By Justin Cronin
Published by Hachette
The Passage is a novel that I’ve tried to read many times before. It’s intimidating length of 950 pages and not the actual story was always what deterred me from finishing it previously. And now that I’ve finished it (after what felt like a really long week of reading), I’m glad I revisited the series and picked up the book again.
Published in 2010, Justin came up with the premise of the story after he asked his daughter Iris what he should write about. ‘A girl who saves the world,’ was her answer, and thus The Passage was born. The Passage is the first novel in a trilogy, preceding The Twelve and the recently released City of Mirrors. It’s about a viral outbreak of vampires in California that soon spreads all over the world. What starts as twelve vampires, soon turns into an apocalypse.
We meet the main character, Amy, when she is abandoned by her mother at the age of six. She is then pursued and imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind the government experiment ‘Project Noah’. But she is no vampire. She can hear the others’ thoughts, and the thoughts of their victims, and she doesn’t age. She stays the same age for years after the outbreak and becomes a vital character in the series. She is the key to saving the world from this viral apocalypse.
The novel is broken up into eleven parts and starts right at the beginning of the story, detailing Project Noah and how the experiment went nightmarishly wrong. We are then thrust almost 100 years into the future where a group of teenagers are trying to survive in post-apocalyptic America, avoiding Virals and trying to stay alive. And then the teenagers cross paths with Amy, who is still the same age she was at the beginning of the book. The teenagers soon realise that Amy holds the key to everything.
This book is just as fantastic as it is long. Justin has a talent for weaving sentences together that paint a strong visual. He has written so many main characters into his tale, and yet every one of them is important. Their stories all intersect at the right moments and there isn’t one thread that could be removed from the equation. I imagine this is why the book never made it to a film, but would be fantastic for our television screens.
The Passage explores survival, devastation, mourning, regret, and friendship. This isn’t a typical vampire novel, and in fact the word ‘vampire’ is only mentioned half a dozen times in a joking manner. Justin has taken vampires and adhered them to the ‘apocalyptic’ narrative to make this book something new – something original. The characterisation in this book is brilliant. Justin gives us so much about their backstory and their thoughts, doubts and dreams, that the reader feels like they know all of these characters better than the characters know themselves. The author has left us wanting more, and even though it feels like we know everything about them, I can tell that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Justin Cronin is an extremely talented writer. His writing is fluid and realistic. Some might say this book is too long for what it is, but to reduce the word count would reduce the quality of the characters and the story. Their interactions and their struggles throughout this story are what make up the book, just as much as the plot does. This is the perfect example of both a plot-driven AND character-driven novel.
The Passage is an epic tale of catastrophe and survival, and introduces an amazing cast for the trilogy. There are many questions left unanswered at the end of the novel, prompting readers to hurriedly read book two. This book, if you can survive it’s length, really is worth the time.