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18 January 2011

The Passage, by Justin Cronin


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.

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

30 comments:

  1. Wolgast was one of my favorite characters. I was sad that Wolgast (a) went away (but not?) and (b) that Amy forgot him! (but not?) Lots of ambiguous stuff going on in that book!

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  2. Already on my TBR list! I can't wait to get started.

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  3. I've been out of the loop - how'd I miss the fact that you got a Nook Color? I'm glad you loved, but I have to tell you, I'm a little intimidated by its size.

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  4. I bought this in hardcover as soon as it came out, and I haven't picked it up. I think I should buy the ebook version, and not be intimidated by the size. I really want to read this one.

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  5. I do plan on reading this one sometime this year...great review!

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  6. Wow, trilogy? Didn't know! I want to read this one ASAP.

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  7. Glad you enjoyed it! Reading it on your Nook must've been quite a lot easier than lumping the huge sized book like I did. I'm also waiting impatiently for the sequel

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  8. I downloaded this one too! But NOW that you told me about the cliffhanger, I am not even going to read it until the sequel is out. You know I just read The Lying Game by Sara Shepard and that had a cliffhanger too and I cannot just stop thinking about the next book :)

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  9. I haven't read much adult dystopian. Might as well give it a try!

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  10. The only way I can do these huge books is on audio. I listened to it during my whole Indiana vacation last summer. The narrator was decent, and after two billion discs actually grew on me. I couldn't have read it otherwise. Did I like it? Yes, in a way that I am entertained by epics. But I didn't love it. Very slow in the middle. And if one of the characters exclaimed "flyers!" one more time, I thought I would go postal.

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  11. It's hard to write a review that really does this novel justice, but you nailed it!!!! Very nicely done. I absolutely loved this book, and as you know I also read it on my e-reader. I didn't even flinch at the size, and I was sucked right in. Amazing, amazing book, and I can't wait for the next one!!!!

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  12. I loved this book! I'm excited about the fact that its a trilogy! I can't wait until the next installment. The characters were memorable and the story fascinating! What a fun read! So glad you enjoyed it:)

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  13. Thanks for the link! I loved this book, as I'm sure you could tell. So fun that they have an app for that - I'm a sucker for creative marketing ploys, which must be a fault of working in advertising. Off to download now...

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  14. I also downloaded this one for my Kindle and am really excited about reading it. It sounds like it's just my kind of book, and I am eager to start with it. I did give it to my husband to start, and he mentioned that the first few chapters were really very interesting and that they really had a good ambiance. Unfortunately he had some other things on hi plate and hasn't been able to pick it up since then. I am hoping that we can both read it and then discuss it. I am glad to hear that it was such a hit for you, and I think it was a great choice for the first book to be read on your Nook!

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  15. I don't know, I still think this book might keep me up at night! I really enjoyed reading your review though :)

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  16. I am also reading this on my Nook. But I had no idea how long it was until I started reading. And I borrowed it from the library so it automatically goes back in 8 days. Gotta get going. I'm on page 250 and loving it.

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  17. Can't wait to read this book. I have it, but have to find the time!! Great review as usual.

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  18. Great review. Sounds a bit creepy for me, but I'm thinking I might put it on next year's RIP Challenge list.

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  19. I'm with Sandy, I liked, but didn't love this one. It was really interesting, but it felt like two completely different books sandwiched together. Great review.

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  20. I did not know it was going to be a trilogy and amovie. Hmmm. this one was big at BEA last year!

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  21. i'm going to be a nudge and listen to this as an audiobook if only to spend 37+ hours with my favorite narrator, scott brick! god, my husband is so sick of hearing his name. lol.

    i am on the waiting list at the library for this one. i'll let you know what i think. :)

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  22. I gave you an award!

    http://acozyreaderscorner.blogspot.com/2011/01/stylish-blogger-award.html

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  23. Confession: I read the first third of this book (and loved it!) and stopped when time shifted. My husband read it and loved it, but warned me of the cliffhanger, and part of me wants to wait until they're all out to read them.

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  24. Great review! I had one of those weird experience with the book : I read it and enjoyed it enough, but didn't enjoy it as much as other readers seemed to. But, as time went on, I kept thinking about it and felt better about it. I wondered if I read it at the wrong time... Definitely looking forward to the next one!

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  25. I purchased this one over the summer with the plans to read it on my camping trip. Alas, I never got around to it and still haven't. Your review reminds me that I really need to move it up in my reading queue. Glad you enjoyed it so much. I guess if I wait long enough I won't have to wait so long for the sequel?

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  26. EVERYone loved this one - except me. For me, it was ... OK .. I mean, I read ALL of it .. but, I just didn't connect to any of the characters very much, except the mom, and she was gone almost at the beginning. Well, at least I bought it and read it, so now I don't feel as though I was missing out :).

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  27. It always bothered me when people called it a vampire book ... it so didn't seem like a vampire book to me.

    And Justin Cronin is kind of cute!! : )

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  28. Sounds awesome. I need to try it. Great review!

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  29. I loved The Passage. Loved it. For such a hefty book it moved quick and was a pretty epic tale. I can't wait for The Twelve to come out!

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