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4.0 out of 5 stars
The Passage
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2012
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. After they left the safety of The Colony walls, though, the action picked up again and I found myself engrossed, desperate for them to find the answers they were seeking.

I didn't love The Passage overall but it did hold my interest and I imagine I will probably read the sequel at some point, if not any time soon. The plot is very good but for me it fell short when it came to the characters, with none being particularly distinctive. I loved that Cronin has taken pains to create a solid backstory for this post-apocalyptic landscape as I feel it's something lacking in many similar works. Nevertheless, I would have liked more information on why exactly the US government were conducting this ghoulish experiment in the first place - there were a few sketchy letters between scientists featured in the early chapters but I didn't feel their meaning was clear. The closest comparison that kept springing to mind as I was reading this is to I Am Legend (and it more closely resembles the Will Smith movie adaptation than the original novel) so definitely one to check out if you like your landscapes bleak and your vampires vicious (not handsome and sparkly).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2013
'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? Would a small, even tiny, insular community retain enough knowledge through three generations to produce a mechanical and electrical guru? These are perhaps trivial questions, but these and others combine to threaten the fabric of suspended belief, in my opinion.

Overall, from an escapism and entertainment point of view, I would recommend giving it a go - but for me the break to a 100-year distant future never quite comes off. 7/10 for me.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2010
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. There are some gruesome moments and strong language as you would expect from this genre.
I am sure that this would make a spectacular film, especially as vampires are so in vogue at the moment. If you haven't time to read such a huge book I would really recommend the audio book version. Narrated by Scott Brick it is 36 hours long and would fill plenty of long train journeys.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2011
Cronin sometimes writes quite well, at others he stumbles around without much concern for effective prose. The book's chief flaw is Cronin's inability to focus. The first third or so is a mess, made up of digression after digression, back story after back story, telling us things we really don't need to know. His narrative gets badly lost in all this. The last two thirds are better insofar as he tells a straighter story, but even here there is far too much. It is not a well-honed story, and good stories, even if they are the length of War and Peace, need to be well honed, controlled, enlightening. Cronin is not Tolstoy, and he should have told this story in around 300-400 pages. It could have been a decent post-disaster story, but we never really learn much about what has happened, what the virals are, or what lies behind any of the cod science that demands some sort of explanation. I put in a lot of effort to read this, and I came away feeling cheated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2011
The first 246 pages were brilliant, thrilling and heartbreaking. There was some wonderful story telling but unfortunately the rest of it was utter drivel.

After the first 246 pages the book jumps forward about 100 years to some colony in the desert where, seemingly, the grandchildren of the last survivors are hanging onto life in their village/fortress type thing. This is the bit I didn't like so much; after all that time invested in the characters from the first part of the book the reader is suddenly introduced to a whole host of new ones which stilled the book while I read lots of new back-stories before the action could pick up again.

A lot of comparisons have been made with Stephen King's The Stand and since I read this earlier this year its still quite fresh in my mind. Yes, the first part certainly has strong comparisons but I'm going to leave it there as any comparisons with The Stand are not going to make The Passage look any better. Although comparisons with The Stand did fade as the book progressed, other comparisons such as I Am Legend, The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Village only popped up in its place. Lets face it; the idea of an army of monsters, created by scientists tinkering with biological agents, escaping and destroying the world isn't exactly original any more. Saying this there were few places in the book where it didn't remind me of something else I had either read or watched.

