02 August 2010

Book Review: The Passage

Title:  The Passage
Author:  Justin Cronin
Publisher:  Ballantine Books (Random House)
Release Date:  8 June 2010
Date Finished:  30 July 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, 42 ChallengeSci-Fi Challenge, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
In this post-apocalyptic, generation-spanning tale, the world has been taken over by vampiric beings originating in government experimentation. The focus spans time from the origins of the virus through the aftermath of the outbreak, and on to the modified civilizations which attempt to survive in an altered world.

A Bit of a Ramble
What impressed me most was that the book read like YA with paranormal beings, a post-apocalyptic world, characters of varying age, simple but effective language, and so on; and yet, the book is firmly planted in adult fiction: allusions to or direct mention of rape, a focus on family and childbearing, a slow pace to the novel, majority of characters are adults, a plot that spans generations, and so on.  Why am I mentioning all of this?  Because I love it. I feel like Cronin has combined YA and adult fiction in this novel to create a style of book that really gets me geeking.

Speaking of the paranormal, I feel I should warn those who haven't read the story that this is not a "vampire book" - whether that makes you want to read the story more or less. Nor is it a zombie book, a walking dead book, etc. The 'virals', aka the bad guys, are not paranormal creatures in the common sense of the term. The true origin is never fully explained, but basically the government caused the outbreak by injecting test subjects (death row inmates) with a virus they found.  Another distinction from the typical paranormal books is the lack of attention paid to the vampiric beings. The Passage stays focused on the human element, the human struggle to survive in a world built on fear.

My main annoyance with the story is the lack of clarity regarding certain issues. I understand the appeal of unanswered questions and their stylistic function, but The Passage includes quite a few open issues which I felt really needed answers - or at the least I felt it was something of a cop out to not offer a satisfactory explanation. To tell you any more would probably fall into the realm of plot spoilers, so I'll keep it at that. Since reading, I've found out that this is the first in a trilogy, and while I look forward to the remaining books, I have to admit that I kind of wish it had been a standalone.

The story has short chapters, well-paced sections, believable and well-constructed characters, and 766 pages. While other reviewers have stated they thought the story could have been trimmed dramatically, I disagree.  The slow pace to a rather action-packed storyline appealed to me; sometimes reality is in the details, and it was this attention to detail that made the book feel like realistic fiction rather than SFF for me, and more adult than YA.

Despite my newfound desire to cull my shelves, this is one I'll be keeping as I can see myself reading the story again to pick up on some of the details I may have missed the first time around.  Now, go out and get a copy so you can read it too.

The Filmic Connection
It looks like Ridley Scott will be directing the film with a tentative release date in 2013. 2013 also seems to be the year the final book in the trilogy will be released which seems so far away I could like totally die (possibly from valley girl syndrome in this case).

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Rhapsody in Books; Estella's Revenge; Layers of Thought; Fyrefly's Book Blog; Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?; so many more people have reviewed this that I'm just directing you to the results page

Question: Are there any other books out there that have this wonderful combination of YA and adult fiction characteristics?


  1. Actually as I read this, I'm on disc 28 of 29. I would agree with just about everything you said. While I enjoyed certain sections more than others, I can't imagine what you would cut from the story. It is epic, and with epics you need to live and be the characters; you need details. I kept having dejavu, did you? The Stand? I am Legend? And I just want to bang my head against the wall thinking about having to wait for more!

  2. I'm afraid this is an "avoid" for me. I have no interest in this book whatsoever.

  3. I love strolling through the YA section and seeing which books someone has decided should go in both sections. The Book Thief is one I see in both YA and adult sections a lot.

    I just wonder if the "open issues" will get answered in subsequent books. It seems that the plot sort of moved on past the people (except Amy) and occurrences that have "open issues." I'll be looking forward to finding out!

  4. Sandy - Deja vu for sure during this read! The best part is that I am Legend and The Stand were my main two reminiscences too. I actually felt more I am Legend than The Stand. That could be because it's been ages since I've read The Stand though.

    Amanda - I can see that. It doesn't sound like the type of book you would give up reading other books for. Hmm...did that make sense?

