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The Passage (The Passage Trilogy Book 1)
 
 

The Passage (The Passage Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Justin Cronin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (568 customer reviews)

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Review

The stuff of reading frenzies (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

A modern classic in the making. (SFX)

As far as blockbuster novels go, this is up there with the most compelling. (THE JOURNAL)

A truly epic masterpiece that will have you hanging on for dear life (Maxim Jakubowski LOVEREADING.CO.UK)

Review

Justin Cronin: How I Wrote The Passage

You write the book that asks to be written, and The Passage asked me to write it on a series of long jogs in the fall of 2005, taken in the company of my daughter, Iris, age eight, who rode beside me on her bicycle.

For many years, running has been part of my writing ritual. I do my best creative thinking while running, which I have come to understand as a form of self-hypnosis. It's where I get my ideas, but not just my ideas; on the best days, whole paragraphs seem to drop into my head. I like to say that I write while running; at the computer, I'm just typing.

That fall, four years ago, my daughter asked if she could come along. We had done this from time to time, back when she was first leaning to ride a two-wheeler, and I'd always enjoyed it, even if her presence was a bit of a distraction from the mental work I was actually doing. But it was September, blazingly hot, and the novel I was working on was in a bit of a stall. Sure, I said. Get your stuff.

To understand this story, a person would need to know something about my daughter. Iris is simply the most voracious literary consumer I have ever encountered. She reads two or three books a day and has since she was little. She reads while eating, bathing, and walking the dog. She reads while watching television (I'm not sure how), in the backseat of the car, and standing in line at the movies; I have actually seen her reading on a roller coaster. There is always a book somewhere on or near her person, and she goes to sleep every night listening to audiobooks—in other words, she reads while sleeping, too. Once, just to satisfy my curiosity, I surreptitiously timed the rate at which she moved through the pages and discovered she was reading at twice the rate I do. I am probably the only parent in the history of the world who has uttered this sentence: "Your mother and I have decided that, as your punishment, you will not be allowed to read a book for the rest of the week."

In sum, Iris is the reader every writer longs for--when she loves a book, she loves it unreservedly--but she is also the critic we all fear, capable of skewering a novel she doesn’t like with the most withering sarcasm. Her verbal parodies of Jane Austen, for instance, a writer I am certain she will someday like but for now considers pompously dull, are scarily dead-on.

That day as we set out, our conversation naturally turned to books and writing, and Iris made a confession: your books, daddy, are boring. She said this offhandedly, as if she were telling me something I probably already knew, which I took to mean that my novels were too grown up for her, and dealt with subjects in which she had no interest. I might have been offended but I was mostly surprised; I didn't know she’d read them. (I was quickly calculating what inappropriate material she would have encountered in their pages.) But when I asked her about this, she said she hadn't read them, not exactly; she knew my books were boring, she explained, from their covers, and the summaries on the flaps. Well, that's literary novels, I explained, relieved. Sometimes it's hard to say exactly what they’re about, in so many words. To which my daughter rolled her eyes. That's what I mean, said Iris. Boring.

"Well what do you want me to write about?" I asked.

She took a moment to think. We were running and riding, side by side, moving down the flat, wide sidewalk of our neighborhood in the autumn heat.

"A girl who saves the world," she said.

I had to laugh. Of course that's what she'd want me to write about. Not just a town, say, or a small city, but the entire world!

"That’s a tall order," I said. "Anything else?"

She thought another moment. "It should have one character with red hair," said my daughter, the redhead. "And…vampires."

This was before every teenage girl in America had gone crazy for vampires. I knew absolutely nothing about them, beyond the common lore.

"The redhead I get. Why vampires?"

She responded with a shrug. "They’re interesting. A book needs something interesting in it."

It was a classic dare, and I knew it. Writer Rule #1 is Never Let Anyone Else Tell You What to Write. But I also knew we had five hot miles ahead of us.

"OK," I said. "Let's do it together. We’ll work it out together as we go."

"Like a game, you mean," Iris said.

