I know I said I would post this the other day, but I got distracted and then busy. Sorry! Moving on.
Since I was eleven, I have written down the titles and authors of the books I read — I keep a list in a little leather-bound journal, chronicling both the changes in my penmanship over the years and the growth I’ve experienced as a reader. However, despite being relatively well-read, I don’t tend to think critically about books; honestly, I just like to read for pure enjoyment.
Partly inspired by a friend who regularly writes book reviews to further educate herself on what makes a good book, and partly because I want to expand on my book list, I’m going to try to review the books I read this year. I did at least one book review a little while back, but quickly grew lazy and failed to continue; however, it’s now on my list of challenges: review all the books I read this year.
Now, on to the review.
The Passage, by Justin Cronin
Book Jacket Summary:
“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.
Yes, this is a book about vampires. But before the Twilight haters bemoan the wealth of immature vampire novels which have sprung up in recent years, you should understand: this book is not happy. But it is very good.
The Passage creates a dystopian universe in which a virus has been developed by an overzealous government and a humanitarian doctor / scientist — the first wishing to create the ultimate soldier, the second hoping to cure disease and increase lifespan by — oh, by about 900 years. This virus creates a being which is not quite human — and though it is not “Dracula,” it certainly resembles something out of vampire mythology. As could be expected in every good end-of-the-world novel, the twelve infected with the virus escape. Within a few short years, the world is overrun. The government collapses, California secedes, and the US is quarantined in hopes to contain the virus (though we do not even know if the quarantine was effective).
Fast forward about a hundred years: The Colony is made of a small group of survivors who have found security behind walls, nets, and flood lights. And the Colony is in trouble: the lights are about to fail, and without the lights, “smokes” (vampires) will quickly overrun the settlement and kill everyone inside. Thus begins the journey of Amy, Peter, Lish, and the small band of hopefuls who leave the Colony in hopes to find something — anything — which might save them. They haven’t been more than a few miles from the Colony since Peter’s father was alive, however, and they are entirely unprepared for what they find.
This book is, without a doubt, one of the best novels I’ve read in the last year. It is smart, witty, well-researched, and well-written. Despite the humongous cast of characters (off the top of my head, well over 20), I was really invested in a large number of the characters. My favorite is Lish, though I’m a huge fan of Peter, Auntie, and Wolgast as well. Even the characters which only appear for a short period are well-developed, with a past which clearly extends beyond the plot line we are following. Even the antagonists are vaguely likable — or, if not likable, at least entirely believable in their personal motivations and goals.
The plot develops well enough — sometimes a little quickly, but always well-thought-out. Considering the time line of the book stretches more than a hundred years, that’s almost impressive as the facile management of the large number of characters. And more importantly to me, I feel like there was a lot of thought put into the novel: though you have to suspend your belief a little in the beginning so that the premise of the virus can get rolling, the rest of the novel seems well-researched and very original.
My biggest complaint is the length of the novel (just shy of 800 pages). Considering the two separate time frames, it easily could have been split into two books if not three. However, there are two more books planned for this world, probably of equal or greater lengths. Thus, I can see why the first book ended where it did, and I can take a fairly logical guess about where the next book where start. I’m not entirely sure how he’ll maintain the excitement and and intrigue in the next two novels — I won’t give it away, but there is a very…repetitive nature to what has to happen next. I’m sure there will be variables which will affect the development of each situation, but it would still be the same basic plan. As such, I’m interested (and a little anxious) to see how the next book develops.
Too bad I have to wait until 2012.
All in all, I would really recommend this book to anyone who is even vaguely interested in end-of-the-world, action-adventure, and character-involved novels. Though, if there’s a lot of books on your coffee table right now, you might be better off waiting about a year to read it to be closer to the release of book two!
Overall rating: 4/5 stars.