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The Passage by Justin Cronin

Occasionally I enjoy nothing better than reading a big old doorstop of a novel. You know the sort of thing I mean. Big enough that you know your wrists are in danger of snapping if you try and read more than about 100 pages in a single sitting, The Passage falls into this category. With seven hundred and sixty-six pages all in, you can be sure that this story is epic in scope and promise.

The book is split into two sections.  Part one tells the story of military genetic experimentation gone wrong. Seen primarily through the eyes of a world weary FBI agent, the reader learns of the US Army’s plans to create man made vampires (it’s ok they don’t sparkle…they glow). The Authorities end up getting more than they bargained for, and their worst fears are realised when the vampires escape. Cronin manages to generate a real sense of despair and loss here. All the main characters are broken in one way or another. Special Agent Brad Wolgast is haunted by the family he lost. Six year old Amy is left abandoned by her mother at the doors of a convent. The ending of this part of the book is very downbeat, very dark, I liked it a lot.

Part two, which takes up significantly more of the book, skips ahead nearly one hundred years. In the intervening time, and with the rise of the vampires, the world we know has collapsed. The book’s focus shifts to a small township that is just about managing to hang on against seemingly insurmountable odds. Every action of every character is motivated by their will to survive. Children are shielded from the truth of the situation until they are old enough to understand it and help in the fight. All life revolves around keeping the collective and, at its heart, the children safe. One of the town’s young men, Peter Jaxon, dreams of following in his late father’s footsteps and venturing into the world outside the colony. When a mysterious teenage girl appears at the town gates, a series of events unfold and he is given his chance.

The author has put a lot of effort and detail in describing this new society. I love it when an author starts playing with language and throwing around their own terminology. The vampires are known by many different names ‘virals’ ‘smokes’ and ‘dracs’ to name a few. It is also nice to see a good example of story specific swearing as well.

Not sure if this was intentional or not but it struck me that the pace in each section of the book are distinctly different. The first part is quite fast and builds very quickly while the second part is much slower and takes it’s time to draw the reader in.

My only criticism is that I would have liked to have learned more about how the vampire pandemic affected the rest of the world. The story is set firmly in America. I would temper this by saying I believe The Passage is the first in a trilogy so this story thread may be investigated in the future.

If you like books like Swan Song, The Stand and Blood Crazy, then this is highly recommended. The Passage throws its hat into the ring of apocalyptic fiction, and I believe in years to come, the new recruit will stand shoulder to shoulder with the veterans.

The Passage


New From: £32.03 GBP In Stock

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