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The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy) Kindle Edition
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“Mythic storytelling.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Magnificent . . . Cronin has taken his literary gifts, and he has weaponized them. . . . The Passage can stand proudly next to Stephen King’s apocalyptic masterpiece The Stand, but a closer match would be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: a story about human beings trying to generate new hope in a world from which all hope has long since been burnt.”—Time
“The type of big, engrossing read that will have you leaving the lights on late into the night.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Cronin’s unguessable plot and appealing characters will seize your heart and mind.”—Parade
“Cronin has given us what could be the best book of the summer. Don’t wait to dive into The Passage.”—USA Today
“Great storytelling . . . vital, tender, and compelling.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Cronin gets it just right; the combination of attentive realism and doomsday stakes makes for a mesmerizing experience.”—Salon
“Magnificently unnerving . . . A The Stand-meets-The Road journey.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King’s The Stand and Salem’s Lot in that lab on Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, Battlestar Galactica and even Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.”—The Washington Post
Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2010: You don't have to be a fan of vampire fiction to be enthralled by The Passage, Justin Cronin's blazing new novel. Cronin is a remarkable storyteller (just ask adoring fans of his award-winning Mary and O'Neil), whose gorgeous writing brings depth and vitality to this ambitious epic about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a six-year-old girl who holds the key to bringing it back. The Passage takes readers on a journey from the early days of the virus to the aftermath of the destruction, where packs of hungry infected scour the razed, charred cities looking for food, and the survivors eke out a bleak, brutal existence shadowed by fear. Cronin doesn't shy away from identifying his "virals" as vampires. But, these are not sexy, angsty vampires (you won’t be seeing "Team Babcock" t-shirts any time soon), and they are not old-school, evil Nosferatus, either. These are a creation all Cronin's own--hairless, insectile, glow-in-the-dark mutations who are inextricably linked to their makers and the one girl who could destroy them all. A huge departure from Cronin's first two novels, The Passage is a grand mashup of literary and supernatural, a stunning beginning to a trilogy that is sure to dazzle readers of both genres. --Daphne DurhamDan Chaon Reviews The Passage
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of the national bestseller Await Your Reply and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College. Read his review of The Passage:
There is a particular kind of reading experience--the feeling you get when you can’t wait to find out what happens next, you can’t turn the pages fast enough, and yet at the same time you are so engaged in the world of the story and the characters, you don’t want it to end. It’s a rare and complex feeling--that plot urgency pulling you forward, that yearning for more holding you back. We say that we are swept up, that we are taken away. Perhaps this effect is one of the true magic tricks that literature can offer to us, and yet it doesn’t happen very often. Mostly, I think, we remember this experience from a few of the beloved books of our childhood.
About three-quarters of the way through The Passage, I found myself in the grip of that peculiar and intense readerly emotion. One part of my brain couldn’t wait to get to the next big revelation, and I found myself wanting to leapfrog from paragraph to paragraph, hurtling toward each looming climax. Meanwhile, another part of my brain was watching the dwindling final pages with dread, knowing that things would be over soon, and wishing to linger with each sentence and character a little while longer.
Finishing The Passage for the first time, I didn’t bother to put it on a shelf, because I knew I would be flipping back through its pages again the next day. Rereading. Considering.
Certain kinds of books draw us into the lives of their characters, into their inner thoughts, to the extent that we seem to know them, as well as we know real people. Readers of Justin Cronin’s earlier books, Mary and O’Neil and The Summer Guest, will recognize him as an extraordinarily insightful chronicler of the ways in which people maneuver through the past, and through loss, grief and love. Though The Passage is a different sort of book, Cronin hasn’t lost his skill for creating deeply moving character portraits. Throughout, in moments both large and small, readers will find the kind of complicated and heartfelt relationships that Cronin has made his specialty. Though the cast of characters is large, they are never mere pawns. The individual lives are brought to us with a vivid tenderness, and at the center of the story is not only vampires and gun battles but also quite simply a quiet meditation on the love of a man for his adopted daughter. As a fan of Cronin’s earlier work, I found it exciting to see him developing these thoughtful character studies in an entirely different context.
