The Passage by Justin Cronin
This is the best book I’ve read so far this summer. OK, I just had to get that out of the way. The Passage tells the story of what happens when good science goes really wrong. A group of scientists searching Bolivian rain forests for an ancient and elusive disease cure, make the mistake of allowing the military to get involved. Those of us who read any amount of apocalyptic fiction know what a mistake that can be! After nearly the whole team is destroyed by some sort of creatures who literally rip them limb from limb, Dr. Jonas Lear survives and is taken to a hidden military base in Colorado to use what they discovered to create some type of secret weapon for the US military. Naturally, there is some mysterious breach in security, and the creatures they have created are set loose on the northern hemisphere. Realize that these aren’t the sexy, glittery vampires who populate current bestsellers. These are dark, hunched, muscular creatures with sharp clawed hands who can tear a person apart before they even realize they’re being attacked. Add this that fact that one in ten victims transform into “virals,” and the world quickly becomes a place where the remaining humans are prey for the more powerful and horrific creatures.
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”
In the midst of the ensuing chaos, two people search for sanctuary: FBI agent Brad Wolgast and six-year-old Amy, the last victim he delivered for experimentation to the compound in Colorado. The first section of the book describes their flight to safety, and tells in detail what is transpiring in the world they are hiding from. The next two parts of the book take place almost 100 years later, beginning in the Colony where a couple hundred survivors are barely scraping out a day-to-day existence, most of their energies directed toward keeping the virals outside their heavily fortified settlement. Although Peter Jaxon always felt overshadowed by his older brother Theo, now he is the one who knows Amy may be the key to humanity’s survival when she stumbles up to the walled Colony one night while he is on Watch.
This epic adventure had me captured from the first chapter. Cronin is a master storyteller, slowly exposing details without overloading the reader with unnecessary description. His characters feel realistic–making impossible decisions in situations most of us would avoid completely–but aren’t impossibly heroic, rendering them implausible. This book reminded me a little of Stephen King’s The Stand, in the sense of the ultimate battle between Good and Evil. The action in non-stop, keeping readers riveted to the story long into the night. This is the first in a proposed trilogy, but I didn’t feel left hanging at the end like you do with some titles. I knew there was more to the story, but after nearly 800 pages, it felt like Cronin had given the readers a great beginning.
I would recommend this title to all horror and vampire fans, Stephen King fans, and devotees of apocalyptic fiction like Hunger Games, Oryx and Crake and The Stand.
The author will be visiting Berkeley next week at Books Inc. on Fourth St. I’m hoping to be there and would encourage avid readers to join me! There’s nothing like hearing a writer talk about their book and how it came to be. He might even give us some hints about the next installment.
Mon, 07/19/2010 – 7:00pm Justin Cronin