Over the summer I read the book The Passage by Justin Cronin, and I must say, it isn’t anything short of amazing. But giving the entire book a rating out of 5 stars doesn’t seem fair because it’s a huge book (no seriously, after I’d finished it I let my girlfriend borrow and and he referred to it simply as ‘The Bible’), coming in at 766 pages and eleven different parts. I think it’d be more fair to rate each individual part, because really they are all so different.
The first part could really be it’s own book because it’s a good 210 pages. I would definitely, without a doubt in my mind, give part one 5/5 stars. It’s truly a masterpiece. Cronin does an amazing job of narrating, not as himself, but as the character he’s describing. Part one bounces around a lot with several different main characters, all of which have fantastic background stories and personality traits. But this isn’t just a Chex Mix bag of events, everything comes together very smoothly.
My favorite main character from part one, and even part two, is Special Agent Wolgast (whom I imagined being played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Sometime in the near future, Wolgast and his partner, Doyle, have been assigned to go pick up men on death row who agree to become the guinea pigs in a top secret government experiment in exchange for their lives. Wolgast does his job with no complaints, until he’s assigned to pick up a six year old orphan girl who lives in a nun convent.
After picking her up, Wolgast decides that whatever the government is planning on testing, the life of this innocent little girl isn’t worth the risk. So, he goes renegade and runs away with the girl in an attempt to protect her. It doesn’t work out so well, and the both of them are captured. Wolgast is then thrown into a makeshift prison within the government building where the experiments are taking place, and the orphan girl, Amy, is experimented on.
The experiments go horribly wrong (I mean, if they didn’t then where would the excitement be, right?) and the twelve deadly, murderous convicts are now glowing man-hunger monsters with extreme speed and strength (that’s right, this book is about vampires. But sorry Twilight fans, these vampires aren’t sexy and they don’t share human emotions such as love because ***SPOILER ALERT*** they’re vampires, not humans). The twelve new vampire monsters kill/eat all of the government officials and then escape from the building to go terrorize the entire world.
What I really like about part one is the engagement you feel between yourself and the characters. After all the time you spend getting to know them you really feel attached to them, and you actually want them to be successful. This is why I love Cronin’s style of writing. He makes you connect so deeply with dozens of characters, and then after the first 210 pages he kills all of them but two or three. It’s so fantastic that after I finished part one I couldn’t stand to read anymore because I was so blown away. In fact, it wasn’t until about three weeks later that I actually did continue on in the book.
So, Wolgast and Amy escape and part two of the book (which isn’t nearly as long as part one) tells the story of the two of them living in a cabin up in the mountains. They reside there for months until the U.S. Government (in a last ditch effort to kill the now millions of vampires that are colonizing the nation) starts dropping nukes all over. The blast is far away from the cabin, but it stills blows out the windows, causing shards of glass to pierce through Wolgast’s body and kill him. Amy, now alone (and some sort of weird crossbreed of half-human and half-vampire due to the experiments that were done on her) ventures West in hopes of finding a safe place.
Coming into the third part of the book, Cronin does something crazy. Not only does he skip ahead a hundred years or so, but he makes us learn dozens of new characters. Have no fear, however, because the most important of these new characters are going to stick around until the end. Part three introduces us to the people of a Colony, a civilization in what used to be California that has managed to survive dispute the vampire epidemic that has swept the world. They survive because of large walls that surround the Colony and, most importantly, the huge high-powered lights that they turn on as soon as the sun starts to set (because everybody knows that vampires can’t go out in the sun, well, except Twilight fans I guess…).
After a few hundred pages or so of meeting these new people and learning about their lives, Amy shows up, however she’s not six and she’s not 106, shes only aged to the looks of a fifteen year old girl. The people are confused about her because she is so different, e.g: When she first approached the Wall they attacked her thinking she was a vampire (or a ‘jump’ as they call them) with arrows and a spear. Despite the horrid injuries that she received, she was completely healed up a few days later.
It’s about this time when Micheal, my favorite character in the book, comes to a realization. Micheal is the guy in charge of keeping the lights on every night, thus, he’s smart with electronics, and is deemed with the nickname Micheal the Circuit. Micheal realizes that the battery power on the lights has been reducing rapidly in the past few days and that it was only a matter of time before the lights would be out for good and they’d all dead. Micheal attempts to fix this and fails. However, in his failure, he picks up a strange radio signal. Thinking that the signal was coming from the U.S. Government in an attempt to see if anybody was still alive, Micheal investigates.
Meanwhile, the real main character of the book, Peter, and his not-girlfriend Alicia, make some mistakes and get the wrong people mad. When Amy had first shown up to the Colony and been attacked, Alicia realized that it was a human being, opened the Colony’s door (which is a BIG no-no) and carried Amy in. However, a jump got in and reeked havoc on the people of the Colony. One thing leads to another, and Alicia, Peter, Micheal, and a couple other characters, along with Amy, are forced to leave the Colony in an attempt to find the source of the radio signal that Micheal was receiving. The rest of the book is the struggle that the gang faces as the travel across the vampire-populated United States in an attempt of finding refuge.
Quite honestly, if you aren’t a fast reader then I don’t recommend that you read this book. It will probably take you a year, no joke. The text on each page is small, the book is large (in both width and depth), and you’ll probably be disappointed when you get to the ending. Why disappointed? Because even though this book is 766 pages long it’s just the first of a trilogy. That’s right, the ending is a cliff-hanger. The next book, which I’m highly anticipating, will be called The Twelve, which will come out some time next year. The final book in the trilogy, The City of Mirrors, will most likely be out in 2014.
My recommendation: Read this book. So what if you aren’t a fan of Action/Thrillers? This book is a huge arrangement of many genres, it would be hard to read this and not find something that you loved about it. Just a warning though, in the first part they use traditional swear words (such as the ‘F’ word), however, once we enter the world of the Colony we become surrounded by the new cuss word of the future, flyers. It seems whenever something bad happens the characters just yell out, “Oh flyers!” which I love because really it’s sort of ridiculous. This book, however, isn’t ridiculous. It’s amazing, and despite what I said earlier, I would give the book as a whole 5/5 stars. It is my favorite book that I’ve read to date and I doubt another book will beat it, at least not until The Twelve comes out…