Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

You know how it is when a huge book comes along and everyone gives it rave reviews and says how brilliant it is. Then you inevitably get a handful of people who come along and cause a tremendous amount of annoyance to readers by spoiling the book. They do this by saying that the book left them indifferent or they cant see what all the fuss is about and thus confusing people who haven't read said book and who now don't know whether to buy it or not. Here comes the bombshell; I'm going to be one of the annoying people and am going to sidle over to be with the 'minority' on this one.

In case you aren't familiar with the story; it begins in a top secret lab located in the US. Government scientists are carrying out clandestine experiments on death-row prisoners and a six year old girl. The scientists are trying to find a way to make human beings live forever. The hapless prisoners are injected with all kinds of crazy stuff which turns them into weird, horrible vampire creatures (although the word vampire appears to be a dirty word in this book) while the six year old girl who has been given a slightly different strain of whatever the prisoners got seems to just have the benefits of living forever without the need for any tantalising human blood. Of course we all know what happens next; the prisoners manage to break out and most of the human population of the world are wiped out in short order.

The above describes the book fully and what a good book it was. Seriously, it was really entertaining, quite thrilling and I enjoyed reading all 246 pages of it. I would recommend it.

But hang about, what's this? Justin Cronin only decided to write another book another 500 pages long and tagged it onto the end of The Passage? OK. This isn't quite the case but it feels like it. The book then jumps forward about 100 years to some colony in the desert where, seemingly, the grandchildren of the last survivors are hanging onto life in their village/fortress type thing. This is the bit I didn't like so much; after all that time invested in the characters from the first part of the book the reader is suddenly introduced to a whole host of new ones which stilled the book while I read lots of new back-stories before the action could pick up again.

A lot of comparisons have been made with Stephen King's The Stand and since I read this earlier this year its still quite fresh in my mind. Yes, the first part certainly has strong comparisons but I'm going to leave it there as any comparisons with The Stand are not going to make The Passage look any better. Although comparisons with The Stand did fade as the book progressed, other comparisons such as I Am Legend, The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Village only popped up in its place. Lets face it; the idea of an army of monsters, created by scientists tinkering with biological agents, escaping and destroying the world isn't exactly original any more. Saying this there were few places in the book where it didn't remind me of something else I had either read or watched.

The story is a great idea (even if its not original) and parts of this book were done brilliantly but unfortunately segments of the second part of the book were slow going and contained characters I just didn't care about. Whenever one of the main characters were killed or went missing I just didn't care.

Would I recommend this? If you haven't read The Stand then I would recommend that over this one any-day. If you have read The Stand then read I am Legend and The forest of Hands and Teeth and then watch The Village and then you would have practically read The Passage anyway.

Verdict 2/5

Posted by Jess


  1. Blah. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in this book. Every review I read makes me less interested.

  2. LOL! I love the way you recommend reading the first 246 pages! I completely agree with you. I haven't read The Stand, I Am Legend, The Forest of Hands and Teeth or The Village. I guess I need to get reading them now!

  3. Amanda - sometimes I do fall for the hype unfortunately but if this doesnt appeal to you then dont bother.

    Jackie - to be fair the forest of hands and teeth isnt great either. The Stand was excellent though.

  4. Your review pretty much confirmed my impression of this. I'd rather read The Stand, which I'd been meaning to anyway.

  5. I actually haven't read a single other review of this book, making me think I'm really not going to like it. Thanks for an honest, objective review!

  6. What a wonderfully clever review!

  7. Nymeth - The Stand is epic and the ending wasnt brilliant but about 10times better than this!

    Brizmus - quite alot of bloggers have raved about it but a few have not, I just fell for the hype on this one which is why I brought it.

    Rhapsody - why thank you ;)

  8. Y'know, all but one book blogger review I've read of this either disliked it or were decidedly meh about it, so you're not alone!

  9. haha great review! i've been humming and harring about whether to read this - i'm leaning towards not going to. it seems to be one of those books that everyone goes nuts about because 'someone' said it was great - then people read it and realise it's actually pretty bad and that 'someone' was the publisher's marketing department. i feel like i've already been on this ride for this year with angelology (dismal) so will give this one a miss.

    and thanks for stopping by my blog too :-)

  10. I liked this one quite a bit. It even got me to re-read The Stand, which now doesn't seem as wonderful as it did when I read it in college.

    Even though I liked The Passage for the entertainment aspect of it, I can totally relate to what you wrote here. I had a problem with the kid! Amy seemed to be very detached from everyone. I really didn't care what happened to her. She didn't have the same pull as say Newt did in the movie Aliens.

    Cronin has already sold the movie rights but we have to wait until 2012 to read book two. Will you read book two?

  11. Amanda - thats good to hear, you do wonder if your the only one missing something.

    mummazappa - I heard about Angelology and I thankfully managed to avoid that one. Funny because you never see it anywhere now really.

    Ti - Im glad you liked it. The first chapter with Amy and her mum practically broke my heart its just a shame that for me the author couldnt keep that up until I didnt even care about her? Ill be avoiding the 2nd book but I suspect it might make a better film.

  12. Great review - I felt like that when I dumped on The Time Travelers Wife.
    I've been tossing up about this one and maybe I'll read it one day but I'm in no hurry. Its long years since I read The Stand which I did really enjoy at the time.

  13. Well I couldn't even get past the second page of the newspaper-style sampler that Waterstone's gave away pre-publication, so this one was never going to be for me.

    But I wanted to raise something you said at the start of your review. You say that people who disagree with the rave consensus on a book are "spoiling" the book. Surely not! It needn't either cause confusion to potential buyers when some disagree with the overriding view on a book: in fact it makes it easier to triangulate your own likely feelings on a book if you have a range of views from people whose tastes you know.

  14. Cat - my mum couldnt finish The Time Travelers wife, she just gave up halfway through.

    John - sometimes I read loads of reviews from bloggers that all agree on a book (either like it or not) and then someone comes along that completely diagrees and I also get confused. Its like when you see books on Amazon with 100+ rave reviews but there is ALWAYS a dozen or so that give it one. Im always interested in those negative reviews, why have they gone against the tide on this one?

  15. I actually think the negative reviews typically tell you more about the book than the positive ones, so I generally look them out first.

  16. Hmm. I'm sorry you didn't like this. I loved it, but I'd never read The Stand or I am Legend.

    I have to disagree mummazappa though. I heard good things about this from someone outside the publisher, as well as someone that works for the publisher (but isn't a publicist). And I wrote a glowing review. If you don't look for good reviews from other book bloggers, you won't find them. But they do actually exist.

  17. I read the first section then rather lost the will to live from about page 300. Now I'll never know what happened - apart from informative reviews like yours

  18. How funny that we felt the same about this book! The first 250 were indeed riveting and I can only comment on the next 100 or so after which I found boring. I feel guilty abandoning this though and I wonder if I'll try again sometime. Well maybe when I have nothing else to read....