"Sure. We can toss ideas around, see if we can work it into a story. Who knows? Maybe it will be good and I can write it."

She agreed, and across that fall to pass the time of our afternoon run-rides, we began to formulate the plot of a novel, one hour each day. An orphan girl (her), and an FBI agent who befriends and fathers her (me). A medical experiment in lengthening human lifespan, and a global catastrophe. A hundred years of lost time, and a mountain outpost in California where the last of the human race awaits the end, until a day when a girl—that same girl—appears out the wilderness, to save the human race. Each afternoon after she came home from school we would pick up where we'd left off, and gradually the story and its details came into shape. In the evenings, we'd tell my wife about what we'd come up with, and so she became part of the process too, blessing or dismissing our ideas, offering some of her own to fill the spaces. I kept saying, Isn't this a gas? I can't believe how good our daughter is at this. I had no sense that this was any type of story in particular, literary or commercial, for any particular audience beyond ourselves, and I didn’t care; we were just having fun, telling a story around the campfire. Despite what I had said, I had no intention of actually writing the thing, writing and talking being in the end two entirely different matters, one much more work than the other.

And then a funny thing happened. As the weeks went by, I began to think this story actually could be a book, and that it was actually a better book, a much better book, than the one I was actually supposed to be writing. And not just one book: saving the world seemed like the kind of undertaking that would take three books to accomplish. The story that became The Passage had begun to fill my head, to breathe and walk and talk--to be populated, as someone once said, by "warm new beings" I actually believed in. Amy and Wolgast. Peter and Alicia (the redhead Iris had requested). Lacey and Richards and Grey and Sara and Michael-the-Circuit--a character who is a kind of boy-Iris, actually, and very much her creation. I had been a literary novelist all my professional life, with a literary novelist's habits and interests; but I had cut my reader's teeth on plenty of genre fiction--adventure novels, science fiction, westerns, espionage. Enough to know that in the end it's how you write the thing that matters, and if you love it. Be interesting, Iris had told me. There's no harm in it, and your reader will thank you. It seemed like good advice. For three months, Iris and I traded ideas back and forth like a ball we were moving downfield; by December, when the cold weather came and her bicycle went into the garage, we had the plot worked out, right down to the final scene. I felt sad, as if something wonderful was ending, and I decided not to let it end; I sat at my computer and began to write an outline, so I wouldn't forget it.

And when that was done, I decided I would write the first chapter. Just to see how it felt.

And so on.

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More About the Author

Born and raised in New England, Justin Cronin is a multi-award-winning writer. He is Professor of English at Rice University, and lives with his family in Houston, Texas.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vampires done well 9 Nov 2012
By Marie
Format:Paperback
The Passage is a bit of an epic that is basically divided into three parts. The novel opens in the present day, where we see the US authorities conducting a dubious secret experiment which involves twelve Death Row prisoners and an abandoned 6-year-old girl named Amy being inoculated with a mysterious new virus. An accident results in the spread of the virus around the United States, resulting in national disaster as its victims exhibit vampire-like (vampirish? a real word?) qualities. Skip 100 years or so down the line and we meet Peter, one of the few humans untouched by this epidemic thanks to the bright lights that illuminate his Colony and keep the 'virals' away. But for reasons I will keep under wraps, he and his friends are finally forced to leave the safety of The Colony and go seeking a new life and a solution to save the human race.

The first third of this book is absolutely excellent. I was totally gripped. There is something really cinematic about Cronin's descriptions of devastation and chaos, and the scenes played out in my head as if I was watching them on the big screen straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. What's more, we meet a host of engaging and human characters who I was sorry to leave behind as the story moved on in time.

