they had sufficient warning, a secret military unit is experimenting on death row inmates, who end up escaping with intentions to spread the virus and destroy the world as we know it. Enter Amy, the final test subject, a six-year-old abandoned innocent, who, unlike the others (called "The Twelve," though I count thirteen), doesn't …
review by . June 11, 2010
The Passage is the first book in a trilogy from Justin Cronin and details an amazing journey, not just of the characters in the book, but the journey of humanity in general. The Passage is post-apocalyptic and will have you reading frantically for the first two hundred pages as the World is changed forever.      The first part of the book deals primarily with science gone wrong and the typical government going too far situation. But, while you may have heard The Passage is a …
review by . August 03, 2010
A new virus is being experimented on. On one hand, there is a fast recovery and healing period and could have military benefits. However, the life span for those inflicted, is brief.      At the military facility where his is being experimented on with volunteers from death row, after a short time, vampire like symptoms appear.      One day, there is an explosion and the monsters get out and kill the guards and other officials. Only a precocious young girl …
review by . July 05, 2010
Maybe its a sign of age, but I just can't get into reading books that qualify as door stops, and at almost 800 pages, this one certainly does! I stopped reading Stephen King because his books just grew too lengthy, and I believe that if an author has a good story it doesn't take almost forever to tell it. Save the trees!    I understand that this is the first book in a proposed trilogy and I pity the reader who has to slog through the verbiage to find out what's happening. Even …
review by . July 04, 2010
Although definitely reminiscent of The Stand, this book nonetheless sucks the readers in and refuses to relinquish its grip. From the abandonment of a special little girl into the hands of an equally special nun at the local convent, to a colony of "survivers" in a loosely constructed society whose very existence is dependent upon the lights staying on. And at the center of it all...the virals; formally human, now bloodsucking savages, feasting upon the surviving humans and animals...and fearful …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
Wow- wickedly OVERRATED
review by . June 08, 2010
Cronin, Justin. "The Passage", Ballantine Books.    Brilliant Vampire Fiction    Amos Lassen      We are all aware that vampires are all the rage right now and Justin Cronin gets on the vampire train with a brilliant new novel. A virus nearly destroys the world and the key to bringing it back rests with a six year old girl. In "The Passage" we are taken back to the beginning of the virus through the destruction that it causes. …
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Tammy Koudelka McCann ()
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Starred Review. 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)
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Details

ISBN-10: 0345504968
ISBN-13: 978-0345504968
Author: Justin Cronin
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Published: June 8, 2010
ISBN: 9780345504968
Format: Hardcover
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