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The Passage by Justin Cronin (Why you just might want to read this one) - Edit 1

Before modification by Rebekah at 14/06/2010 07:37:02 PM

The Passage
By Justin Cronin
Published by Ballantine Books
June 8, 2010

The Passage is a large, ambitious, fantasy/horror/post-apocalyptic/vampire story that just so happens to be well written. Just think about that for a moment. A vampire apocalypse survival story that is as good as it is entertaining. Cronin is a master story teller and deftly builds a world, populated by interesting characters, with conflicted emotions and motivations, faced with fantastic situations. Epic. Captivating. It's a damn good story.

The Passage starts in the near future, 2017 or something like that. Cronin takes his time to set his story, the different pieces being knit together through seemingly disparate parts, like a loosely connected file of records. There is a secret military operation, scientific experiments, death row inmates used as test subjects, an FBI agent, and a little girl. The set up his long and gradual, but it is captivating and interesting... a novel unto itself. It takes nearly 200 pages until Cronin really sets the hook...

    It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.

The rest of the story takes place 92 years later and focuses on a small group of human survivors, and a mysterious teenage girl who walks into their colony, and their search for answers and hope.

The Passage is interesting constructed as a novel. First off it is over 750 pages long in hard cover. It reads like it could be several books in a series rather than a single volume. Cronin uses 'recovered' journal writings (listed as being presented at some conference 1003 years after the line I quoted above) to move through time while giving the readers important world or character related information. There are big build-ups, massive climaxes, and the story just keeps going, and going. Oddly, it all works to build a solid and enjoyable whole.

The novel, at the very core of its main storyline, is a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure, with a fair bit of vampire monster and suspense thrown in. Cronin employs elements of quick pacing, slow-build psychological elements, characterization and PoV, as well as excellent plotting, to craft a remarkably engrossing and entertaining read.

The book isn't perfect. I don't want anyone going in expecting high literature, like some early critics have suggested, or like Cronin's previous two novels. Cronin struggles a little bit with pacing here and there, makes some odd PoV decisions when building tension and suspense prior to big events, and I felt that he pulled some punches. I want to say that the book could be 100 pages shorter and be better for it, but I'm not certain that that is true. The biggest reason why the book isn't perfect is that it is purported to be the 1st of a trilogy. The book tells a complete story, heck it tells more than one, but the whole story isn't over at the end. The book ends with a possible mini-cliff hanger and some pretty big open questions. These aren't poorly done, not in any way, but they are something that you're going to have to wait for... and maybe wait for a while.

The Passage is poised to be a big title. It has already been picked up by 26 international publishers. Fox 2000 bought the movie rights for Ridley Scott in a seven figure deal. The book has tons of glowing reviews from top authors, critics, and even mainstream news papers that don't tend to treat nicely this type of novel. This is like that typical big summer blockbuster movie that you hear about for months. The difference here is that The Passage delivers on the hype.

I found The Passage to be a great read, a fast read despite the 750 pages. I had to fight myself from flipping forward in the book, repeatedly, to find out just what was about to happen... and many a night looking far too little sleep because I didn't want to put it down. So, there you have it. The Passage. Pick it up. Be prepared to stay up.

Available in the US on June 8, 2010, from Ballantine Books
Available in the UK on 24 June 2010, from Orion

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