There are also certain kinds of books expand outwards beyond the borders of their covers. They make us wish for encyclopedias and maps, genealogies and indexes, appendixes that detail the adventures of the minor characters we loved but only briefly glimpsed. The Passage is that kind of book, too. There is a dense web of mythology and mystery that roots itself into your brain--even as you are turning the pages as quickly as you can. Complex secrets and untold stories peer out from the edges of the plot in a way that fires the imagination, so that the world of the novel seems to extend outwards, a whole universe--parts of which we glimpse in great detail--and yet we long to know even more. I hope it won’t be saying too much to say that there are actually two universes in this novel, one overlapping the other: there is the world before the virus, and the world after, and one of the pleasures of the book is the way that those two worlds play off one another, each one twisting off into a garden of forking and intertwined paths. I think, for example, of the scientist Jonas Lear, and his journey to a fabled site in the jungles of Bolivia where clouds of bats descend upon his team of researchers; or the little girl, Amy, whose trip to the zoo sets the animals into a frenzy--"They know what I am," she says; or one of the men in Dr. Lear’s experiment, Subject Zero, monitored in his cell as he hangs "like some kind of giant insect in the shadows." These characters and images weave their way through the story in different forms, recurring like icons, and there are threads to be connected, and threads we cannot quite connect--yet. And I hope that there will be some questions that will not be solved at all, that will just exist, as the universe of The Passage takes on a strange, uncanny life of its own.
It takes two different kinds of books to work a reader up into that hypnotic, swept away feeling. The author needs to create both a deep intimacy with the characters, and an expansive, strange-but-familiar universe that we can be immersed in. The Passage is one of those rare books that has both these elements. I envy those readers who are about to experience it for the first time.
Danielle Trussoni Reviews The Passage
Danielle Trussoni is the author of Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir, which was the recipient of the 2006 Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, a BookSense pick, and one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of 2006. Her first novel Angelology will be published in 30 countries. Read her review of The Passage:
Justin Cronin’s The Passage is a dark morality tale of just how frightening things can become when humanity transgresses the laws of nature.
The author of two previous novels, Cronin, in his third book, imagines the catastrophic possibilities of a vampiric bat virus unleashed upon the world. Discovered by the U.S. Military in South America, the virus is transported to a laboratory in the Colorado mountains where it is engineered to create a more invincible soldier. The virus’ potential benefits are profound: it has the power to make human beings immortal and indestructible. Yet, like Prometheus’ theft of fire from the Gods, knowledge and technological advancement are gained at great price: After the introduction of the virus into the human blood pool, it becomes clear that there will be hell to pay. The guinea pigs of the NOAH experiment, twelve men condemned to die on death row, become a superhuman race of vampire-like creatures called Virals. Soon, the population of the earth is either dead or infected, their minds controlled telepathically by the Virals. As most of human civilization has been wiped out by the Virals, the few surviving humans create settlements and live off the land with a fortitude the pilgrims would have admired. Only Amy, an abandoned little girl who becomes a mystical antidote to the creatures’ powers, will be able to save the world.
The Passage is no quick read, but a sweeping dystopian epic that will utterly transport one to another world, a place both haunting and horrifying to contemplate. Cronin weaves together multiple story lines that build into a journey spanning one hundred years and nearly 800 pages. While vampire lore lurks in the background--the Virals nick necks in order to infect humans, are immortal and virtually indestructible, and do most of their hunting at night--Cronin is more interested in creating an apocalyptic vision along the lines of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
Taking place in a futuristic America where New Orleans is a military zone, Jenna Bush is the Governor of Texas and citizens are under surveillance, The Passage offers a gruesome and twisted version of reality, a terrifying dream world in which our very worst nightmares come true. Ultimately, like the best fiction, The Passage explores what it means to be human in the face of overwhelming adversity. The thrill comes with the knowledge that Amy and the Virals must face off in a grand battle for the fate of humanity.
Questions for Justin Cronin
Q: What is The Passage?
A: A passage is, of course, a journey, and the novel is made up of journeys. But the notion of a journey in the novel, and indeed in the whole trilogy, is also metaphoric. A passage is a transition from one state or condition to another. The world itself makes such a transition in the book. So do all the characters—as characters in a novel must. The title is also a reference to the soul’s passage from life to death, and whatever lies in that unknown realm. Time and time again I’ve heard it, and in my own life, witnessed it: people at the end of life want to go home. It is a literal longing, I think, to leave this world while in a place of meaning, among familiar things and faces. But it is also a celestial longing.
Q: You are a PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of literary fiction. Does The Passage represent a departure for you?
A: I think it’d be a little silly of me not to acknowledge that The Passage is, in a number of ways, overtly different from my other books. But rather than calling it a ‘departure,’ I’d prefer to describe it as a progression or evolution. First of all, the themes that engage me as a person and a writer are all still present. Love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, courage. The bonds between people, parents and children especially. The pull of history, and the power of place, of landscape, to shape experience. And I don’t think the writing itself is different at all. How could it be? You write how you write.
