Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
When what might be the key to human immortality and a cure for all diseases is discovered deep in the jungle in South America, the U.S. Army sends a team down to investigate. They bring the virus back with them and set up a secret facility in Colorado, where they study the virus by injecting it into human subjects. When the security is the compound is breached and the test subjects escape, the result is more horrific than anyone could possibly have imagined.
I don’t even know where to start with my review of this massive tome. Let’s start with what you’ve heard about it – it’s like LOST except with vampires! (I can sort of see the LOST comparison, but I don’t like using the term vampires just because it brings to mind a certain genre and type of novel. Trust me, this isn’t it.) It’s already overhyped! (Nope, don’t think that’s the case, it really is a phenomenal book.) It’s the most amazing book I’ve ever read and will read! (Again, nope, though I did really enjoy it and think it’s an incredible novel.)
The Passage is unbelievably good. Cronin has an amazing ability to build a world for the reader. He often throws you in the middle of a situation in which you have no idea what’s happening. His subtle references and hints work wonders in establishing plot and surroundings. The threads that weave through this novel are really incredible – it’s amazing that an offhand detail that seems inconsequential at the time can become relevant 400 pages later. Cronin is a genius at crafting a layered, complex, and entirely gripping plot.
However, the novel is slow. It’s not written to be a thriller, even though it seems like it should be from the plot summary. It’s more literary, more careful. Cronin takes his time building up suspense and making sure everything is in its place before unleashing it on the reader. As a result, while the plot doesn’t necessarily move that quickly, I never got tired of it or bored by it. The pace of the novel works for what it is – just don’t expect the constant action of a typical thriller.
The length is daunting, but it goes by quickly once you’re immersed in The Passage. I would say this would make the perfect book club book, except I’m not sure how many members would be willing to read an almost 800 page book! There is plenty to discuss within its pages – in fact, the second I finished it, I emailed someone to discuss a key plot point. This is a book you’ll be bursting to talk about once it’s over.
I should also say that, while my summary above definitely covers the first 200 pages, it’s not even close to being a description of the book. It merely sets the stage, as most of the story takes place in the future. I assume that the other two books in the series (The Passage is the first book in a planned trilogy) will also take place in that time frame.
I could keep talking – about the intricately drawn characters, the incredible mythology behind the book, the setting and descriptions – but I’ll stop here. Let me just say that this is really a mind-blowing book. I can’t describe to you how much I enjoyed the process of reading it, of uncovering the connections behind things and what really came to pass with the vampires. While I am thrilled that I have two more books to look forward to in the series, I’m also completely satisfied with The Passage as a standalone novel. It was well-written, impeccably executed, and thrilling to read – I definitely recommend this one, despite (or perhaps because of?) all the hype.