Friday, August 20, 2010

The Passage - Justin Cronin (Audio)


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


26 comments:

Melody said...

I'm just intimidated by the thick volume, and I haven't even started reading The Stand yet!

I've read mixed reviews on this so I'll have to read and judge it myself.

bermudaonion said...

You're not the last - I haven't read this yet, and I'm not sure I will. Vance is interested in it, though. He's usually a good judge on whether I will like a book or not, so I'll get his opinion if he reads it.

JoAnn said...

If there was any doubt, your last sentence convinced me to skip this. I'm short on patience and have no love for the apocalypse!

Zibilee said...

I know we talked a little bit about this book when we saw each other, so I am glad to hear that you finally finished it and that overall, it was a good read. I was really super excited about it when I first bought it, but I think my expectations have been tempered a bit, which is perfectly ok by me! This way, I don't get the letdown I am bound to feel after all the hype!

Jo-Jo said...

I'm about halfway through this book and I'm enjoying it so far. I've wondered about the 'flyers' references though, so I'm glad you pointed that out! Now at least I will know what's going on with that!

farmlanebooks said...

I'm really pleased to read your review (I thought you might write a glowing 5 star one), but it does look as though our reading tastes are almost matching for this one. I found a lot of faults with this book - mainly the length, but there was a lot to like too. Overall I thought it was OK. I won't be rushing to recommend it to people. But I do plan to get hold of The Stand soon :-)

Julie P. said...

You're not the last! I haven't read it either and it's part of my challenge! UGH! It's just so big!

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad I didn't listen to this one on audio, after your review. There were definitely some slow parts in te book!

Susan said...

I agree that this one wasn't wholly original, but it is engaging. I really wasn't bored at all through ALL those pages and I agree that you need all that detail to really feel immersed in the story. Overall, I really, really liked it and am excited for the next one. Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Slow parts definitely! But these are not vampires! Zombie is a better description! (on behalf of the Society Against Vampire Misidentification)

The Bumbles said...

I like a good drinking game - never occurred to me to create one within repetitive portions of books. I do it with TV all the time ;0) This one's long enough to where I might be smashed by the end and it wouldn't matter whether it was good or not.

Anna said...

I think if I read this, I'm waiting until all the books have been released. This waiting for Mockingjay is driving me nuts! LOL

Darlene said...

You aren't the last to read it - I have it but haven't attempted it yet. Wow, 29 discs -not sure it could hold my interest on audio. We'll see how it goes on paper.

caite said...

"a love for the apocalypse."
that is an odd sort of love, isn't it? lol

just too darn long, with a big, boring section in the middle. that is my short review.

Ti said...

I compared the Virals to the aliens in the movie Aliens. The description of them was not all that imaginative. Funny that Ridley Scott is looking to direct the movie. Isn't he he guy that directed one of the Alien movies?

I also thought Amy was like Newt but not nearly as intelligent.

Gavin said...

Nope, you are not the last. I just picked it up from the library and will give it a go over the weekend. I have seen mixed reviews but am curious.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I was bored reading this in print, I can't imagine not being able to easily skip ahead, or having a so-so narrator.

You really notice your metaphors and similes, don't you?

Trisha said...

I can't believe you made it through this chunkster on audio! I really give you credit. I enjoyed this book, but I agree with much of what you said here, especially the deja vu. I've never been bothered by authors reminding me of other authors/stories though. I remember when people were in an uproar over Paolini's Eragon drawing too heavily for Tolkien and Rowling, but for me the story was still a good one so I didn't care much. :)

Kathleen said...

This was supposed to be the book I read on my camping trip but I was derailed. I'll probably be the last person on the planet to read it but maybe if I wait to read it, I won't have so long to wait before the sequel. So maybe my being behind is really a strategic move on my part! LOL!

Alyce said...

I've been reading reviews of this to my husband to see if it's something he would like. We've got it on hold at the library, but he's got about 75 people in front of him in the queue.

I won't be reading it, but one of my pet peeves is when authors create fake swear words. I think sometimes it happens, especially in YA books, so that the books won't seem too adult.

Ladytink_534 said...

I haven't seen this particular cover before. I really want to read this one since everyone and I mean everyone seems to love it. Sounds like I'll give the audiobook a pass though.

Alice Teh said...

I have countless times pick this up and put it back down at the bookstore. I was rationalizing with myself and now I regretted it. I should just ignore my book ban and bought it. I will the next time I hit the bookstore.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

confession - I pressed this ARC on my husband, who knows I have no love of apocalyptic novels ... I then shared it with a friend who I knew would appreciate it. Despite it being hot, hot, hot, I know it's not for me.

Jenners said...

Good job on your review. Flyers! That was a bit annoying wasn't it?
And I agree with you ... the set-up was the best part and then learning abou the Colony and then it went a little off-course.

I can't imagine having to read this book for an audio. It seemed more like a "read it in print" book. It was a tough one to read I imagine.

Jessica said...

I didnt like this one so much because it reminded me of so much, I also picked up the I am Legend similarities. The firstpart I thought was great though.

Melissa M said...

It's a sign that I've neglected my blog reading when I've never even heard of, let alone read, one of the hottest books of the summer. When I get bogged down in blogs I start to skim and usually let a cover catch my eye. This one would never have done it because it looks horror-ish. And I don't really think this one is for me anyways...