I’m revisiting this piece I wrote on The Passage because the next book in the projected trilogy is due out in a month. There’s not much chance I’ll re-read the first book before then (it’s long, and besides, I gave my copy to someone else to read), so my summary will have to do. If you haven’t read it yet though, please read the following: It’s a pretty friendly recommendation.
The other night, I finished all 766 pages of The Passage, the gigantic new horror novel by Justin Cronin. That’s a heavy load of dead trees, and it seems to me that the longer the story, the greater the risk: When an author asks his or her audience to commit to a book or a movie or a series, they’re making an implicit promise that the time spent will be worthwhile. With The Passage, Justin Cronin delivers fully on that promise.
The most striking thing about The Passage, before the plot even gets going, is the quality of the writing. Cronin’s prose is impeccably rendered, so that even the most traumatic incidents have a beauty to them. This helps captivate interest from the start, because the story takes some time to build, before it hits its crescendo, and from then on, refuses to let up.
Technically speaking, The Passage is a vampire novel, but when I say that, it probably creates all kinds of genre expectations in your mind, and The Passage defies them all. The monsters in this story don’t go by the name – the word “vampire” is scarcely used, save for a couple of references to Tod Browning’s Dracula. Cronin takes great pains to ground the familiar myths in believable reality, but either way the creatures are generally peripheral players in a much wider, much more human story. There are long stretches between the attacks and the action scenes, in which you get to know (and care about) a wide range of characters.
This is a story about how bad things can truly get, and about what humanity is capable of once things get down to it. The Passage will be compared to the best of Stephen King (specifically The Stand), and that’s not inaccurate. It also has a spiritual kinship with I Am Legend. But it reminds me even more of The Lord Of The Rings, as far as the massive scale of the story and the generational sweep of it all. To say any more would be to spoil the surprises, and that would be criminal. Just know that The Passage is ambitious, impeccably written, and never predictable. On the very last page, just as the story seems to be winding up, something happens that calls out for a sequel, and it’s to this big beautiful book’s credit that I can’t wait to read it. Somehow, I’ve been convinced that all those trees didn’t die for nothing.
Find out more at: http://enterthepassage.com/
And from me here: @jonnyabomb