Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review - The Passage by Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage 
Author: Justin Cronin 
Year: 2010 
Page: 766 
Genre: Fiction - Dystopian

New to me author? Yes 
Read this author again? Depends...
Tearjerker? No 
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
"It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born." First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse. As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun. With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

First Sentence:
Before she became the Girl from Nowhere -- the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years -- she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.
Why did I pick this book?
I first heard about this book from Boston Bibliophile's blog post - she said, "it's a showstopper. I'm 200 pages in (it's 700 pages long) and I can't put it down. It's like LOST in book form. When I'm reading it, I get so absorbed I can't hear my husband talking to me. Trust me- you want this book." LOST in book form? How could I not pick it up?! Of course, after that, there were numerous reviews on different blogs, and the majority of them were very, very positive. While I am not a big Stephen King fan (I have only read IT), but an endorsement from Stephen King still meant something!

My thoughts:
  • My first thought after finishing the book - wow there were a lot of characters! A lot happening! Those who called it an epic were right... it took a while to remember who-is-who, especially since the beginning of the book happened "B.V." (Before Virals) and the rest of the book happened 90 years or so later during "A.V." (After Virals),
  • My second thought - this book could be shorter...
  • My third thought - I probably would have liked this story better if it was a movie, as I could vividly see the images in my head, but part of the book (especially the middle part) was very long and slow... Typically I much prefer books to their movie adaptions, but LOTR was one of the few exceptions, and I think the same applies to this book here. I am more interested in Stephen King's movies than his books for some reasons. Sure enough, the movie rights of The Passage had been sold before the book was even published! 
  • You may have heard about "vampires" being associated with this book. They didn't seem like vampires to me in the true sense (think Interview in the Vampires). Actually, they reminded me more of the zoombies from The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (my review here). I think, the explanation given about the vampires/virals in The Passage was quite plausible. I wish the book talked more about Dr Lear and his quest, as that part of the book sounded very interesting but was only briefly mentioned
  • Some parts of the book weren't quite as realistic to me (e.g. dreams) but who knew what the future would be like? I thought a critical element in dystopian novels was how plausible the story was, and if it was too farfetch, then it lost its credibility
  • There were some characters from the first part of the book that I wished had a bigger role in the remaining of the book - FBI agent Wolgast (probably one of the best developed, aka realistic, character in the book, but not a main character), Dr Lear, Lacey, Carter
  • The main protagonist was probably Amy (see 1st sentence posted above), but I didn't think we really got to know her. I read somewhere that the author wrote this book based on a conversation he had with his young daughter, so he decided to write a book about a young female protagonist, which was sweet. However, there were some questions about Amy that were never answered... now of course there is a 2nd and a 3rd book coming out in the next few years, so we may get to know her better yet
  • By the way, what is it with all the series coming out?! How come a lot of these new books are trilogies? I don't know if I'd rush out to buy Book 2 of this series when it comes out. I'd probably wait to read the reviews... and then google spoilers (I did that after reading Twilight... googled Book 2-4). I am curious to know what happens next, but not enough to read another 800 pages book (if Book 2 is anything like Book 1)
  • I like the significance of the name Peter - that was a nice touch
  • I like the scene between Peter and Alicia - after she had decided on her path. It was rather touching and not so predictable
  • I don't really connect with any of the characters. I like them fine, and don't hate them, but don't love them either. One character that intrigued me, and yet again didn't have a lot of development, was the Colonel. Alicia was also a character with a strong personality compared to the rest
  • Some people compared it to Stephen King's The Stand. I haven't read it or watched the movie, so can't comment on that
  • Overall, it was just an okay read to me. It wasn't an emotional read, even though it'd be quite scary if our world would turn out the way it was described in the book. It wasn't a I-cannot-put-this-down for me either. It took me about 6 days to read, which is about average speed for me given its length. The premise wasn't entirely new, so I definitely expected more. For a dystopian novel, I still prefer The Hunger Games
  • After I was done reading the book, I searched for other reviews - could I be there only one not liking it that much? There were TONES  of positive reviews on blogsphere. It was rather rare to find some "meh" - but I did find two and if you read their reviews, we definitely thought alike! Here are Rhapsody in Books' review and  Devourer of Books' review. Guess at least I am not alone, or think I missed something while reading the book
  • I'd let you be your own judge! :)


         "I guess he drew all these so he wouldn't forget them," Greer said.

         Peter felt suddenly self-conscious -- whatever these images had meant to the general, Peter knew they were private. "If you don't mind my asking, Major, why are you showing these to me?"

         Greer gathered them carefully together in a cardboard folder and placed them in the trunk at his feet. "Someone once told me that part of you lives on so long as somebody remembers you. Now you remember them, too." (p670)
    Rating: 3 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading


    1. thanks for offering a different perspective on this one.

    2. Nice review! By now, I have read both positive and negative reviews of this book, so I'm prepared. I will be reading this one from the middle of this month, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

    3. Also wanted to add (now that I'm back home and have access to my good old regular computer!) that I'm totally with you on the zombie thing. Much more zombie-like than vampire-like! :--)

    4. @Serena - sometimes I think it's me, rather than the book, when everyone else likes it but me! But I gotta stay honest in my reviews!

      @Aths - Can't wait to read your thoughts! While there were lots going on, they just really weren't roller coaster enough for me I think.

    5. @rhapsodyinbooks - thanks for your email and additional comments! I wonder if vampires are used to describe the virals because vampires sell / are hot and sexy now thanks to Twilight :)

    6. I love all your thoughts. I'd have liked to hear more from Dr Lear too. It sounds as though we had a very similar experience reading this book - I wasn't connected to any of the characters either. I agree that films will be better -a bit of editing will make the story OK!