The Passage by Justin Cronin, was recommended to me by my favorite book store on Burlingame Ave. They know I have a dark side and suggested this book as being right up my line. Overall I enjoyed the book, but I was surprised by the editing issues, missing words and mixed up sentences. Mostly in the beginning, but I would have thought a book as promoted as this one would have been more polished. OK, everyone can stop laughing now. I realize this might be funny coming from me, but it was a little annoying.
The Passage is broken up into two distinct parts. You walk through the first three hundred pages in today’s current environment. The military funded scientists are doing their dastardly deeds and setting us all up for something, we just can’t quite figure out what. Wolgast, an aging FBI agent is the primary focus as he rolls through the country picking up 12 distinct prisoners. These twelve have been chosen because they are on death row, have nothing left to live for and are ripe for some experimental fun. I have one question to all of the mad scientists in the world; why in the hell do you always pick prisoners to experiment on. They are bad people, that is why they are in prison.
In addition to the twelve, a small six year old girl is chosen. Now it is one thing to mess with death row inmates but when you bring in a small child, and a girl for that matter, you are pulling the shoe strings that hold the tear ducts closed for most of America. So they inject this group of subjects with some radical virus and, wait for it, they transform into some freaky gruesome creatures, except for the small girl. We don’t really know what she turns into. And get this, Cronin, in some sick twisted turn of fate, chooses to use child molesters as his janitors in the storyline. This guy might have a mind more twisted than even mine.
So I really don’t want to give anything away, and I am pretty sure this next part is pretty well know. The world implodes and the creatures commence killing off all mankind. Interestingly enough, they kill off only 9 out of 10 people. Each tenth person gets to join the gang and become one of them. They don’t have a choice, they just get turned. It is an interesting twist on vampires as a genre and I for one think it is much more entertaining than anything remotely related to twilight. Monsters are monsters, let them kill people and stop kissing for God’s sake.
The last 500 pages or so concentrate on the world after the apocalyptic destruction. We jump to an outpost of a few humans who have walled themselves into a compound and have created their own little existence. I had some issues with the volume in this area. In one chapter, when the lights were getting ready to go out, we read what was happening from 5 different perspectives. It got mundane and was difficult to muddle through. I think Cronin lost some momentum by inundating us with some needless information. Just my two cents, but I think the book would have been better served being edited down.
Peter is the main character in our post destruction phase and you really bond with this young man as he struggles with settlement politics, fights with the normal manly desires all while keeping watch against the virils. The virils are constantly probing the perimeter waiting for any chance to chow down on some tasty human flesh. I will say this about Cronin; he has no problem with killing off people in his novels. I believe I can say this without giving too much away, nobody is safe; anyone can die at any point in time.
I really did enjoy this book. It is very dark, deeply disturbing at times and a wonderfully written. With some editing and purging it could have been perfectly magnificent but as it stands I would give it a solid 4 stars. Anyone who enjoys a decent horror novel and vampires as they should be written, this is a must read. I can’t wait to read his next book in this series. He left things pretty wide open for more books than Harry Potter has movies. He could just keep going and going with this story and I for one hope he does.