The Passage by Justin Cronin

Out now in paperback – Published by Orion Books

I’m guessing that the only way I could say anything new or different in my review of the doorstopper of a book that is The Passage would be to say it was a bad book, that it was a terrible book.

But I can’t, because it isn’t, and so I won’t.

It’s also hard to say too much about its epic plot without creating too many spoilers (and I’ve read some reviews today which have done just that).

For that reason I was very pleased that I was able to get the chance to read the book before publication date to enable it to be unspoiled for me. I’d want everyone to have the same experience.

But, in truth, I think everyone will have quite different experiences in reading it.

By its very scope and size there is, as the saying goes ‘something for everyone’.

This is not a ‘Twilight’ but the mere mention of the V-word will have many a bloodsucker fan wanting to read it – and that’s a good thing, it will expand reading for a lot of younger readers into a bigger and more engaging book for this summer than they may have otherwise chosen.

The genre term ‘horror’ is something that would turn a lot of would-be readers off trying it, so the whole look of the book and the amazing campaign that its publishers launched was a superb piece of marketing – without having to resort to a drop of blood on the cover or the word ‘vampire’ on the cover.

The comparisons to other epic apocalyptic tales such as Stephen King’s The Stand are fair, as are the links to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but for me I’d also throw in Richard Matheson’s excellent I Am Legend and the fortressed new worlds we’ve seen in movies such as Mad Max 2:The Road Warrior.

If I had but one disappointment (and it was short lived I will admit) it was the first time shift between the book’s parts – when I suddenly despaired that a lot I’d fallen in love with in its theme and characters had gone.

But, as I say, it was a short lived feeling as the next stage of the book then continued to ramp up the action, the themes and add a whole new raft of characters to the proceedings.

Like many big genre books, it has its own language of sorts too, and I think I may start referring to my children now as the ‘littles’, and it’s to Cronin’s credit how few times the v word is actually used, with his use of substitutes of smokes, virals, walkers etc.

The whole setting of the new societies which have to spring up in the face of what is happening is well executed, and everybody likes forts and crossbows, right?

So, The Passage, a fantastical summertime blockbuster read that is most certainly not your typical vampire book and, as Stephen King has said, Cronin has ‘made vampires scary again.’

The fact that it’s nearly three times the size of an average book, didn’t stop me from reading it quicker than anything else I’ve read this year and, on closing the novel, could quite easily have started over again. It is that good.

Its not complex or heavily detailed writing, it is simply a good story and told as such.

And don’t worry it’ll all be too bleak – there are some moments of humour. My own favourite being ‘Movie Night’ – I’ll say no more here. Go read it yourself.

With the film rights already bought by Ridley Scott, I am nervous of what a movie could do with this material. Scott was superb at holding back the reveal of his Alien in that movie, but The Passage demands that he keep the full horror of the virals reined in for about 400 pages. I just fear that it could be a great novel spoiled.

So, what are you waiting for? Seek out The Passage now and discover it for yourself, because……

‘Flyers’, Justin Cronin has two more books to come in this series.

Keith

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