Q: The Passage takes place all across America--from Philadelphia to Houston to southern California. What prompted you to choose these specific locations?
A: Many of the major locations in the novel are, in fact, places I have lived. Except for a long stint in Philadelphia, and now Houston, my life has been a bit nomadic. I was raised in the Northeast, but after college, I ping-ponged all over the country for a while. In some ways, shaking off my strictly Northeastern point of view has been the central project of my adult life. This gave me not only a sense of the sheer immensity of the continent, but also the great diversity of its textures, both geographical and cultural, and I wanted the book to capture this feeling of vastness, especially when the narrative jumps forward a hundred years and the continent has become depopulated. One of the most striking impressions of my travels across the country is how empty a lot of it is. You can pull off the road in Kansas or Nevada or Utah or Texas and stand in the quiet with only the wind for company and it seems as if civilization has already ended, that you’re all alone on the planet. It’s a wonderful and a terrifying feeling at the same time, and while I was writing the book, I decided I would travel every mile my characters did, in order to capture not only the details of place, but the feeling of place.
The writer Charles Baxter once said (more or less) that you know you’ve come to the end of a story when you’ve found a way to get your characters back to where they started. The end of The Passage is meant to create another beginning, and the space for book two to unfold.
Q: Your daughter was the spark that set your writing of The Passage in motion. What else drove you to delve into such an epic undertaking?
A: The other force at work was something more personal and writerly. One of the reasons that the story of The Passage had such a magnetic effect on me was that I felt myself reclaiming the impulses that led me to become a writer in the first place. Like my daughter, I was a big reader as a kid. I lived in the country, with no other kids around, and spent most of my childhood either with my nose in a book or wandering around the woods with my head in some imagined narrative or another. It was much later, of course, that I formally became a student of literature, and decided that writing was something I wanted to do professionally. But the groundwork was all laid back then, reading with a flashlight under the covers.
Q: Did you have the narrative completely mapped out before you started, or did certain developments take you by surprise?
A: I had it mostly mapped out, but the book is in charge. I split and recombined some characters (mostly secondary ones.) I tend to think in terms of general narrative goals; the details work themselves out as you go, just so long as you remember the destination. And to that extent, the book followed the map I made with my daughter quite closely.
Q: When will we get to read the next book?
A: Two years (fingers wishfully crossed).
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B003F3PM7A
- Publisher : Ballantine Books; 1st edition (June 3, 2010)
- Publication date : June 3, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 3843 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 785 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #25,492 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The one thing I am less a fan of than post apocalyptic stories is vampires, so I stay as clear from these books as possible but I was flying to Europe and needed a big fat book to keep me company, this book seems very popular, and there's no teen romance, so I bought it. I can only agree with many reviewers that the 1st part of the book is entertaining and well written, and the second part, the one set in the future, misses the mark. The biggest problem for me was that all characters speak with the same voice. If you read a piece of dialog by itself, you cannot tell who's speaking. Several times I was a little distracted and had to go back and double check who was talking to whom. Several characters are very caricatural, like the obligatory combat chick, and the obligatory evil government guy. Another problem I had was the fact Cronin can't seem to make up his mind whether the vampire plague is a scientifically based thing, an engineered virus, or some mystical stuff with telepathy and souls. You can't have it both ways. And finally, I really wish we'd stop resorting to the immensely lazy device of "you kill one, you kill them all". Even bees don't die on the spot if you kill the queen. But of course, it's a lot easier than having to go after each and every vampire, monster, killer robot, or whatever, right? You just have to have a showdown between the good guy(s) and the evil queen and then they all get to live happily ever after. Yawn. But Cronin is only one in a very long list of offenders, so it would be unfair to single him out.
So because Cronin can write pretty well overall, because the 1st part of the book is good, and because some of the characters were interesting (except the stereotypes I mentioned earlier) the book gets 3 stars. But I will not be reading the sequels.
The Passage is one of the finest written examples of apocalyptic horror—lurid, meditative, and epic in scope. Despite being a vampire saga, the book is peppered with such human themes as love, hope, destiny, friendship, and sufficient pathos to satisfy top-notch literature enthusiasts. The language is both poetic and beautiful, the dialogue believable and appealing, while the narrative shifts tempo—both in style and time period—in order to keep things intriguing.
