The story starts in the years 5-1 B.V. (Before Virals). In Colorado, a secret government project called Project NOAH is working on weaponizing the human body by injecting death row inmates with a mysterious virus found in the Amazon. Twelve subjects have been injected so far—with disturbing results. The two FBI agents charged with bringing the test subjects to Colorado are in the process of getting the thirteenth test subject—a mysterious 6-year-old girl named Amy. The realization that Amy is a child disturbs one of the agents, and he struggles to make peace with his actions. Upon their arrival in Colorado, things go awry and the agent flees with Amy to the Oregon wilderness. As Cronin writes:
It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be reborn.
We get a few glimpses of this new world in Year Zero and 2 A.V. (After Virals) before jumping to 92 A.V., where we take up residence at First Colony, which is located in the San Jacinto Mountains in the California Republic. Life in First Colony is not a world we are familiar with. The Document of One Law governs the colony’s daily life, and the most important thing is that the lights stay on. You see, the lights are the one thing that keep the virals at bay. Without the lights, the virals can easily attack the humans in the colony—killing them outright or changing them into virals. But batteries aren’t meant to last forever, and the engineers in charge of the lights are beginning to have some concerns….
Let me say right off the bat: THIS IS NOT A VAMPIRE BOOK!!! I’ve seen it described as such, and it bothers me. Although the virals have some things in common with vampires (biting necks, seeking blood, aversion to light), they are a totally different creature. If you are envisioning a book inhabited by packs of Edward Cullens or Draculas or the like, stop right there. The virals reminded me more of the aliens from Alien than a vampire.
|Think this …|
|… not this.|
OK … so with that out of the way, how is the book? Well, if you like long (766 pages), dsytopian, bloody, scary, let’s band together to try and save the world adventure epics, this book is going to rock your socks off! If this type of book isn’t your cup of tea, then run … run far away. (But don’t go near any trees. And be sure to pay your electric bill. Just sayin’.)
I got totally caught up in the story. I loved how Cronin provides maps, newspaper excerpts, copies of e-mails, FEMA documents and the like when setting up his dystopian world. I loved learning about life in the Colony. I loved learning about the virals. (I think the virals are a very interesting creation, and I began to feel quite sympathetic toward them. The “they always go home” aspect was genius.) I loved the tension when a small band of brave souls venture out of the Colony to get help. I loved how Cronin gives you some answers, but doesn’t lay it all out on the table. (By the way, this is the first book of a planned trilogy so Cronin has to hold some stuff back.) Although I think the book meandered a bit in the middle, I didn’t mind too much. Once you are on this ride, you’re not going to get off.
I know the book has been compared to Stephen King’s The Stand, and I totally get the comparison. Both books are sprawling epics with a small group of humans fighting for survival. But I read The Stand so long ago that I can’t really compare the two books too closely. But I do think that if you liked The Stand, you’re going to like The Passage too.
In the end, this isn’t great literature or a book that is going to change the world, but it is the most satisfying of reads—an epic life-or-death struggle in a strange new world that is our own but not quite. I felt immersed in the book while reading, and it took a little while to shake off the creep factor once I was done. I loved plunging into Cronin’s dystopic world, and I can’t wait to revisit it again when the next book comes out in 2012.
My Final Recommendation
Definitely not a book for everyone, The Passage is a big fat epic that takes you someplace scary and creepy and a little bit mysterious but also very very human. If you’re a fan of dystopic fiction with a horror edge, then this book is for you. If you can, read it on an e-reader as it is a chunkster. My biggest gripe with the book was the sheer weight of it. I had to read it sitting up … and with all the lights on … and in the daytime … and nowhere near trees.
The Whys and Wheres: The reason I didn’t read this on my Kindle was because the lovely, funny and exceedingly generous Jill from Rhapsody in Books sent me her ARC, for which I thank her (but I do plan on sending her the medical bills for the wrist splints I need from holding the heavy, heavy book). I wanted to read this because people kept saying “It’s so like The Stand,” which I remember loving back in the day. And yes, you can expect my copy to be up for grabs in my September giveaway.
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