Monday, May 24, 2010

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Regular readers of this blog know that it is hard for me to resist a good apocalyptic tale. I have been saving THE PASSAGE for months because I felt it was sure to fall into this category.

THE PASSAGE begins in the present day with a military facility in Colorado. The military is testing a virus on death row criminals in order to make them the ultimate super-soldier. The testing has mixed results and the scientists decide to try something new by testing the virus on a 6-year-old girl named Amy. Predictably, all hell breaks loose.  The "virals" escape and cause the destruction of the United States and, quite possibly, the world. Part two fast-forwards 100 years to a small Colony in California where survivors are continuing to make a stand against the virals and eke out some type of existence.  The virals are sensitive to light and the compound is protected by a bank of brilliant lights that are turned on every evening. None of these surviving individuals have ever seen stars.  Everything changes for these survivors when Amy arrives at the Colony at the same time that they are facing the imminent demise of the ancient batteries powering the lights.  The survivors must figure out if Amy holds the key to survival.

This book will draw inevitable comparisons to Stephen King's THE STAND. To me, it was a cross between THE STAND and the recent book THE STRAIN.  It is a vampire tale wrapped into an "end of days" tale. There are also spiritual elements woven in as well as the initial military project is entitled "Project Noah." It is as if the virals offer the opportunity to cleanse the world and start over again.  While the premise was interesting, I was surprised at how slowly the story moved. I was often bored and felt like I had to slog through certain sections. The characters are interesting and often very moving but that was sometimes lost in silly action sequences and altercations with the virals. There are many many interesting ideas in this book but it almost felt like a set-up for the other books in the trilogy. This is not a "stand alone" book. It even ends with a blatant cliffhanger.  To me, it would make a better televison series than a book series. The story is fairly good but so very very slow to develop.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for certain individuals. If you are a big Stephen King fan, you will probably like this book. It combines the elements of a classic vampire tale with a post-apocalpytic tale. I found it a disappointment, however. I was expecting more and the whole thing fell flat for me. That being said, I will probably read the next installment to see what happens.  For a much better tale in the post-apocalyptic genre, however, look to THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy.

Here is a clever book tie-in:

1 comment:

Bookfool said...

I've never read The Stand - hard to believe, I know. Someday I'll get to it. That tie-in video was enough to convince me I probably couldn't handle a TV series, although I think it would work. I'm just too squeamish. I'm also a little nervous about reading The Road!

Loved the action scenes, myself. Funny how a book can drag and yet you still want to know what happens next! We've apparently got quite a wait till the next installment.