Unfortunately my interest dipped in the middle third of the novel, as the focus moved to Peter and the other inhabitants of The Colony. I didn't really find him to be a particularly inspiring hero, nor did I like any of his friends or neighbours. Much of this section seemed superfluous to the plot and I think I would have enjoyed the book just as much had large sections been cut.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An enigma 26 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
'The Passage' is hardly high-brow, and the novel is clearly aimed at the American mass-market (the author even makes reference to America "babysitting" the rest of the world). Were it not for the occasionally swear word, 'The Passage' would comfortably sit in the teen-fiction section along with 'The Hunger Games', and it sometimes appears that Cronin is not entirely sure which age-group he is trying to appeal to. The writing style makes for easy reading, with simple, even concise sentence structure. The reader is "told" as opposed to "shown" what characters are thinking, so there is never any doubt or ambiguity. Fans of Le Carre may feel that they are being spoon-fed.

This all said, the storyline itself is compelling. Sure, none of it is new, and in essence 'The Passage' is '28 Weeks Later' or 'I Am Legend' meets 'The Stand' (the latter of which is suggested as further reading at the end of the novel). But that's not to say that it is not done well. The story moves along at a good pace, with each chapter leaving the reader wanting to read more. The scope of the novel is vast, and with 'The Passage' being able to realistically comprise several smaller novels, for value for money it is hard to beat. The characters live and breathe, and the reader finds themselves understanding character traits and decisions, as well as feeling a high degree of empathy for them.

The enigma for me lies in the way the novel was so compelling, despite an underlying feeling that there was something missing, and that the expectation of the reader to suspend their belief was sometimes pushed to the point where it became unachievable: Would someone who had never had any interaction with the military other than hearsay automatically defer to them and call someone "Sir" whilst stood to attention?
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An epic novel to get lost in 23 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover
The Passage is a huge book which demands the reader's full attention. If you are not concentrating early on in the story you will be completely lost later. Cronin's narrative is sprawling and wordy but I found myself completely engrossed in the story. The book has been marketed as a vampire novel but there is nothing supernatural about the monsters here, they are created by humans. The story begins with a scientist trying to find a cure for just about everything, he thinks he is on the brink of success. The military see his discovery as a way of creating an invincible army and takes over his project. The only thing is they need real human beings to test their findings on. This is a story about human nature from the best to the worst. It has strong echoes of "I am Legend" and "The Road".
The tale is clearly split into two parts and I much preferred to first part which is set in the near-future. The character of six year old Amy is intriguing and I still don't fully understand all of the early events in the book. I am unclear about how such a young child had such a strong sense of her destiny. I think I may need to re-read it. The relationships between Amy, the FBI agent sent to find her and a sweet nun are very moving. They are all people damaged by loss or violence.
One thing I didn't like was that, just as I was really absorbed in the first part of the story, the tale moves forward by ninety years and it is almost as if another author has penned this part. The latter part of the book is story about human survival against all the odds and about bravery,loyalty and friendship. I think that this part could have been pared down somewhat as it is overly long and there are a lot of characters to keep track of.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GREAT book. Couldn't put it down
Published 13 days ago by kittyface
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is a great read full of mystery and intrigue
This book is a great read full of mystery and intrigue! It was an adventure getting to understand characters and a real thrill ride when it came to the plot. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Kitty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant. Read and re-read.
Published 15 days ago by Mrs J
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets better with each read.
I love this book! My third read through and Im still picking parts up that I missed the first couple of times. Off to read part 2 for the second time. Read more
Published 25 days ago by peaster
4.0 out of 5 stars Great world building
Having read lots of post-apocalyptic stories this is one of the best at putting in place a believable series of events that set up an interesting tale. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Matt
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
a good read
Published 1 month ago by Lefkothea Lock
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Original and incredibly gripping.
Published 1 month ago by G Clegg
4.0 out of 5 stars original and rather gripping with some genuinely good writing. A...
Well written, original and rather gripping with some genuinely good writing. A post-apocalyptic vampire novel with a twist.
Published 1 month ago by D. Goldstone
1.0 out of 5 stars So boring
this was the first book i bought on kindle so i didnt realize how long it was!! long and boring. i love vampire/zombie movies and books so that why i continued reading. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Siobhan mooney
5.0 out of 5 stars The Passage
I really enjoyed this book. Post apocalyptic .. .. ..
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Published 1 month ago by Bonnie5649
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