The Passage

I was excited and nervous to read Justin Cronin's The Passage. In the press, this 800-page behemoth was touted as being the “it” book of the summer, the one everyone should read. Like blockbuster movies, books declared must-reads for everyone often leave me annoyed and wondering why I wasted my time.

While I don't think The Passage is a must-read for everyone, I definitely didn't waste my time reading it.

The first act of The Passage was amazing. Secretly, the Army was experimenting on death-row prisoners with a virus, one that would turn them into immortal killing machines. After twelve prisoners were tested, the virus was perfected and inserted into a six-year-old girl. The girl, who we're told about at the opening of the novel, will become the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, and will live a thousand years. The original twelve test subjects were to be eliminated, but things went horribly wrong.

Justin Cronin Reading
7 p.m., Thursday, June 17
Barnes & Noble HarMar Mall
2100 North Snelling Ave, Roseville, MN 55113

Then, in the middle of the action, The Passage jumps ahead a century, to a small, sheltered, walled community believing themselves to be the last humans alive. Always shrouded in light, since light keeps away the the blood-sucking vampires they call “virals,” The Passage almost turns into an old western. Modern conveniences are gone, books depicting life as it was before are destroyed, horses are the means of transportation, and there is no such thing as television, movies, or music.

The second act of the book was not as exciting as the first. Some soap opera-like moments and family drama take over, and the action is not as intriguing. It was more like the tiny roller coaster inside the Mall of America, fun at times, but not as thrilling as the Wild Thing at Valleyfair. (How's that for some Minnesota references?)

The third act of the book, when the people of the walled community turn against each other and some leave and explore the outside world, picks up again, and at one point I found myself not being able to stop turning the pages for hours at a time.

I did have one minor annoyance throughout the novel. Sure, in different centuries people speak differently and new slang words are created, but the slang word the walled community used was so annoying. “Flyers,” they'd often say, supposedly where we'd say shit, damn, or fuck, but the problem is that they still say shit, damn, and fuck, and flyers seemed juvenile in comparison. I kept waiting for it to be followed by, “Flyers, Shaggy, we need to get out of here!” Just like lolcats, people who take pictures of their restaurant food, and people who say “nom nom” before they eat, it made me cringe each time I read it. I think it's supposed to reference the vampires, which is probably supposed to give it some credence as a swear word, but it just didn't seem to fit and I hated it.

That annoyance aside, overall this epic story involving government conspiracies, family drama, danger around every corner (especially in the dark), and vampires (real vampires, not the fake, lovelorn ones you've read about lately), was really great. I especially liked the fact that the vampires were more like animals and the whole novel wasn't about them. People who don't like vampire novels will love this, while people who long for vampire literature might find it lacking, though the story is still good so both groups of people should enjoy this.

Midway through reading the novel I heard it was going to be part of a trilogy, and the mild cliffhanger ending had me saying, “Son of a bitch,” because I was left with an illusion of something bad happening to good people and I have to wait to see what happens. I hope the next novel comes out soon.

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