The Passage by Justin Cronin is like an adult alternative to one of Stephanie Meyer’s books . If the stomach churning genre of supernatural teen fiction repulses you at the very thought of werewolves making out with vampires, vampires making out with vampires, or anything not human making out, and you’re still really into monsters terrorizing humanity, then you’ve stumbled upon a winner with The Passage. It’s all the monsters and none of the teen drama. The language, intensity, and violence, however, should ward off a lot of Twilight fans, and for good reason. This book is NOT for younger readers. When you first pick it up, the 700+ pager just seems like a good item to use to flatten out the covers of your old paperbacks that have gotten bent out-of-shape, or perhaps a weighty weapon to throw at an assailant. (Hopefully, if you have good aim, your attacker will experience ‘The Passage’ into unconsciousness). But this refrigerator-sized epic is a gripping read that has the potential to be a multi-million dollar grossing summer blockbuster (as evidenced by the movie rights being sold for 3 million before the book was even published).
The story begins in 2018 and presents a terrifying picture of America that is constantly engaged in domestic and foreign warfare. The intensity of the worldwide climate has forced the American government to engage in a science experiment that engineers super-humans to battle our foes. I’m not talking about the army sending out thousands of ROBO-Cop like soldiers, or even the super suits that were in that embarrassment of
a G.I. Joe movie, but actually altering the human body itself. I imagine you’ve already figured out that the experiment (like all government experiments in movies and books) goes tragically wrong and creates a viral outbreak of bloodthirsty vampire/zombie things that are as ruthless as they are terrifying. Did I mention that they wound up getting the superhuman abilities too? This isn’t your typical Draculaian-romancing vampire.
But, despite these outrageous elements, Cronin delivers powerful and often mysterious writing that freezes the reader in a state of confusion, driving you to turn the next page. Check out the first sentence:
“Before she became the Girl from Nowhere- the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years- she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.”
Hooked yet? I was. The Passage is dense with intriguing facets like e-mail correspondences, journal entries, maps, charts, and anything else Cronin could pull out of his bag of tricks to keep you hanging in there till the end. This blockbuster of a novel caused me to lose some sleep but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any flaws. Cronin has a very lyrical voice in his writing that, in some ways, enchants you into his dystopian story, but there are often descriptions and metaphors that drag on and seem to get a little stale. The book spends a great deal going into the psychology and thoughts of certain characters, but honestly I would have rather eliminated this part of the writing (in most cases), made some choice snippets to the work, and turned this bad boy into about a three to four hundred pager. But I don’t mind keeping it around to use as a free booster seat for future children.
The story is fun, scary, and intense enough that I will not recommend it to people with high blood pressure or pregnant mothers. If you can’t handle darker stories don’t even try it – the cover itself is packed with foreboding, and is only a fraction of how creepy The Passage really becomes.
All-in-all it was a great read that I really enjoyed. Put in on the third shelf out of five (If you can fit it).