Friday, April 15, 2011

REVIEW: The Passage by Justin Cronin

It started as a top secret government project. Agents Wolgast and Doyle have been tasked to collect 12 death row inmates from all over the country and bring them to a remote location in Colorado for an experiment that, if successful, may change the course of humanity. When officials decide they need to test their experiment on a child, Wolgast and Doyle are tasked to deliver Amy, a six year old girl abandoned by her mother who is now in the custody of Sister Lacey Antoinette Kudoto and the nuns of her convent. The agents reluctantly transport Amy to the secretive compound in Colorado. Then the unthinkable happens. The experiment goes horribly wrong and what was once a promising medical breakthrough is now the death knell for civilization as we know it. Chances of mankind surviving are small with Amy as the one hope for the future. The Passage follows the journey of Amy and the struggles of the survivors of the human race as they battle a fate worse than death.

First, let me say that generally I do not read vampire related fiction. However, the premise of this book intrigued me enough to give it a go and while a bit trying at times, it was a rewarding read in the end. The first 3rd of the book details the origins of this catastrophe, the beginnings of the government experiment, the gathering of it's "participants", and the sad story of Amy's childhood. I found this part to be fascinating and by far my favorite part of the book. Cronin excels here, introducing several characters into the story but taking the time to develop all of them quite well and making me feel invested in them and their fates. Unfortunately, this actually proves to be a problem because I was enjoying the story and the characters immensely when WHAM! the book leaves these characters in the dust and introduces a whole different set of characters and setting.

This transition marks the beginning of the second part of the book where the focus shifts to a colony of survivors and their struggles to survive in the post-apocalyptic environment. This section has some likable enough characters too but they are not nearly as well fleshed out as the characters in the first part of the book and the detailing of the colony hierarchy, rules, and life in general weighed the story down at times. After several hundred pages of life in the colony with the occasional skirmish here and there to liven things up, Amy re-enters the picture which sets us up for the final 3rd of the book.

I will not give away too many details about what happens but I will say the cast of characters narrows a bit allowing the author to give dimension to some of the colonists who were not given their much needed due in the middle. The action also picks up in this part of the book and finally ends with a conclusion that will throw anyone reading it for quite a loop. I guarantee you will end up feeling like you got robbed at the end (but in a good, what the hell just happened??? way). Take heart though. This is the first in a trilogy so the end of The Passage is most definitely not the end of the story. Despite the middle dragging a bit, when the story was moving at a faster pace I really could not put it down. I have not actually been scared by a book in a really long time. I read this book mostly in bed late at night and I was afraid to get out of bed and go to the bathroom and I slept with the lights on for a couple of days. This book has garnered comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand, Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Richard Matheson's I am Legend and rightly so as it does have elements of all three. It even had scenes reminiscent of SK's Dream Catcher as well. The Passage has more than enough to set it apart from those novels though. For every question answered I ended with three more, some of which I'm hoping will be answered in the second installment due out in 2012.

I borrowed this book from the Grand Haven library.


  1. Great review. I've been considering reading this novel for quite some time and haven't quite got around to it. This will have to go on my 'to read' list.

  2. I apologize for the messed up formatting. Went in to fix a typo and now it looks all funky :/

    Just wanted everyone to know if you are seeing a wall of text, it was not intentional and I will fix it this evening :)

  3. Thank GOODNESS I've finally read a review from someone else who thought this one was good, but not great. I SO had my hopes up for this one, and I wanted it to be EPIC, but it wasn't ... and I didn't connect with any of the characters ... except the one from the beginning who seems to have been killed off ... oh! and one other, who isn't even a main character. :)