13 Jun 2011

Review: "The Passage"

I am not really sure what made me pick up "The Passage" by Justin Cronin - but to be honest I was probably giving in the to hype and thought I would give it a go just to see... And how here comes the review which is full of SPOILERS. I don't think I would be able to writing anything meaningful about this book if I didn't include SPOILERS so consider yourself warned.

What initially struck me about this book was two things: 1) It's size. It is really long. 2) The cover which I find absolutely beautiful.
Then I opened the book and started reading and those two initial impressions faded into the background.
The story opens a year or two from now and at first we follow several strands. The young mother who has to become a prostitute to be able to provide a meal and a roof for her little daughter Amy. The death row prisoner who gets an offer he can't refuse from an FBI agent who may have a hidden agenda. The FBI agent who is on a mission that he doesn't really understand but who is so emotionally messed up by losing his child that he doesn't care what the mission is about. Until the mission suddenly includes handing over Amy to an unknown fate and his paternal feelings come crashing over him.
This first part of the story, I really enjoyed. I loved the thrill of not knowing what is going on but having that ominous feeling that there is more to the story... The FBI agent Wolgast is a really good character with lots of depth and I really felt for him and looked forward to following his ride through the book - that was not to be however... Because really, this is all about Amy.

After about 200 pages the plot turns from a mystery thriller about taking responsibility for your actions to a whole different kettle of fish. From one page to the next - and this is where the SPOILER comes - the entire population of America (and possibly of the earth) has been wiped out by an attack of vampire zombies. I kid you not. Vampire zombies... As if the sparkling variety wasn't bad enough, now we have the superpowered, crazy zombie variety as well.
At this point I seriously considered closing the book and leaving it at that but I was in the garden at my parents place and still trying to get back on both feet after my operation so I had nothing else to do.
The story is impossible to really summarize from here but in a few words, this is what happens: A group of about 100 survivors has made a colony in the Californian mountains and there they have lived since the first epidemic. A hundred years have passed and a new world order is prevalent. The story follows a group of these people who set up to get a better understanding of what happen to the world of their forefathers and whether there are other humans out there who have managed to survive. All why they try and understand who the girl Amy is - a strange tween/teen who has suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

I don't know what to say. I am really really not into sci-fi, doomsday, end-of-the-world stories and suddenly I found myself reading one, rather unwillingly. Being honest, I would have put this book down if it wasn't because it is actually rather well-written. Great characters that you really empathize with and that come alive. Great descriptions of a world where all life as we know it has disappeared. Very Stephen King-ish. Will I read the next two books in what is planned to be a trilogy? Well, never say never but I really don't think so.

Read it if: You love Stephen King and think that "28 Days Later" is a great movie. Or if you would read anything featuring a vampire.


  1. This really should have been two separate books. Not only did the second part seem totally disconnected to the first, but it was in need of a thorough editing. It was a 300 page story told in 700 pages *gah*

    The first part was fantastic. The second part, not so much.

  2. I agree that this should have been a two-parter. Cronin, however, is making this into a trilogy so I'm guessing all three of the books are going to have disconnected sections.

    It's funny because despite the fact that I'm sick of the word vampire, I picked this book up after hearing an interview with Cronin on NPR about the book. I was intrigued by the story line (as well as the zombie vampires) and found that, even with it's flaws, it was a really good read. I'm looking forward to the next novel; I just hope that it doesn't leap around as much as the last in terms of the time frame.

  3. I adore the cover too. Like you, I preferred the first section of the book but my fiance is reading it at the moment and prefers the second, long, not-much happens part. I really feel like it didn't need to be a series, the whole thing could have been told in 700 pages.

    If you're interested, my review is here: http://tinylibrary.blogspot.com/2011/04/passage-by-justin-cronin.html

  4. I saw this book a while back at the bookstore, but I did not give in the hype. The only reason why is because it just had too many pages! ;) Great review!

  5. Thanks for your comments, I love getting your perspective on the books I review :-)

  6. I did want to read this at one point, but I think the zombie/virus thing turned me off. I'm a little tired of this right now...and while it's not crossed off the list for good, I may just get from the library.

  7. I know... if I had known it had features zombies and virus I would never have given it a chance. Glad i did though, it did widen my non-fiction horizon :-)