Passage, The (Book)

The PassageReviewed by Elaine Lamkin

Written by Justin Cronin

Published by Ballantine Books

Back in December 2009 (December 18th, to be precise), “Uncle Stevie” King, in his every- third-week column for Entertainment Weekly magazine, “The Pop of King”, did a piece on the best books of 2009. I didn’t agree with all of them, but there WAS one little mention of an upcoming book that caught my eye. As King put it, “One [book] that doesn’t appear here is Justin Cronin’s forthcoming novel, The Passage. This epic vampire novel won’t be out until summer 2010, but you’ll want to mark your calendar. Take it from Uncle Stevie, this is your basic don’t-miss reading experience.” I immediately went after an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) to see what all of this hullaballoo was about. I made it through the first part of the book, which was brilliant, but then circumstances out of my control prevented me continuing the book. Eventually things settled down, but it had been so long since I had cracked the book that I had to start again.

The book was published on June 8, 2010, and folks, this is an amazing story!!! As I said before, the first part, where the world is going to hell in a handbasket and the reader is introduced to several of the major characters, is brilliant. Then the second part begins and it is a bit disconcerting as the action has jumped ahead 100 years to a FEMA-built outpost known as The Colony. I have to say that the action did lag in this second part and sometimes too frequently. BUT the author did this for a reason as the reader needs to meet these new characters (and give them a reason to leave the outpost – the power of which keeps the huge lights going all night long and The Colony safe from the “virals” is running out). Then, for the final part of the novel (the first book in a trilogy!!), the past and the present “merge” and the action REALLY begins. At first the vampires (referred to here as dracs, virals and smokes, among others) are just nuisances that must be dealt with occasionally, but as the story progresses, the vampires become more horrific and MUCH more of a problem for the characters as they travel from The Colony in California through Las Vegas and onward to Colorado (sound vaguely familiar?). These aren’t your TWILIGHT, TRUE BLOOD or BUFFY vamps. These were created by the military (always a bad move) in order to create “super soldiers”, and, well, things just didn’t go as planned… Never mix the blood of a rare South American vampire bat with that of death row inmates. Just asking for trouble.

Much has been made of the various books The Passage reminds people of: King’s The Stand, McCammon’s Swan Song, McCarthy’s The Road, etc., and while there are winks to these works, there are other “inside” jokes for horror fans that are more subtle (see if you can spot the nod to The Shining).

Granted this IS a gi-normous book, although not as huge as King’s Under the Dome, but once you get into it, you really can’t put it down. Characters ranging from Amy, the little girl who is supposed to save the world, to Sister Lacey, Agent Wolgast, Peter, Alicia, Maus, “The Circuit”, Hollis, Sara, Major Greer, the creepy inhabitants of The Haven, Anthony Carter and Babcock (brrrrr…) – you really CARE about these characters as they make their way to where everything began.

Military experiments gone horribly wrong, the 12 death row inmates chosen for said experiments, how civilization turns out after such an apocalyptic event, the horrifying and completely original vampires (glow-in-the-dark dracs anyone?), a high speed train chase, the unexpected loss of several major characters and how little Amy fits into all of the mayhem and horror as well as the chilling ending set in Roswell, New Mexico. I cannot wait for the second book in the trilogy, but the author is predicting two years for the next book!!!

Take note, film fans. The rights to The Passage trilogy have already been purchased by Fox 2000 and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions for $1.75 million. Should be interesting to see what Scott does with this epic.

4 out of 5

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