Tuesday, June 8, 2010

REVIEW: The Passage, by Justin Cronin

The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Published 2010 by Ballantine Books. Literary Fiction. Science Fiction.

I have been waiting for months to tell you about The Passage. I know some of you have read and/or reviewed it already; I read it back in January and debated about whether to post my review early or around the release date. Well, the release date is here, so here I go.

Wow.

I'm not a genre reader. It's relatively rare that I read a thriller or a science fiction novel but something about The Passage just hooked me like a fish and reeled me in. The story is about a post-apocalyptic future in which the U.S. government has tried to create superhuman soldiers but instead has turned much of humanity into mindless killers. A few survivors remain, and a hundred years on human society as we know it is virtually nonexistent. History is forgotten; culture is forgotten. Day to day survival is the only thing that matters- the only thing to do is to live one day to the next. And for all they know, they're the only ones left.

Into this wreck walks a young girl. She is special somehow, but we're not sure quite why. A band of survivors gather around her and together they set off to find they know not what.

But before the post-apocalyptic period is the apocalypse, which makes up most of the early part of the novel. The story begins with a single mother and her child, a nun, a group of death-row prisoners and a pair of FBI agents on separate but intersecting paths. The story takes shape as paths converge, and Cronin spends a lot of time building these characters in meticulous detail. I love the attention Cronin pays to character throughout, and how he layers the character-building between hints of what's to come. The razor-sharp plot kept me turning the pages but it's the people that really make this book what it is.

If you couldn't tell, I loved The Passage. It has some plot holes, certainly, and it's not perfect, but it's pretty amazing. It's a long book but it reads like something a third its length. I was reading it during commercial breaks with the TV on, I carried it around in a tote bag for days, I couldn't let a spare moment go by without getting just a little further along. It's been compared to Michael Crichton and Stephen King; I wouldn't know about that. The first in a planned trilogy with a suckerpunch cliffhanger ending, for me it was a firecracker.

You can read another take by Mr. Boston Bibliophile here. He's a science fiction and horror reader, who will review The Passage in the context of genre fiction.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Random House.

36 comments:

Carrie said...

It is so different from what I usually read, but I adored it, too. Hate that we have to wait until 2012 for book 2!

Mrs. B. said...

Wow! Yours is the first blog review I've read. Of course I've heard about this and I'm eager to read it, even more now. I wish they paperback edition will come out soon.

Paperback Reader said...

Yours is the first review I've read also and I'm relieved I have a copy on hand to read. I've been intimidated by its size but have high hopes of enjoying the post-apocalyptic story.

Bibliolatrist said...

I just downloaded this for my Kindle, along with Catching Fire. I figured I would read the latter first, since I've been waiting for it for so long...but after reading this review, I think I'm reading The Passage first!

bkclubcare said...

Hmmmm. Maybe. Not sure. Can I wait for the movie? Sounds like a movie plot.

S. Krishna said...

I read this awhile ago and held off til today to post my review as well! I really did enjoy this one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I wasn't as taken by this book as most bloggers, but still, I did stick with it and will no doubt read the sequel!

caite said...

I will be curious to see what Mr.BB thinks of it too.
I have it in my TBR pile and think it will be next up. Well maybe 2nd after a Library Thing ER book.
But now I am really looking forward to it!

bermudaonion said...

I've been avoiding this book because I thought it was all about vampires. Your review has made me re-think things - maybe I should give this one a shot.

Zibilee said...

I am going to be buying this one very shortly. I have heard such good things, and I am glad that you loved it! You wrote a wonderful review on this one, and I will be coming back to it after I have read the book!

Library Cat said...

This one sounds interesting, although like you, it is not my favorite genre - my husband would love it. Can't wait to hear your husband's take.
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jewwishes said...

What a great review, Marie! I haven't read any other blog review on it.

Jeanne said...

I was curious about this one when I read about it in the newspaper this morning. I'm so glad you told me it has a cliffhanger ending; I have to wait until the others come out, in that case!

Holloway McCandless said...

If you liked it, Marie, then I feel safe giving it to Mr. for father's day. Thanks for reading all those pages for me, because I was worried I wouldn't sleep.

reederreads said...

I work for the publisher of this book and I've heard great things about it! Glad you enjoyed it :)

Marie said...

Carrie- I know! I don't know how I'm going to make it!

Marie said...

Mrs. B- well it's just out in hardcover today so the paperback will probably be a while. But there are galleys floating around...

Marie said...

Paperback- you'll love it!

Marie said...

Care- it's DEFINITELY a movie plot. But it has very very compelling characters & excellent writing which makes it rise above the action-movie standard.

Marie said...

Holloway- Mr. will love it!

Kathleen said...

You know it's a great read when you are finding every spare moment you can to read a few more pages. I've been hearing incredible things about this book and can't wait to read it! And the fact that it is the first in a trilogy just gets me more excited.

readingandrooibos said...

I've read SO many great things about this book. It is rocketing up my to-read list. Thanks for offering your thoughts about it too! I'll be sure to come back to read your husband's thoughts about it from a genre fiction reader's perspective.

Mari said...

I also don't read SF but I might add this to my list - I'm reading a lot about it this week.

Marie said...

Kathy- it's not really about vampires. vampire-like maybe, but not vampires :-) promise!

readingandroobis- I hope you do. his review is very different from my little fan-gush. :-)

Diane said...

Mrs. B.B......way to go. I have not read a negative review on this book yet. Glad u both enjoyed this one.

Serena said...

There is a lot of buzz about this book, and from both reviews I've read here, I can see why.

Amy said...

Great reviews by both of you. I know I am in the minority by being disappointed in the PASSAGE. Still, I'll be lined up to read the next installment along with everyone else!

-Amy
Life by Candlelight

Marie said...

Amy, I think after all the hype it's going to be hard to NOT be disappointed somewhat! Even when I read it in January I had already heard so much about it that I wasn't sure it would live up to the talk!

Alexia561 said...

Have to admit that the sheer size of this one really put me off, but may have to pick up a copy since it reads like a shorter book. Sorry I didn't pick this up when I had the chance, so will fix that! Great review!

bookmagic said...

I'm dying waiting for my copy to show up. I should have in Monday (fingers crossed). GLad it is worth the hype.

nanscorner said...

I have been debating whether or not to buy this one. I am in the mood for a big book to start summer vacation. I might just have to go get it!

diaryofaneccentric said...

Well, given that book 2 is so far away, I guess I don't have to be in a rush to read it. But it's on my to-read list now.

--Anna

stacybuckeye said...

Okay, you've reeled me in and now I'm itching to read this one!

Alayne said...

I loved it as well! :) I can't wait for the next installment. Great review!
Alayne - The Crowded Leaf

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Hi there! I just linked your review to my blog -- thanks for your review! http://coffeeandabookchick.blogspot.com

EnriqueFreeque said...

I'm obviously a little late to this party, but as chance would have it, I both recently grabbed a cheap first printing of this book and also just noticed your "Review Indexes" -- very cool -- and saw this book stand out, which I've just begun, and like you, I don't read a ton of genre, but dip into it occasionally when I burned out on more serious stuff, and WOW, is this book GOOD.

You nailed it.

Oh, and the USPS said your books would arrive by tomorrow (if they haven't already).