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The Passage, Justin Cronin


I began reading this book over the summer while standing in Horizon Books in Traverse City on escapes from the bubble of Interlochen, and actually got about seventy or eighty pages in before leaving Michigan. Back in Ohio, I put myself on three different library holds lists in the hopes of getting a copy sometime with in the next month. And of course, it was the eBook copy that came in first, so earlier this week I started in a 829-page eBook. Reading that many pages on a computer screen was a bit of a strain on the eyes, so I would recommend getting a paper copy even if it means waiting a while longer.

Like Stephen King’s “Under the Dome,” the cast of characters is enormous: some chapters serve to present background material for later chapters, and the actual characters themselves are not necessarily integral to the plot; still, enough of them are that it requires some rereading. The novel covers a large period of time, roughly chronologically, in a number of settings, with some flashbacks. The story follows the scientific experiments being conducted on a dozen death-row inmates who have been transferred to a special, carefully guarded and staffed facility. The activities are never made explicitly clear, but we are given the perspective of a number of the staff and their experiences with the subjects, the last of whom is a little girl named Amy. The novel jumps quickly from the initial escape of the vampires (also referred to as lights or stars, while their infected victims are called virals), to the aftermath, and the introduction of the First Colony in the republic of California, a group of survivors who will carry the bulk of the remaining pages. The characters are plentiful, but represent a wide range of the remains of humanity; like King, Cronin does not shy away from killing off characters, though in an interview he does warn that if the reader did not see them die, they may not really be dead.

One caveat to this novel, which I vaguely remembered after coming to the end of it, is that it is the first in a trilogy, so despite the hundreds of pages, many threads are left untied at the end. Indeed, events continue rolling right up to a multiple cliff-hanger ending, so if you are one of those people who absolutely has to know what happens next, you may want to wait until 2014 when the last book of the trilogy is scheduled to be published. This is definitely a novel which will consume a great deal of reading time, and some may be disappointed to get to the end and be left hanging, but there is plenty going on in this first volume to keep you busy. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Cronin reclaimed vampires as something dangerous and deadly; I also liked the sci-fi slant to the origin of vampires, and the idea that the darkness is something to be a little wary of.

(Apologies for the multiple references to Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”; that is the only real experience I have had with horror novels thus far.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2010/08/30 21:59

    Do you think the last book of the trilogy will be on time, or will it have teh five year delays of some authors?

  2. 2010/08/30 23:49

    Honestly, I don’t know much about Cronin as an author, so I couldn’t say whether he publishes “on time” or not. I do know that there was a major movie deal signed for this trilogy, so I imagine that might put on the pressure to complete it in a timely manner.

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