Set in the near future, The Passage entwines a convoluted but convincing tale that spotlights a six-year-old girl named Amy, whose hapless mother abandons her to a Memphis convent, home of clairvoyant African-born nun Lacey Kudoto. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Brad Wolgast and his partner are assigned to acquire Amy and twelve death-row inmates for Project NOAH, a military-bankrolled biomedical experiment using a longevity virus found in some nasty Bolivian bats. Naturally, mankind is punished for its jingoistic hubris and the project soon runs amok, unleashing grotesquely mutated vampires—virals—on the world, bringing the human race to near-extinction. Fast-forward 93 years to the ravaged wastelands of the once-great ‘Merica, wherein an isolationist community of beleaguered descendants employs high-wattage lights to protect the colony from the photophobic dracs. However, an expedition to recharge the failing batteries is elevated to a chance prospect of reclaiming the world after renegade protagonist Peter Jaxon happens upon a strange girl who not only appears ageless but can communicate telepathically with the virals.
Cronin takes the time to explore his ensemble cast, masterfully imbuing each character with life and personality, and ultimately reveals the depths of their convictions in the face of impossible odds. From the tormented FBI Agent who steps into the role of surrogate father to ensure a young girl’s safety as the world they know crumbles around them, to the unwavering band of colony warriors who persist in their struggle against inhuman monsters even in the face of the dying light. Readers will find themselves cheering for the book’s badass heroine, Alicia “Lish” Donadio, a Valkyrie warrior who could go toe-to-toe with the headstrong likes of Lara Croft (even without the superhuman vampire serum thrown in); just as readers' hearts will bleed for Anthony Carter, the benign death-row inmate turned government guinea pig whose sole crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may even feel a pang of compassion for the misunderstood virals. By all outward appearances they are indestructible, merciless spawns from Hell, and yet inside each of them is a small perpetual voice that wonders who they are, a voice yearning for identity.
Fellow readers, do not be daunted by this 766-page behemoth, for The Passage is a worthwhile investment that pays dividends in panache prose, compelling characters, and show-stopping action sequences. Mark my words; once the crossbows are firing overhead and bloodthirsty virals are flying at you from amidst the darkened rafters and billowy treetops, you’ll be running so fast that you’ll be left breathless by the final page—an evocative, albeit ambiguous caesura that's sure to have you clawing for the next volume, eager to learn the fates of these sympathetic heroes. Interestingly, Cronin offers glimpses of his master plan, using brief excerpts to imply that the human race will endure, though it may take a thousand years for things to return to normal.
When I stumbled onto Cronin's trilogy it felt like Christmas. I felt even more though when first chapter of the book reminded me of Crishton novels. And... it all fell to pieces. Quagmire of the flat faceless characters, bunch of hints on some plot turn that never materializes. At some points it feels like the author as lost in his narrative as his characters are lost in their dreams.
I'm still fighting through Passage. With dread I look at Kindle's hint "5 more hrs left in the book". Passage is not the book that keeps you reading well into the night despite Monday morning rapidly approaching. It's a book that you read as a chore forcing yourself to swallow few pages at a time. Spare yourself a torture, skip it. I feel like my 5 hrs belong to something better.
The first 200 or so pages were great, they sucked you in completely and I was excited for such an amazing read so far. Then everyone is basically killed and you jump almost 100 years into the future and the character development just disappears. I had absolutely no connection with the new characters and felt like it was like pulling teeth to get through a lot of the pages. It is overly descriptive and long winded where is absolutely does not need to be. Disappointing.
By Amazon Customer on January 3, 2019
Top reviews from other countries
It’s monstrous. In the best possibly way.
Did I like it?
Yes, absolutely. I’m half-way through the sequel already.
Is it easy to follow?
Yes & no.
The plot is the yes. Essentially, the military create ‘vampires’ by unearthing a long-lost disease. (I’m not sure if paleovirology is a thing but it sounds cool.) The army think they can control their subjects and the disease. Yeah. You got it. Guess what happens…
The no? That’s twofold: the cast of characters & the massive time jump about a third in.
I mentioned in a recent review of ‘Salem’s Lot how I was struggling to keep track of a town’s worth of people. (I’ll leave the comparison of Justin Cronin’s style to Stephen King to other people.*) I have the same numbers issue here. Except a lot of the people in The Passage are related and have similar names. There came a point where I had to roll with it and think that maybe character X was Y or possibly Z or actually Q’s sister in disguise as TBWJzjsi7aaQ’s brother. Kind of. And that’s before we add in first names and surnames and nicknames…
And the time jump? Did I mention that?
