The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Passage is about a world overrun by vampire-like "Virals." The story spans a little over a hundred years from the inception of the plague that creates the Virals, to a time when Americas society as we know it is gone and the few remaining humans are just barely holding on.
The first third or so of the book largely follows Brad Wolgast, an FBI agent tasked with convincing death row inmates to be a part of a series of medical trials that eventually lead to the creation of the viral plague. Wolgast goes about his job, grimly resigned, until his military superiors instruct him bring in a young orphan named Amy to be a part of the project.
Cronin does an amazing job in this section of creating and rounding out the characters of Wolgast and Amy and developing a relationship between them that is very touching. What's most impressive to me though is how Cronin takes the time to even round out relatively minor characters like the inmates, the military workers, a briefly seen group of nuns. This is what sets this book apart from the pack for me. The characters and their relationships. Cronin goes into far more detail here than you would expect in what could easily be the literary equivalent of a big summer popcorn movie.
The second part of the book is set a hundred years later. Here we're introduced to a small band of survivors living in a crumbling holdout somewhere in California. Not long into their story, circumstances lead some of them to leave their camp and venture out into the wider world, hoping maybe they can make an impact on the post plague world. The majority of the book follows their journey across the country. (Despite the time jump Cronin does connect the first and second sections of the book satisfactorily, but I won't get into to how he does it cause it's nifty.)
This second section is the only place I had real problems with the book. It introduces us to a much larger cast of characters, enough that I had trouble keeping them all straight at times, and I never felt as strongly about them, or felt I knew them as well, as the smaller cast of the first section. Where the first section runs deep, the second section is broad. I guess I preferred the deeper end of the pool
Other quibbles? There are some action movie moments that seem a bit over the top. He also leans on some stock situations and characters. A chosen one, a power mad and reckless military, a seemingly happy town with a dark secret. He handles these things well but they do seem pretty familiar. Oh, he's also not above the "Oh no! A main character is about to die! Oops just kidding!" fake out. It happens a couple times and rankled a bit.
All in all these are small things. I really enjoyed this. Cronin writes beautifully and poetically, the world and the societies in it are detailed and interesting, the monsters are scary (and sad too in a way) and the story moved a a good pace. I definitely look forward to the next book in the series.
Oh, as a heads up, this is 100% a novel for adults. I figured with post-apocalyptic setting and the hype surrounding it it'd be a good one for folks like us to be aware of.
Any of you all read it yet? Plan to? Thoughts?
Posted by Jeff Hirsch at Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.