Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Justin Cronin – The Passage

The army was conducting experiments in trying to lengthen life span and improve the healing capabilities of the human body. Instead what they created turned the test people into ferocious vampire type creatures who managed to escape and kill or infect people with the virus. The survivors end up living in a walled encampment surrounded by bright lights to keep the creatures away. A girl called Amy holds the key to survival.

I had been looking forward to reading The Passage as I love post-apocalyptic fiction and the comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand along with praise from Stephen King himself all added to the appeal so when it arrived it jumped straight to the top of my to read pile.

Personally I didn’t think that the book was very much like The Stand (the cause of the apocalypse is a man made virus, the book is quite long, there’s an old woman in it and a band of survivors travelling together for a common purpose are pretty much the main similarities although most of these could be said about a lot of post-apocalyptic books). If I was going to compare it to anything I’d suggest Swan Song by Robert R McCammon but I think comparisons are generally pretty pointless, I’d rather look at books in their own right.

The Passage has two distinct sections. The first covering the cause of the virus and it’s leak into society which tales up about a third of the book and the second section which covered the aftermath and follows the survivors almost one hundred years afterwards which takes up the rest of the book. I have seen several reviews saying that they loved the first part but not the second so much but personally I really liked it all. It was really interesting to read about how the virus came about and it was equally interesting to read about the survivors and how their lives are almost one hundred years on and their quest to save themselves.

I liked the story and the style in which it was written which included a variety of different types of writing including first person, third person, diary entries and emails which I think all worked well together and added to the reading experience.

There is quite a large cast of characters most of whom were memorable and easy to distinguish between (I did have to remind myself who a couple of the scientist / government characters were in the first part of the book but apart from that I found them easy to keep track of). The band of survivors in particular are very interesting and likeable and I very much enjoyed reading about them. There are s few characters who I think are pretty much safe but at the same time Justin Cronin is not afraid to kill off other important characters which I like, it keeps the reader on their toes knowing that one of their favourite characters could die at any given moment.

The Passage is apparently the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure what to make of that really. I think the book works perfectly in it’s own right, it doesn’t need anything more. At the end the situation is not all tied up nice and neatly but that doesn’t matter, most of the human race has been wiped out that does not make for a nice neat ending. There are unanswered questions but I am not a person who needs all the answers, sometimes it’s nice just to have something to think about and wonder and to be honest I’m not sure how another two books could be filled (especially if they are anywhere near as long as The Passage is) but then perhaps that’s why I’m a reader and not a writer! I will of course read the next book and I’ll probably really enjoy it (I liked the sample chapter that was included in the back of this book) but I don’t think that a sequel is in any way needed.

I liked reading the afterward of the book about how Justin Cronin wrote The Passage. I also like the inclusion of the recommended reading list as well, I have read quite a few of the books on that list already but will look into some more of them at some point.

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