Among bloggers, I think I'm one of the last to read one of this summer's hottest sensations, The Passage. Entertainment Weekly made it one of its top selected summer reads, it is the first of a trilogy (the hottest trend in the literary world these days), and is being fast-tracked by Fox 2000 and Ridley Scott for a movie adaptation. At 784 pages, or 29 discs, America was doing a whole of reading over the last few months.
For those new to the scene, here it the gist. The military, of course, have discovered a virus in the jungles of South America that could potentially create a super-human soldier. But as we all know, these things rarely turn out well, and the virus in fact transforms humans into something called "virals", or vicious, vampire-like creatures that can fly. While in the experimentation stage, twelve of the test subject get loose, as they are wont to do, and unleash their unholy rage upon humanity. In a period of months, the US has been rendered a wasteland, overrun by millions of these nocturnal killing machines. Chaos ensues...cities burn to the ground, bombs are dropped on unsalvagable communities, Louisiana is a toxic dump, and California recedes from the union (I'm having a hard time keeping a straight face). Survivors must go to ground, learning to live without modern conveniences.
The shining beacon of hope is Amy, a young girl who was also a test subject, but only inherited immortality and none of that ugly ripping and killing stuff.
The book is multi-generational, from the point of impact (now considered "year zero") to a hundred years "AV", and are even given a peek into the diaries of the survivors a thousand years later. The story is epic, therefore, there are words. So many words, and so many details. But I am a student of Stephen King, and cut my teeth on The Stand, so I am a firm believer in detail. You need this detail to LIVE the experience and invest in it. Needless to say, while I had a hard time taking it very seriously (or maybe it was like whistling in the graveyard) but I really enjoyed this book.
I did experience periods of dejavu. It had whiffs of The Stand, and maybe a little of The Road. It reeked of I Am Legend. But I won't hold it against Cronin for possibly allowing pop culture to subconsciously seep into the plot. It was entertaining in its own right. By the way, I am way over vampire books, and while this one might initially sound like another one that has hopped on the bandwagon, it is not.
I had a couple small prose irritations. The constant use of the exclamation "flyers!", which I am assuming is like saying "damn!", was annoying. Cronin was also at times very liberal with the similes. Not enough to start a drinking game with them, but enough that I noticed.
I did experience periods of mental wandering. After the thrill (if that is what you want to call it) of the initial cataclysm, Cronin takes some time to set up the scene a hundred years later - the personalities, the socio-economic structure, and the governing laws of one surviving community. I had to push a bit to get through this middle section of the book, but the pace picked back up again two-thirds of the way through, and blasted me out of my seat right to the very last cliff-hanger. Damn that man. How long to I have to wait for the next installment? Two years?
A word about the audio production. Not the best narrator. Scott Brick had a big job assigned to him here, but I'm not sure he was the right man for the task. His voice had very little inflection, except for a slight downturn of each sentence, like you would expect to hear from a martyrish, long-suffering type. There are also two small narration parts, one for each of the diaries preserved and read a thousand years into the future. Those narrators were female, and were very good, just not enough of them. That being said, I dealt with it, and it never became so intrusive that I considered quitting.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone that has a little patience and a love for the apocalypse.
4 out of 5