Book Review: The Passage – Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
ISBN: 9780345504968
Pages: 784
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

Comments

  1. I’ve read nothing but rave reviews about this book, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

  2. I’ve read nothing but rave reviews about this book, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

  3. Swapna, great post! I’m excited about this book – it sounds like it is such a great read! I definitely need to get my hands on a copy of this one!

  4. Swapna, great post! I’m excited about this book – it sounds like it is such a great read! I definitely need to get my hands on a copy of this one!

  5. (covering my eyes) — You know I have to come back to read this. I’m only halfway through.

  6. (covering my eyes) — You know I have to come back to read this. I’m only halfway through.

  7. I am so relieved you liked this! I’ve been seeing a bit of negative press on Twitter but I was really looking forward to it before that. Now I am again. =)

  8. I am so relieved you liked this! I’ve been seeing a bit of negative press on Twitter but I was really looking forward to it before that. Now I am again. =)

  9. I am very much looking forward to starting my copy of this book. I’ve read comparisons to THE STAND (and I don’t really like comparisons like that, but….), which is one of my favorite books ever. I suspect this one will suit me just fine.

    Glad to hear your thoughts, Swapna, and a trilogy! My word, the riches. LOL

  10. I am very much looking forward to starting my copy of this book. I’ve read comparisons to THE STAND (and I don’t really like comparisons like that, but….), which is one of my favorite books ever. I suspect this one will suit me just fine.

    Glad to hear your thoughts, Swapna, and a trilogy! My word, the riches. LOL

  11. I’ve read only good reviews for this book. Still not sure it’s a book I’d like but the reviews sure seem to be pushing me in that direction!

  12. I’ve read only good reviews for this book. Still not sure it’s a book I’d like but the reviews sure seem to be pushing me in that direction!

  13. My dad actually read my copy before I did, and when I saw him plow through a 900-some page book in a few days, I knew it was going to be good! I only wish we didn’t have to wait until 2012 for book two. Great review!

  14. My dad actually read my copy before I did, and when I saw him plow through a 900-some page book in a few days, I knew it was going to be good! I only wish we didn’t have to wait until 2012 for book two. Great review!

  15. I am so ridiculously excited about this book and can’t wait to get my copy. It sounds like an excellent read, and I am really anxious to see what I think of it. Glad to know it was such a good read for you! Great review, your enthusiasm is palpable!

  16. I am so ridiculously excited about this book and can’t wait to get my copy. It sounds like an excellent read, and I am really anxious to see what I think of it. Glad to know it was such a good read for you! Great review, your enthusiasm is palpable!

  17. Once again, I am so behind the curve on the big books! I haven’t read this one and don’t even own it. At this point, I’ll probably wait for some of the excitement to die down.

  18. Once again, I am so behind the curve on the big books! I haven’t read this one and don’t even own it. At this point, I’ll probably wait for some of the excitement to die down.

  19. Great review! I’m waiting for my copy, glad I will know what to expect when it arrives

  20. Great review! I’m waiting for my copy, glad I will know what to expect when it arrives

  21. You know how there are professional shoppers? Well, I need a professional reader. Because I want to read this, but the size (and the hundreds of books already in my house) is holding me back.

  22. You know how there are professional shoppers? Well, I need a professional reader. Because I want to read this, but the size (and the hundreds of books already in my house) is holding me back.

  23. I’ve read good things about this book. Thanks once again for this wonderful review.

  24. I’ve read good things about this book. Thanks once again for this wonderful review.

  25. I debated a lot today and finally went and ordered this book. Phew! I’m glad it was a wise decision. Being a big LOST fan, I’m curious to see the comparisons.

  26. I debated a lot today and finally went and ordered this book. Phew! I’m glad it was a wise decision. Being a big LOST fan, I’m curious to see the comparisons.

  27. When I first read about this one, I thought it didn’t really appeal to my usual taste. But so many people seem to love it. I think I need to expand my horizons!

  28. When I first read about this one, I thought it didn’t really appeal to my usual taste. But so many people seem to love it. I think I need to expand my horizons!

  29. I think it could have been just as literary and a little more thrilling with a few hundred pages chopped out. There were too many characters introduced early on and then not given much more face time for awhile, so I didn’t really care what happened to any of them or, really, even if the human race survived. I did enjoy the overall idea of the book, though, and Cronin’s writing.

  30. I think it could have been just as literary and a little more thrilling with a few hundred pages chopped out. There were too many characters introduced early on and then not given much more face time for awhile, so I didn’t really care what happened to any of them or, really, even if the human race survived. I did enjoy the overall idea of the book, though, and Cronin’s writing.

  31. Fantastic review; you’ve summed it all up quite well. I’m a mere 100 pages from the end. I’m postponing the inevitable, I don’t want it to end.

    I think this book has lived up to, and surpassed, the hype. I typically don’t like when books are compared to this one, but I tend to agree to it’s comparison with THE STAND. Both are high quality writing, unique storyline.

  32. Fantastic review; you’ve summed it all up quite well. I’m a mere 100 pages from the end. I’m postponing the inevitable, I don’t want it to end.

    I think this book has lived up to, and surpassed, the hype. I typically don’t like when books are compared to this one, but I tend to agree to it’s comparison with THE STAND. Both are high quality writing, unique storyline.

  33. Looked forward to reading this book because of the fantastic reviews.
    However, reading it was difficult.
    Got lost because of the numerous characters and the movement back and forth to their various stories. The chase sequence through the mall had me at the edge of my seat, loved it.
    Overall an enjoyable book.

  34. Looked forward to reading this book because of the fantastic reviews.
    However, reading it was difficult.
    Got lost because of the numerous characters and the movement back and forth to their various stories. The chase sequence through the mall had me at the edge of my seat, loved it.
    Overall an enjoyable book.

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