August 27th, 2010


Book Review: The Passage, by Justin Cronin

I tend to prefer compact novels nowadays, something tightly-plotted with tons of characterization and clear, concise writing. Tasty but nutritious and not too fattening.

But every now and then, I want to order a 13" meat-lovers pizza supreme with extra cheese and eat the whole damn thing.

The Passage features a huge cast of characters, including lots of unnecessary cannon fodder, spans a time period of more than a hundred years, gives us a bunch of improbable twists that I saw coming a mile away, some pretty decent prose that occasionally meanders into overwrought literary look-at-me-showing-off-my-MFA-I-am-not-just-a-genre-writer territory, and forty million vampires of the non-sparkly kind.

"It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born."

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives 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.

It's true that once the vampire apocalypse goes down, things happen pretty fast, but it takes several hundred pages to get there. Is it worth it?

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Verdict: This is a good book, not a great book, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. To reiterate the point I reiterated above, if you liked The Stand, you should like The Passage, and if you didn't like The Stand, maybe you should read something other than 800-page apocalyptic thrillers.