    Jill - I think that the YA v. Adult issue is something I've never really thought about before. As for the open issues, you are right. Certain unanswered questions probably won't be in the next book because we are 100+ years in the future already. That is a bit annoying.

  5. I stopped reading this after I saw the bolded BUY. Maybe I'll read it later? I already know I want to read this.

  6. I mean this post - not the book. You got that, right? :)

  7. I still can't decide whether or not I want to read this...the thickness and the fact that it's the first in a trilogy is kinda scaring me. I'm not sure whether or not I'm ready to invest that much time in 3 books!

  8. *sigh* I really need to finish this one.

  9. Great review..though im not sure its my type of book!

  10. The more I read about this, the more I want to actually read it. Although after Robert Jordan passed away before completing the 'Wheel of Time' series, I always feel a sense of trepidation when starting a series that is yet to be finished...

  11. Sounds great! I'm about 100-110 pages of 836 on the nook through this and I'm really enjoying it. I'm finding myself wanting to read this instead of other books even though this is supposed to be by side read, lol! Love the way you describe it as a YA and adult book together. I agree so far it reads surprisingly easy. And I'm sort of glad to know it's not completely a vampire or zombie novel, lol.

  12. I really need to pick up a copy of this one for my husband! It is right up his alley.

  13. Care - I do the same thing. If it sounds like something I want to read, I do a quick skim, but I never really read the review.

    Jill - It's a decently quick read if that helps you make up your mind!

    Pam - Hmmm...now you have me wondering if you don't like it or if it's just taking a while because it's long?

    S - It's definitely a particular type of read.

    Lit Addicted Brit - It's only supposed to be a trilogy, so hopefully that won't be a problem!

    Jenny - A chunkster like this can't be a side read! It's too long!

    Stephanie - I definitely don't regret reading it!

  14. I keep putting this off because of the length and I think I just need to take a week and dedicate it to knocking this one out...

    Great review!!

  15. I don't think this is for me, but my son's interested in it, so I'll probably pick it up.

  16. I so agree with you that this is NOT a vampire book!! I keep hearing people describing it like that and it totally bothers me. To me, the virals feel like a new creation, and although they share some of the same characteristics of vampires, they seem so completely different.

    The book is tailor-made to be a movie ... but I bet it will be as scary as all hell!

  17. I think I'd have to get this for my nook--I don't think I have the upper-body strength to lift this monstrosity!

  18. Tara - A week would be plenty of time I'd say. It's long but not overly complex in regards to language.

    Kathy - I would say it's definitely not for everyone, but if your son likes post-apocalyptic fiction, it will probably be a good fit.

    Jenners - It bothers me too when people call it a vampire book. I get very little vampire vibe from the virals. And I really hope they go more adult with the film than YA and make a real horrific film.

    Cass - I think my biceps did get a bit bigger....

  19. I have been avoiding this one because of the hype. I'm weird that way. However, you -- along with every other reviewer I've seen who's talked about this book -- make it sound wonderful.

  20. I'm really on the fence about this one. I'm 400 pages in but haven't touched it in over a month. I have to get back to it, but am not in love yet. I do hope I end up loving it though!

  21. Stephanie - I used to be like that. I refused to read Harry Potter because of the hype. Then I started reading them right around the release of book four, fell in love with the series, and decided hype was there for a reason. :)

    Amy - I don't know that I was ever in love with it, but I did feel it was a well-crafted (despite the plot holes) and solid read.

  22. Oh my God, like I will totally read this now!
    This is the second great review I have read. I was nervous becuase Stephen King loved the bok and he and I don't get along. But you, another trusted reviewer recommends it, so I will give it a try. Thanks Trisha!

  23. Jenny Girl - Haha! Glad to help you pick a book even with the Stephen King connection. ;)

  24. Another positive review. I almost picked this up over the weekend, but decided I didn't have time for the 700+ pages right now.

  25. I enjoyed your review but I'm afraid I didn't care for it, and invested a lot of time in a book I just never got into! I found the story interesting but the characters pretty lifeless. My review is posted at The Book Stop if you want to check it out: http//thebookstop.wordpress.com/


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