The Passage by Justin Cronin
I apologise for the lack of blog postings lately – I have not only moved house and been without the internet for a while, but have also been making my way through reading The Passage by Justin Cronin which is almost 800 pages long!
There has been an awful lot of hype surrounding this book – a huge marketing campaign led by the comments of Stephen King – clearly a huge admirer of Cronin’s work. I had been waiting sometime for this novel to come out and bought it as soon as it did! Of course the size is hard not to acknowledge – a whopping 800 pages almost. But I tried not to let this put me off. The second thing that was worrying is the fact of it being classed as a ‘vampire’ novel. After the likes of Twilight and all the other ‘dark romance’ novels out there at the moment, the last thing we need is more of it! So what did I think of it?
I absolutely loved it. This is not just another ‘vampire’ novel. It is a piece of literary fiction. Cronin has created a whole other world for us to escape into. Everything is so meticulously planned and detailed that you can’t help but admire Cronin for the sheer time and effort that must have gone into this creation. The novel centres around the character of six year old Amy who is very much out of the ordinary. There are several different characters that the plot switches back and forth between them. The general story is that the military army and government are experimenting with death row prisoners and injecting them with a ‘virus’. This leads them to become ‘virals’ (or in other words ‘vampires’). The novel turns into a whole other apocolyptic world where we are transported 100 years later to a whole other set of characters. Unfortunately, this is where it went downhill for me.
I was told before I read this that it has been said that not one single page of this novel could have been cut out – everything was necessary to the story and nothing could be edited any more. I think this is a definite mistake. We are suddenly bombarded with a whole new set of characters – far too many to keep track of, and into a world that just wasn’t made interesting enough for a good 200 pages. It felt like you were just waiting for something to happen – but waiting far too long! I must admit I almost gave up on it – I could only manage to read 5 pages a night due to my lack of interest. This 800 page novel could easily have become a 600 page novel if you ask me!
However, once the plot picked up its pace again and the story centred on just a few of these new characters I was instantly enthralled again. I started to love these characters and their relationships and the hardships of this new life. Virals have taken over the world and these characters have been living in a compound to protect them. Blaring lights come on at night to keep the virals away – unfortunately, the batteries are starting to lose power. They set out on a mission to see what they can find.
It is amazing to watch the transformation of America. The way the entire country has changed into this desolate abandoned landscape. It felt real to me. I could feel this happening. It felt completely possible.
For anyone who doesn’t know, this is the beginning in a trilogy…so after 800 pages you still won’t get to the end of the story. But the ending is superbly written. I feel extremely excited to read the next one and can’t wait for its publication.
Now the interesting thing to consider when reading this story is – is this really a ‘vampire’ novel? It is certainly different to what most people have read lately in the ‘vampire’ genre. It is refreshing to read something so unique & original and not follow the typical conventions of vampire stories that have just become over-used and boring now. You certainly don’t lust over these vampires like you would Edward Cullen. They are grotesque, disgusting yet sad creatures that are nothing like human. So I will leave it up to you decide whether you would consider this vampire fiction…
My verdict is that despite the 200 page blip in the middle which let the whole thing down – this is definitely worth reading. Just get through those pages and you will be glad you did!