Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Finally, I finished it! Freely admitting my laziness, here is a summary from Shelfari:
First came a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility that unleashed the product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gave way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

The first two hundred pages were painstakingly slow for me. If it wasn’t for the hype and the fact that I generally enjoy dystopias, I’d have put it down and forgotten about it. After page 400, I was more or less enjoying the read. Things keep slowly escalating but I can’t say I ever felt sucked-in until the last fifty pages.

The best parts were when the narrative broke out of the standard third person point of view for snippets of emails, journals and logs. I enjoyed these parts a lot which broke up the string of events and offered glimpses into the pre-vamp past, vamp-infested present and the suggestion of a unique unknown future.

The characters felt real to me except for the Sister Lacey – she was a mystery. I didn’t understand why she came to the U.S., why she felt connected to Amy, or what exactly her role was in the big picture. A statement on religion or religious beliefs? Maybe just about preserving innocence? I don’t know.

My favorite character was Michael or “the Circuit.” He gave me some hearty chuckles. I also really liked Peter with his self-doubt and conflicted feelings. I realize Amy is a link between everyone but, I felt the novel was really Peter’s story. By the end I was enjoying the party that forms and travels together. I’m not normally one to read for characters but I did with The Passage. I wanted to see how each character would deal with new situations. I wanted Peter to find some answers – about his family, his future and himself.

As for themes, I’m sure there plenty to be sucked out of the novel but none left as big an impression on me as the idea of camaraderie – hoping, supporting and believing in each other when there is not always a real good reason to do so.

What I feared most did happen. The novel ends with a giant teaser. After 766 pages I wanted some more wrap-up. The end was an “oh, my gosh what does that mean? What happened!” type of moment that does make me want to read the next book. After spending so much time with these characters I feel too invested in them to just leave them hanging.

Who should read The Passage: those who like a more thoughtful use of the vampire theme, those who enjoy “quest” stories or dystopias. But it’s definitely not for the faint of heart; The Passage is the first of a planned trilogy.
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2010     Pages: 766
Rating: 3 Stars     Source: Purchased on Amazon


  1. Isn't that always a let down when after investing hours in a book the ending sucks.

  2. I've definitely been wanting to read this one. Yours is one of the first reviews I've seen that isn't completely raving about it, so very much appreciate your honesty and thoughtful analysis!

  3. Man a la Books - I don't always mind a teaser ending. I've read plenty of books that are part of a series and I am often satisfied with first books as stand alone novels. But not so with The Passage.

    Steph - Thanks, it is always daunting to write a less-than-raving review but especially so when others generally like a book. I liked The Passage but just thought it could have been better.

  4. I appreciate the review too, Chelle! This has been on my acquisition list for a few months. I may wait for the paperback version instead of purchasing a hardback copy. I think I was kind of hoping for something similar to Stephen King's "The Stand." Well done! Cheers! Chris

  5. Hi! I loved The Passage and I should have a review up soon. Also, I wanted to let you know that you have won a blog award over at my blog.

  6. Thanks for being honest with everyone about the ending! It was a huge teaser and when I was reading it I didn't realize it was the first in a trilogy so I was fuming over the ending.