Saturday, August 07, 2010

Book Review – The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage
Justin Cronin
Ballantine Books
784 pages
ISBN 0345504968 / 9780345504968


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.

One of the most compelling elements of this book is that I could sense pieces of similar earlier works buried in the canon. There is, of course, the obvious good versus evil and a government strain that gets loose killing millions of people much like Stephen Kings’ “The Stand.” There are survivors that live on the brink of extinction and could be annihilated at any moment as found in Larry Niven’s “Lucifer’s Hammer” (among many others.) There is an epic battle between surviving factions, although one of them is not quite human, as in David Brin’s “The Postman.” Also, which I found very interesting, were the military factions fighting in the wasted lands of a broken America which is reminiscent of James Axler’s Deathlands series. An element of technology, in both cases, electricity, is isolated for many years like in Jeanne DuPrau’s “The City of Ember.” I am not implying that Cronin borrowed from these works only that he used elements found in all of them. And, since I’m a huge fan of every one of those works it goes without saying that I’d rate this high. And I have.

I heard the other day that this book was the first in a trilogy. One can only hope that Cronin types 5,000 words a minute and that the other two books will be published before the end of the month. I know, he doesn’t and they won’t, but one can wish. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. After a brief Google search it appears that the next two books in the series are “The Twelve” to be published in 2012 and “The City of Mirrors” to be published in 2014. There is also talk of a full-length motion picture based on the novel. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that.

P.S. I love great, sprawling, epic novels. Here’s hoping volumes two and three are as lengthy and well written.

5 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

More on “The Passage”:

The Passage” Website (includes excerpts, videos, downloads and more)

Huffington Post Review

Laura Miller Book Review

Author’s Wikipedia Page

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