The Passage by Justin Cronin

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 784 pages, 2010

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: The Passage seems to be the it book for summer 2010.

Synopsis: Somewhere in the very near future, a virus is discovered that changes people – it ramps up their immune system and makes them stronger, and the United States Army sees an opportunity. The government starts conducting top-secret experiments that soon overwhelm them, and suddenly there are vampires – virals – taking over the world. One little girl, Amy, who was scheduled to be a test subject for the virus, may hold the key to survival, and one FBI agent is determined to keep her safe at all costs.

Why you should read this book: The Passage is the book version of a truly fantastic horror/thriller movie. It’s creepy and nerve-wracking, and you’ll never know quite what to expect. A lot of people are burnt out on vampires at the moment but The Passage is completely different from books like Twilight (phew). If anything, the vampires, or ‘virals,’ are more reminiscent of the fast-moving zombies of recent movies like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend – they’re not here for romance, they’re just out for blood. Cronin avoids sweeping clich&#233s and allows his characters to be smart – they might make mistakes, but there are no ‘Don’t go in the basement, stupid!’ cringe-inducing moments that are the bread and butter of too many horror movies/books. I keep coming back to movies because Cronin deftly paints a picture with his scenes, capturing the familiar and the unfamiliar in a post-apocalyptic world, building up atmosphere; all while still moving along the plot. The book may be frightening, but don’t think the characters were ignored in favour of pure action – the characters have heart and will have you hoping and cheering for their survival. The story rumbles along, twisting and turning until it drops you off at the last page, dying for the next two books in the trilogy, but maybe a little happy to be able to come up for air. The Passage is smart, engrossing, and will have you sleeping with the lights on – maybe then the virals won’t get you…

Why you should avoid this book: Expect violence (hey, most of the world’s population got wiped out somehow), but not a lot of dwelling on the gory details. The book isn’t for everyone – it’s not exactly a tame read – but there are a lot of genres encompassed in this book that will make a lot of people happy, and The Passage definitely deserves to be a summer blockbuster.

Opening paragraph:

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere – the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years – she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.

Fabulous quotes:

She held her breath and unzipped the pouch. There she found the piece of notebook paper, folded up.
I’m sorry. Her name is Amy. She’s six years old.
Lacey looked at it for a long time. Not the words themselves, which were plain enough in their meaning. What she looked at was the space around the words, a whole page of nothing at all. Three tiny sentences were all this girl had in the world to explain who she was, just three sentences and the few little things in the bag. It was nearly the saddest thing Lacey Antoinette Kudoto had ever seen in her life, so sad she couldn’t even cry.

Richards could tell from the shouts and the shooting that the sticks were outside now.
He’d known what was happening to Sykes. Probably it would happen to him too, since Sykes had puked his goddamn infected blood all over him, but he doubted he’d live long enough for this to matter. Hey, Cole, he thought. Hey, Cole, you weasel, you little shit. Was this what you hand in mind? Is this your Pax Americana? Because there’s only one outcome I can see here.
There was just one thing Richards wanted now. A clean exit, with a good showing at the last.
The front entrance of the Chalet was all broken glass and bullet holes, the doors ripped half off their hinges, hanging kitty-corner. Three soldiers lay dead on the floor; it looked as if they’d been shot by friendly fire in the chaos. Maybe they’d actually shot one another on purpose, just to hustle things along.

Also recommended: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro; Dracula by Bram Stoker; The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Also by this author: The Summer Guest; Mary and O’Neil.

Author’s website: You can follow Cronin on Twitter here.

Fun tidbit: The Twelve, the second book in the trilogy is due 2012; the final book, The City of Mirrors is scheduled to be released in 2014.

Would I read more by this author? I will definitely see this trilogy through to the end.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2010

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