The story is a great idea (even if its not original) and parts of this book were done brilliantly but unfortunately the second part of the book was slow going and contained characters I just didn't care about. Whenever one of the main characters were killed or went missing I just didn't care.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2012
I usually think I'm missing something when I read a book and really enjoy it, and then see that it got rubbish reviews. This time I'm quite sure that I'm right and those who don't like this book are wrong!
As almost every one on either side of The Passage debate has pointed out, the sudden change of plot a third of the way through the book does indeed jar, and it feels like someone's put two different books inside the same cover, but to say that the second part of the story is boring, or lacks any engaging characters, well, that's just plain silly. I was dismayed at the sudden end of the first part of the book. I had become really involved in the characters and the situation. The end was abrupt. Well, maybe it was meant to be, maybe the world is supposed to end unexpectedly. I found myself thinking in exclamation marks and question marks.
UH? !!!
And then you start again, new characters, new (and alien) situation, new world. So, it made sense to me that the second part of the book was different to the first, because it IS a different story. A less creative writer might have gone for the easy option of the expected course of plot development, but I think Mr Cronin tried something a little more daring and different, and I think to a large degree, if not totally, he succeeded.
I will be buying The Twelve when it comes out, and I don't care if I AM a bit thick, I will enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 March 2014
When the book opens, the US government is exploring new ways to create the ultimate fighting weapon. The discovery of a mysterious virus found in the deepest parts of a remote jungle, which seems to render its carriers impervious to disease and to give them extreme strength, seems like it may offer a solution. But experiments on test subjects straight from death row soon take a disastrous turn.

Skip forward a hundred years and the catastrophic consequences of these experiments become abundantly clear. Darkness brings death in the form of virals – infected humans that roam the country, moving like lightening and killing or turning every living thing in their path. A small pocket of survivors live in the First Colony. Their entire survival relies on their ability to guard their high walls against the virals, and on the bright lights that protect against the night. The people living in the colony are several generations down from the original survivors, and the old world and the promise of a rescuing army have been changed into the stuff of myth and legend.

The realisation that the lights will not last forever and the arrival of Amy, the Girl from Nowhere, sets a series of events in motion that will test the colony to its limits. Amy holds the key to secrets that could explain the state of the world - and if they can find the source of the evil, maybe they can change it.

The level of detail, research and planning and writing this novel is immense. The science side of things is terrifying and entirely believable. The rapid spread of the virus and the failed attempts to control unfold seem entirely convincing. The addition of emails and newspaper cuttings help to reinforce this. Even though it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s completely conceivable could still be our world. It had me believing that something as catastrophic as this really could happen one day.

It’s also an interesting look at how groups function when there are no laws, no state and no government. They have no idea what is outside the walls, and the lure of the unknown divides the colony – some of them are terrified to risk what they have while others are convinced there must be something, or someone, else out there.

They have created their own law and order to help them survive as best they can with their limited resources. But this law is set down by a group of people who have inherited their positions and remain in power even though they might be weak, biased or resistant to change. Being a leader is a constant theme through the novel, whether that’s through the microcosm of the colony, the overall disaster caused by government experiments or through the decisions that individual characters throughout the novel that could have life or death consequences for the people around them.

‘The Passage’ shows how easy it is to forget that the people in power have their own faults, and that the decisions they make might not always be in our best interest. This is very true of our world today.

At over 1,000 pages, this is a real epic of a book, but I loved every page. It’s full of action, and I really liked the author still took the time to really develop the characters and establish their stories. Yes there are a lot of different characters and it is quite wordy, but for me, this just made it seem all the more real. I would much rather know more than less – although I appreciate that some people have said it could have been written in considerably less pages. I didn’t want it to end, so in my opinion the length was a definite plus point.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2013
I first read The Passage at the end of 2010, and with the release of the second book, The Twelve, in October I had an urge to go back and re-read it. And re-reading it was no small undertaking - at nearly 800 pages, this is not a quick whip through kind of read. In hindsight, I remembered far more than I thought, but I'm still very glad I did revisit it again.

The Passage is a mixture of post-apocalyptic and paranormal horror. There's a massive cast of characters, ranging from good to evil, outgoing to wallflower, and the span of the plot covers more than 100 years.

Starting with the story of Amy, the main protagonist of the story, whose very birth and upbringing is just another sad tale of life dealing a difficult hand, from the very beginning The Passage had me intrigued. Relating to Amy is easy for the first part of the book - a small child caught up in a conspiracy that threatens to swallow her up, she balances childlike innocence with a maturity only found in children with a tough start in life.