The book is essentially a long prequel and main story. The prequel sets the scene – where the virus is from, how it’s released into the wild and so on. The story then skips approx. 100 years into the future to a band of survivors in the ‘Colony’. It was a big break and left a lot of questions about certain initial characters unanswered, people I was ‘invested’ in. There were moments when I felt almost cheated by not knowing what had happened to them. As I struggled with the vast secondary cast, I occasionally felt I was reading purely to see what happened to the original people. Some of my questions are kind of addressed later on, but there’s a long wait for those half-answers.
The story is incredibly well-written. There are moments of poetic prose interspersed with sections that are brutally simple. The nastiness within the novel was the latter: it’s clean. There were no lengthy descriptions of monsters dripping in adjectives and doing things adverbily to their overly-described victims. The scare was all the more powerful for that.
Partly because of the quality of the writing, there were a few places were the story seemed to jump, almost like a stylus on a record. A motive that I didn’t get. An action that made no sense. A monster’s inability to do something which I thought they could. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what those moments were now, but I remember them jarring.
To wrap up…
For those interested in apocalyptic thrillers, there are a lot of staples here: the hunt for food/ weapons/ safety & surviving government f**k ups. (We’re due a major one at the moment, surely…) Then there’s the banding together of the people who have fled the relative safety of their home and the resourcefulness they need to survive. It’s well done and there’s enough realism, hard luck and fortune to keep it interesting.
For those interested in ‘vampires’ (‘virals’). You’ve got it all. With a twist. References to crosses, mirrors (reflections), hanging upside down, blood and so on.
Would I have changed anything? Yes. Filling in the gap between section one & two. Book two addresses some of that time lag (brilliantly) and it’s nice to see some of the pieces slotting into places, but I think I’d still have preferred the story in order. By the time I get to the end of the trilogy, I may have different view.
All in all – a great read.
Having got all that off my chest, I found the remainder quite entertaining, though I can well understand why some of the other reviewers slated it. Further surprises to come; after I finished it, I then found that it's part one of a trilogy; I'll have to think hard about whether to continue. At least there's the possibility that we'll find out more about Amy, whose enigmatic comment "What I am" in the early part of the story seems to remain unanswered.
There's some good stuff in the book, the vampire-based virus was interesting and one of the best bits was a setpiece in Las Vegas involving empty streets, darkness, and approching danger, but the good just got swallowed up by the bad.
The opening section is over 200 pages...200+ pages of build-up and following a group of characters and their lives, and then we're taken abruptly to 90 years later and a whole new load of characters. I struggled with names, locations, relationships, and the worst thing was that I didn't really care about most of them. The main character, Amy, who is heralded and special and one-to-watch right from the first line, disappears for hundreds of pages, and then shows up as a mute mystery. I found this incredibly frustrating as I was wading through pages and pages of soap-opera drama from the other people just so I could get to the point where Amy re-surfaces.
I had some nit-picking issues with language too. The use of "flyers" as some sort of exclamation/expletive was so dumb. It doesn't work as either and made me roll my eyes everytime it was said. The other one was calling children "Littles". I didn't get that one. I know language can evolve quickly but it seemed like such a weird word to change, especially when much of their English was the same as today.
Overall, a disappointment.
It's a bit difficult to get into at the beginning because there are a number of threads to the storyline.
1/. Dr Leah's military backed expedition to the South American jungle.
2/. Carter a prisoner on death row
3/. Wolgast and Doyle FBI agents
4/. Amy a 6 year old abandoned at a convent by her desperate mother.
All these threads come together and result in the destruction of civilisation as we know it.
The next part of the story is about an enclave of people who have survived through the decades after their ancestors escaped on a train to a compound in California. Within the camp is a boy destined to lead a battle against the virals.
The writing style reminds me of Stephen King but a little more pondering. There's good characterisation and the story is imaginative. I will definitely read book 2
I found it commendable that the author eschewed the popular post apocalyptic trend of following a single male lead and having his female characters just be a long line of the dead/raped/damsel in distress /unlikely totty. Amy, Alicia, the Nun, Sara, the old lady were all distinct and strong characters.
The novel was very well written which is also unusual, the majority of apocalyptic epics these days are usually cardboard cut outs littered with clichés and poor editing. Not so this book which was a delight to read.
The virals I felt a bit blah about. I know apocalypses are generally unexplained but how can a virus change a physiognomy so much? How come the bunker crew caught the virus from the air but the 100yr survivors only from direct bites?
Overall I enjoyed this but not sure I have it in me to read part two yet and certainly not at full price.