Do you know how to finish a 766 page book in five days while simultaneously doing all your senior/last semester/probably most important homework?
Pro Tip: You don’t!
That’s why, in my case, The Passage is currently sitting on my shelf, resting its spine after a good, long read, while my pile of homework is currently so large that just letting a child look at it would constitute as child labor.
But enough of that, why don’t I talk about Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
It’s pretty difficult to talk about… literally any part of this novel without giving something away, but let me assure you that anything I do give away won’t be detrimental to your reading experience.
The writing style is excellent, first off. The guy really knows what he’s doing. It’s primarily set in an omnipresent third person point of view, but he focuses on a particular character for each section of the novel. What’s great about this is not the varied points of view but that that the varied points of view are believable. Cronin keeps his poetic and detailed style of writing consistent even while giving each character a unique voice. It’s a dynamic addition to this book that helps keep the plot driving forward at a steady pace.
Along with his third person point of view writing style, Cronin also makes the interesting choice to add email exchanges, journal entires, and newspaper headlines and articles to the weave of his narrative. In a way, this actually reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And that’s probably a good connection to make because (the film adaptation is referenced in Cronin’s novel and) The Passage is essentially about vampires (but more so about a world in which vampires exist).
This is probably the moment some of you backed off a bit. I can feel the incredulous stare you’re giving the computer screen right now. Don’t worry, this isn’t a book about finely dressed, pale men who live in castles, or sparkly fanfiction-inspiring teenagers with awful hair. No, the best thing I can liken it to are the vampires from the movie Priest: impossibly strong and fast, wild and bloodthirsty, animalistic. If you can keep that image in your head, you’re a little closer to understanding the world of The Passage. Even Cronin knows that the word vampire is worth rolling your eyes over, though. He goes to great lengths to very, very rarely actually call the creatures vampires.
The novel, although it begins in a setting that seems completely removed from what I am about to tell you, primarily takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where vampires rule the night and the main characters and the Colony they live in are bathed in sunlight by day and powerful lights by night. Oh, and the entire place is surrounded by a wall, for protection. The novel really picks up once people start to realize that the lights that keep them safe at night will not last forever, thrusting them into a series of thrilling events that only pick up momentum, right down to the last page (and even beyond that, since this is the first of a series).
The beginning of the novel is more of a history, but it’s difficult not to become engaged. In fact, cut it out of The Passage and that, too, could have been its own best-seller. So, even if you’re reading this book for the promised “wasteland” aspect of it, don’t be bogged down by the beginning. It’s not as fast-paced as the later, larger section of the book, but it’s still vastly interesting and, as it turns out, pretty important for the flow of the rest of the novel.
This is a story about a dying world filled with the last remnants of humanity, each person a sad mix of hopefulness, desperation, and fear. There’s something gripping about the world Cronin has painted here, and each character’s story calls out to you like a long lost friend. It’s very difficult to put this book down, which is why I haven’t done any homework yet, so….
I’ve got to go do some homework. You should go read The Passage!