My other favourite character was Waldgren, whose own difficult past, caring attitude, strong sense of right and wrong and calm, cool demeanor made him incredible likable while keeping that 'real-guy' feeling.

The middle part of the book was the only disappointment for me. From a tension-filled and intriguing beginning, it seemed to stall a little as the story moved into the second-phase - and introducing a very large cast of main and supporting characters in a short period of time made it difficult to feel 'settled-in'. Luckily the pace and tension increases in the last third of the book as things spiral out of control, and more of the world is revealed.

Justin Cronin can definitely write a scary book. It's not overwhelming in its blood and gore, but tension is high, the writing is lyrically hypnotic and the characters begin to emerge as individuals the more the book progresses. There are some gaps in the world building, but it's not a sense of the author skipping over things that comes through, it's more a feeling that there is a lot to reveal, and Mr. Cronin is going to do it bit by tantalising bit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If you enjoy dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction don't hesitate in buying this book, you're bound to enjoy it! I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. I'm not a fan of vampire fiction, and I was initially put off from buying this book because of its vampire-like "Virals". However, I need not have worried, this is a neither a classic vampire tale, nor teenagers' 'Twlight' or hyper-sexualised "True Blood" vampire tale. It's an original, creative and well thought out tale of a human created disaster that changes the world into a difficult place to live.

The book begins in the near future (2017) and finishes about 100 years in the future. There are many literary layers to the book and I think it can be enjoyed on face-value as a great story as well as the more literary fan who wants to think more deeply about the issues and themes within the story.

The book does introduce many characters and reading was a little slow for me at the beginning, but I do tend to struggle to remember lots of character names. This is the first book (and a long one at that) of a trilogy, so there does need to be some element of scene setting. It does feel like a book of two parts as well, the "time before" and the "time after" with two largely different set of characters, although there are obvious links between the two.

The Kindle version of the book is well set up and chapters are marked (i.e. so you can go backwards and forwards using the left and right cursor button on a Kindle Keyboard) and key sections are marked in the index bar along the bottom. The only thing I would have liked was the reader questions at the back of the book (perfect for book clubs) were linked to the pages relating to the questions - the page numbers are given, so can be located easily, but hyperlinks would have finished it off.

I loved it and can't wait to read The Twelve: The Passage Trilogy Book 2 (Passage 2) coming out in October. I found it a compulsive read and had a real tension between wanting to read it quickly to find out what happens next and wanting to read it slowly to stretch out the enjoyment for longer! Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2012
I'm glad I decided to listen to The Passage on Audio Book. Edward Herman is the narrator and his voice is superbly deep and rich. I've bought audio books where male story tellers attempt to do female parts and just sound 'camp'. Herman alters his tone just enough to make each character different without any detriment to the story itself.
It's a long tale but I was interested from the first chapter.
It's in two time periods. Modern day and then a century in the future (which is about 3/4 of the book).
You probably already know it's about Vampires (sort of)but not in the traditional sense. Think 'I am Legend' or the video games 'Fallout' and that's the sort of tale it is. It's a sci fi horror in that 'end of the world' era.
With the current trend of 'True Blood', or even worse, 'Twilight', Vampires have become civilised and socially acceptable. Thank goodness Cronin's vamps are monsters in the true sense.Scarey and seemingly indestructable or at least very difficult to kill.
It's exciting. I was driving the long way home to hear a bit more. You never feel that the human's are not the underdogs. These 'Viral's', particular the original 12 vampires (and the wicked 'Babcock') are scarey dudes. The fighting, chasing, hunting, hiding etc.are well described.You are listening to it and you always feel that an attack will occur at lightning speed and some poor person is gonna die.
The characters are interesting. Some of the relationships are touching. You'll have favourites, some who'll die, others who won't and make it into 'The Twelve' the next installment out in August 2012.
If you pick up this book and think 'that's huge' then treat yourself to the audio book. Neither will disappoint.
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