The Passage Paperback – 12 May 2011
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If you only take one book away with you this summer, make it THE PASSAGE. It's an absorbing, nightmarish dream of a book, a terrifying apocalyptic thriller, populated by believable, sympathetic characters. Once you start reading it, you won't want it to end. (THE TIMES)
The stuff of reading frenzies (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Cronin's massive novel transcends its clichés and delivers a feverishly readable post-apocalyptic-cum-vampire chiller. It's not only a brilliantly told story, with thrilling plot twists and graphic action sequences, but a moving psychological portrait of survivors facing up to the poignant fact of a lost past and a horrifically uncertain future. (GUARDIAN)
A truly epic masterpiece that will have you hanging on for dear life (Maxim Jakubowski LOVEREADING.CO.UK)
For most of this enthralling novel, it's not difficult to discern why the publisher is so excited. Cronin writes with verve and versatility, and is just as good in action scenes as he is in handling more literary material. His reinvention of vampires niftily ditches Transylvanian clichés and his future world is richly imagined. Above all, Amy is a superb creation, believably human yet beguilingly enigmatic. (SUNDAY TIMES)
This epic tale is truly exhilarating stuff but what makes THE PASSAGE work so well is not its massive canvas, but the concentration on its human characters, notably six-year-old redhead Amy Harper Bellafonte. (DAILY EXPRESS)
Epic, apocalyptic, heart-wrenching, catastrophic, mesmerisizing... (DAILY MIRROR)
Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Read 15 pages, and you will find yourself captivated; read 30 and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It had the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: read this book and the ordinary world disappears. (Stephen King)
Cronin is a skilled writer. Most of the characters are well drawn and he tackles the philosophical issue of gaining eternal life at the cost of your soul in between the throat-ripping battle scenes. I turned THE PASSAGE's pages feverishly to find out what happened next. (OBSERVER)
A modern classic in the making. (SFX)
As far as blockbuster novels go, this is up there with the most compelling. (THE JOURNAL)
A gripping story and a richly drawn cast. This is an epic that often bears comparison with Stephen King. (DAILY MAIL)
Read 30 pages and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. (SUNDAY EXPRESS)
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
I love this book, it has taken me ages to read mainly because I have been reading only a few chapters a week, in between reading other books but the last few days I have been reading it like the end of the world is coming.
I am going to do a crap job probably of telling you what goes on in this book and there is so much (remember those 960 pages) to go over but the general gist of the book is that an experiment on high security prisoners has gone badly wrong, there are twelve prisoners and to make the baker's dozen there is also a little girl who has ended up in the same place as them and her name is Amy.
Something very bad happens, the twelve manage to get out but with their bodies ravaged by whatever the doctors have been given them, they are nothing like the used to be, they are killing machines.
They are hungry, they are fast and they are deadly and they are very quickly working their way through the American population, nothing is getting in their way.
They are creating more and more of their kind as they go, people run from them but they have no where to hide.
Amy escapes too, a concerned FBI agent called Wolgast takes her and makes sure she is safe, their world is changing and nothing is going to be the same again.
Ninety odd years later, America is virtually empty.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not a lot more to say than the title of this review. Although it is a great story and grips you enough to keep going, the lack of editing out the waffle is very noticeable. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Mr Andrew D Bowden
I write this having read the first two books in the trilogy, reading them again to familiarise myself with the cast of characters before I read the final book. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Andy H
I've spent the best part of week reading this book.l can't tell you how boring this book is..the last part of the book was repeated page after page. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Veronica
Have read this before I bought a copy. Brilliant story that keeps you hooked until the end. Could not put it downPublished 25 days ago by A. Hardstaff
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