The Passage by Justin Cronin
Random House Publishing Group, June 2010
Hardcover, 766 pages
Very Highly Recommended
From the Publisher:
“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”
First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.
As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.
With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.
Wow! The Passage will definitely be one of my top books of the year. After reading several reviews, I knew it was a novel I would enjoy, and enjoy it I did, savoring all 766 pages of it. It is a hefty, epic, dystopian novel. While you may feel some large books (chunksters for all of you challenge people) have a padded story that could be edited down, The Passage is not one of those novels. Cronin is an excellent writer. His characters and plot are both well developed. I found the pacing to be perfect. Any editing it down would have ruined the story.
The Passage is the first novel in what will be a trilogy. The novel itself is broken into two parts. The first part, about the first third of the novel, deals what started the apocalyptic event. A secret army medical experiment creates the virals (and the Girl from Nowhere). The experimental subjects escape, unleashing the horrific viral outbreak which turns those people who are not killed (the majority) into what some are calling vampires. These are not your sparkly, sensitive movie vampires. These vampires are virals, more like huge, hairless, glow-in-the-dark insect-like mutants with an aversion to light. They are fast, agile killing machines.
The second part of the novel jumps ahead almost a hundred years in the future to a small colony of Survivors in what was California. As read in an interview on the Barnes & Noble site, Cronin said, "I wanted to take ordinary people and place them in circumstances of such dire emergency that they couldn't help but reveal their truest selves in the choices they make. I've heard it said that character is 'what you are in the dark'. Strip away the distractions of daily life, and what have you got? I wanted to put my characters to this kind of test." He succeeded. We see how the bonds between them shape these characters - their love for each other, the sacrifices they will make, and the courage of their actions.
My one small complaint is that when The Passage jumped to the second part it lost some of the momentum created in the first part. It was almost like starting a new book. Stick with it though, and you'll meet a whole new set of characters while the suspense slowly builds again. The Passage is one of those books that I read relatively slowly, savoring every passage, carefully following each character, wanting it to stretch it out even longer. I'm thrilled that there will be two sequels to look forward to reading. Very Highly Recommended
Before she became the Girl from Nowhere - the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years - she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. opening
During the night, she'd lock Amy in the room with the TV on to make some noise and walk out to the highway in front of the motel and just kind of stand there, and it didn't take long. Somebody would stop, always a man and once they'd work things out, she'd take him back to the motel. pg. 11
...she let herself hold Amy a moment longer, trying to put this feeling in a place inside her mind, someplace safe where she could keep it. Then she let her daughter go, and before anybody said another word, Jeanette walked from the kitchen and down the driveway to the street, and kept right on going. pg. 17
I'm writing this to you in case I don't make it back. I don't want to alarm you, but I have to be realistic about the situation. We're less than five kilometers from the grave site, but I doubt we'll be able to perform the extraction as planned. Too many of us are sick or dead.
Two nights ago we were attacked - not by drug traffickers, but bats. pg. 23
Sykes explained what he wanted Wolgast to do. It was all quite straight forward, he said, and by now Wolgast knew the basics. The Army needed between ten and twenty death-row inmates to serve in the third-stage trials of an experimental drug therapy, codenamed Project Noah. In exchange for their consent, these men would have their sentences commuted to life without parole. It would be Wolgast’s job to obtain the signatures of these men, nothing more. Everything had been legally vetted, but because the project was a matter of national security, all of these men would be declared legally dead. Thereafter, they would spend the rest of their lives in the care of the federal penal system, a white-collar prison camp, under assumed identities. pg. 40
Wolgast felt lost. “I don’t get it.”
Sykes sipped his coffee. “Well, neither did anyone at the CDC. But something had happened, some interaction between their immune systems and something, most likely viral, that they’d been exposed to in the jungle. Something they ate? The water they drank? No one could figure it out. They couldn’t even say exactly where they’d been.” pg. 41
Sykes gave a shrug. “I’ve probably said too much. But I think this will help you put things in perspective. We’re not talking about curing one disease, agent. We’re talking about curing everything. How long would a human being live if there were no cancer, no heart disease, no diabetes, no Alzheimer’s? And we’ve reached the point where we need, absolutely require, human test subjects. Not a nice term, but there really is no other. And that’s where you come in. I need you to get me these men.” pg. 42
Richards didn't need a PhD in microbiology to know that it was risky stuff: vampire stuff, though no one at Special Weapons ever used the word. If it hadn't been written by a scientist of Lear's stature, a Harvard microbiologist no less, it all would have sounded like something from the Weekly World News. But still, something about it hit a nerve.... The teeth, the blood hunger, the immortal union with darkness - what if these things weren't fantasy but recollection or even instinct or even instinct, a feeling etched over eons into human DNA, of some dark power hat lay within the human animal? A power that could be reactivated, refined, brought under control? pg. 86