The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage book cover
Rating 9.3/10
The Passage is a story of truly epic proportions.

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An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy - abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl-and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape-but he can't stop society's collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

I'm not sure when I started enjoying horror stories. As a child I had a slight phobia of those things that go bump in the night, but fast forward to present day and it seems I just can't get enough of chilling suspense filled stories about ghastly monstrosities who want to feed on your sweet sweet blood. One of the highly acclaimed horror stories to come out in the last twelve months is The Passage by Justin Cronin and in my opinion is by far one of the best I have ever read. While I have placed The Passage into the Horror genre, it could just as easily belong in Urban Fantasy, Dystopian Fantasy or Thriller/Mystery genre and I think fans from each of these will find something that appeals to them on a number of different levels.

The Passage is a story of truly epic proportions, a story that dares to span the entire globe over the course of one hundred years. A large scope comes with a large risk of creating something too big to handle, but Cronin keeps the core elements controlled and focused while giving his characters just enough information to be dangerous and unpredictable.The result is a deliberate yet gripping plot full of complex characters and terrifying monsters, all set in an isolated and empty post apocalyptic world.

I love the characters in this book, each and every one of them. They are put in the unenviable position of trying to survive when almost all hope is lost, but they face their demons on a daily basis with a temperament and resolve that I find very admirable. They are all trying to deal with the collapse of the world around them in their own way, and during the darkest times some of them cannot deal with it any longer. These characters are not superhuman, they are just normal people who against all odds manage to achieve extraordinary things, normal people who must deal with the terrible consequences of their actions.

As seems to be the case with modern adaptations of supernatural monsters, Cronin has taken the much popularised Vampire, modified it to suit the story (the 'Viral'), and explained its existence as a simple latent feature of the human genome. By providing a potentially realistic explanation for the genesis of these monsters, Cronin has created a far more powerful feeling of suspense than is normally achieved from using traditional supernatural creatures; it is unsettling to think that given the right set of genetic circumstances just about anyone could become of these monsters. The Virals are more than just a seeming invincible enemy for the humans to fight, they are also used to explore some of the more important themes such as the morality of scientific experimentation on humans and the seemingly innate ability of humans to survive in the most dire of conditions. While you may fear and hate the Virals for the way in which they victimise the humans, you will be able to empathise with the Virals because they were the first victims, the result of scientific endeavour gone wrong.

For the most part The Passage is a very well written book, however, there is room for the author to improve his prose, dialogue, and use of literary devices. There are some pacing issues during the first third of the story where the scenes jump from slow to hectic back to slow and back to hectic in a very short time frame. The prose and dialogue can also get a little lazy at times during this period with some of the third-person POV's drifting towards a more omnipotent POV, and some of the dialogue acting as a history lesson rather than a natural conversation. These may seem like very minor issues, and individually they are, but with the majority of these issues permeating through the opening scenes the book can be really hard to get into for the first 50-100 pages. This can be a death sentence for large books as a lot of readers will stop reading if they cannot get into the book after 50 pages despite how good it might get later. If you are feeling the same way about the start of the passage I implore you push on because after the first 100 pages the book does get very good very fast.

While I have done my best to describe the essence of this book, the name of this book describes everything far more concisely. This is a story about transition, the passage from the world we know to a world no longer recognisable, the passage from human to monster, and the passage from despair to hope.

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All reviews for: The Passage Trilogy

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The Passage reader reviews

from USA


Justin Cronin needs a new editor. Good lord this book is too long and over the top with nonsense. I slogged through it and was amazed at yet another author with out the ability to get to the point and then just end the story. This lingers on and on (Much like this review) and gets nowhere. Then the end is some future footnote. It reminded me often of The Stand by Stephen King. Neither was worth the trouble or the effort. I give it two stars. Find another book.

from USA


The first 1/3 of this book was a good read but then it jumped forward to 94 years in the future without any details of how the main character survived all that time. After that it just became a long winded version of resident evil apocalypse with less interesting storylines.Im sorry but I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone!

from Australia


I have really struggled with this book. I, like most other readers, have heard raving reviews about The Passage - and when I discovered it was the first in a trilogy, I became even more excited. When I sat down to read, a smile found my face, and I knew I had found a story of epic proportions: the plot and pacing were top-knotch, the character development left me rooting for the characters, the regular POV change was also something I found easy to go along with. HOWEVER, and I say however with great passion: this book misled me, and I ultimately found myself bored with it. Part 1 & Part 2 were phenomenal - I was along for the ride. And then, Part 3 hit me like a bullet to the face. As a literary device, I have no qualms with skipping over 90 years into the future - but the major problem with this is: the characters stop being compelling, the action is dim at best. I found myself not excited to pick up the book. I didn't care about any of the survivors I found myself reading about; in fact, I missed the old cast of characters. I'm glad Amy was brought back to the plot, but even then she feels like a secondary character, rather than a major player. I rated the book 5/10 because I genuinely enjoyed the first 300 odd pages, but the book becomes unforgivable; especially when you invest so much reading time into such a tome of a book.

from Austria


This book has polarised opinion. Ryan and Gaz thoroughly enjoyed the book and I respect their opinions but I'm afraid my reading experience was dissimilar and reflective of many others. I'll first break the book down into three separate stages: The beginning was excellent and I realised why so many had enthused about the book but after the back story had concluded, and we were taken about one hundred years into the future, the book became less compelling and the final third of the book was a real struggle which I did not enjoy. 9/10, then 8/10, then 2/10 would be my scoring of the thirds. Why did the book become less as it went along, in my opinion? One major reason was that I found it overly derivative. Almost every book is derivative to a degree but there are limits and I constantly felt that I had read this exact same story, except told better by Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Cormac McCarthy and Richard Adams to name but a few. Yes, the book had a section straight out of Watership Down. Remember the part where Hazel and the rabbits are invited into a warren that seems to good to be true, where the farmer leaves out food for them? Well, we had the same again here except with vampires and humans. And then there is the characterisation, so strong initially it becomes paper-thin and as a result I couldn't become emotionally invested in their struggles. And the book is over-long. I am comfortable with one thousand page dystopian epics but filler needs to be kept to a minimum and there was simply too much unnecessary waffle in this book. I am not an expressive reader but I found myself rolling my eyes constantly as the book neared its conclusion, sometimes shaking my head as another entirely predictable event occurred and was even moved to shout out "For God's Sake!" at one moment (I have never done that before, I think it was another main character dead/Oh no they are not device again). I was left disappointed and at the end and a little depressed. I was delighted to finish this book for the wrong reasons and would not read the next instalment for love or money. I immediately went and got a copy of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bells Toll, in the hope that a great book will remove the disheartened feeling The Passage left me with. If this book is one of the best of current times then I will sadly have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about books.

from Liverpool UK


I disagree with the review above saying that you can't get into this book within the first 50 pages. I picked up a sample magazine with the first 100 pages in & was so hooked I got the book on release day... & I'm so glad I did. An epic book & so well written with believable characters that you care about & a storyline that pulls you in from the start to it's cliffhanging end..just to warn you, this is part 1 of a trilogy. I could'nt put this down & I can't wait to continue the story with book 2. This is not your classic Vampire fare but something far more sinister & believable. Highly recommended & roll on 2012 for the next instalment..!

6.9/10 from 6 reviews

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