I knew that downloading The Passage, by Justin Cronin would be the perfect selection to read on my Nook Color for the first time, especially as the size is daunting. So many incredible events take place throughout this book, that I almost don't know where to start.
The Passage is a sweeping dystopian story that starts out a few years after our current time in a society that is still "normal." It is FBI Special Agent Wolgast's job to collect identified human test subjects for a secret Army project that has been developed after a virus was uncovered in the jungles of Bolivia that cures illnesses and slows aging - and it could potentially be turned into a weapon of unbelievable proportions. Soldiers that heal themselves? It would be a fighting force of unprecedented capabilities.
Wolgast is post-divorce and going through a complete separation of a personal life he once knew. He is knee-deep in his work with interviewing and convincing the test subjects to agree to be part of the project. What other choice do they have? They just happen to be death row inmates, so it's not like they have a better option for their lives.
But one is different. Amy is a six-year-old girl whose mother is a prostitute -- she is dropped off at the doorstep of a convent and initially the sisters aren't quite sure "what" Amy is. Wolgast, though, has now been tasked to bring Amy in to be one of these test subjects, and it is appalling to him - after all, Amy is just a little girl. He realizes that he must do everything he can to protect her.
As Wolgast and Amy hide away in the mountains, as far away as they possibly can, the society that we now know is swiftly destroyed. The problem that no one expected is that the death row test subjects have become advanced super-human creatures, and they eventually break out from their prisons. Now predators roaming America, complete chaos sets in as they rip people apart or turn them into what the test subjects are - virals. A monster of unbelievable strength and quickness, who maintains the human form but is a wild animal in every sense - they communicate by making clicking sounds, they travel in pods of three, and they hide during the day, live at night, and kill. There is nothing human left that can be visibly seen. America is being destroyed from the inside out. The remaining society must survive, but how?
This story isn't just about current life with Wolgast and Amy, though. There. Is. So. Much. More. And one hundred years later, the compound with the last remaining humans in America is protected by floodlights that the virals can't get past. But as time goes on, the batteries supporting the lights are getting weaker and will eventually go out, leaving the compound in darkness.
This is one of the most incredibly engaging stories I've read in quite a while - I was pulled into each character's story and event. The structure is interesting - in one section, it's in third person, and then in the next, the story unfolds through a chain of emails. In other chapters, a full report of what occurred while patrolling the compound wall on watch is detailed, and then later, a diary entry is included, or a newspaper article. It's an absolutely fascinating way to keep the reader engaged in every aspect. There were a few minor issues here and there that I could quibble with, such as pivotal moments that I wish had been revealed to the reader as they actually happened, instead of jumping to the next chapter and reviewing how the characters dealt with these major moments. It happened often enough that I noticed it and was wishing that we instead got a chance to experience these incredible events with the characters as it happened.
Please - don't write this off as a vampire book. Although capturing similar elements to the popularity of vampire culture, it is so not a book about that. In fact, don't even use that word with this book. Instead, it is a post-apocalyptic story, the dystopian culture setting it far apart from anything you've probably ever read. It is a story about religion, survival, and love. Justin Cronin has successfully created an unbelievable journey into an alternate future, one that still encompasses the very basics of humanity and decency, but is also consumed by an ungodly force and power that cripples the existence of the most important thing of all: hope.
What about the audio? I had a Twitter conversation with the fabulous Posey Sessions regarding her audio experience of the book - I absolutely enjoyed reading each word so I can completely see why the audio book experience may be much tougher to like, simply based on how the book is formatted. I would personally recommend the printed version versus audio for this book.
When's the next book coming out? Thank goodness it's going to be part of a trilogy because when that last page hits you, you might freak out that it ended. What a cliffhanger! My only complaint is that the next book won't come out until 2012. The Entomology of a Bookworm blog had a fantastic post on how horrible it is to wait for a sequel.
What about a movie? Rumor has it that Ridley Scott has purchased the rights to turn it into a movie...
About the Author
Born in New England, Justin Cronin is the author of Mary and O'Neil, which won the Pen/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize, and The Summer Guest. Having earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, Cronin is now a professor of English at Rice University and lives with his family in Houston, Texas.
- Visit The Passage site by clicking here.
- Follow the author on Twitter by clicking here.
- Oh, yeah - there's even an iPhone app for this. I downloaded it here because I have to be able to keep up with when the next book is coming out.
Coffee and a Book Chick