Friday, July 29, 2011

The Passage by Justin Cronin


Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Passage is the story of Amy - abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions.  But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her.  As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape - but he can't stop society's collapse.  And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

What started off as a scientific trip into the jungles of South America turned into the end of the world for North America.  When they discover that the vampire myth is real, instead of running away, they all get killed except for a few.  One of those survivors was already infected and since the military needed new recruits, they decide to bring him back and use him to start project NOAH.  With NOAH they use death row inmates, shoot them up with the "drug" and turn them into blood thirsty monsters they hope they can learn to control.  None of these men had living ties to the outside world anymore, so when they are pronounced dead, nobody really looks into it.

Brad Wolgast, the agent in charge of talking the inmates into signing their life away, is good at his job.  He is able to find just the right thing to say to get these men to crumble and agree to the experiments.  When his next assignment is to pick up a six year old kid from a convent, he starts to doubt the mission.  On the trip back, both he and his partner, are torn by what it is they are being asked to do.  They don't know what the real goal of Project NOAH is, but dragging a kid into it, doesn't sit well with them.

It's only after he delivers Amy to the military does he realize what's going on.  Both the inmates and Amy have been turned into vampires, but in Amy the changes are different.  She only gets the immortality, not the blood thirst or physical changes.  When the experiment goes horribly wrong, Brad and a few friends do everything they can to get Amy out of there and to safety.

That one night of blood and death turns into a world ruled by the virals (vampires.)  About a hundred years later, there are only small pockets of humanity left.  The rest of the world has abandoned the continent to die a slow, agonizing death.   They work everyday to make sure the lights stay on at night and that they don't become the virals next meal.  This is the part where the book blew me away.  I was expecting a story that deal with Amy, not a large cast of survivors who I would grow to care about and hold my breath for when they were in danger.

This is a story about human survival and hope in the face of certain death and annihilation.  The small group of men and women we meet who are doing their level best to stay alive are wonderfully fleshed out individuals and I can't wait to find out what happens next.  I wish I had the skill to describe to you all the wonderful people the author created to tell this story.  They are an amazing group, without a weakly drawn one in the bunch.

I do want to mention that the other aspect I wasn't expecting when I finally picked this book up, was how beautifully the story would be told.  I didn't think a story like this could be told in such a lush, descriptive way that would move me as much as it did.  He was able to capture every moment, every location with such fully realized way that, at times, I felt as if I had been transported into the action and I could see, hear, and smell everything the characters did.  The author's love of what he was writing is obvious on every page.  Every detail is there, every character is fully realized, and every element I want in a post apocalyptic, vampire massacre is told in technicolor.

17 comments:

Karen said...

I read this book earlier in the year and loved it too. It's definitely one of my favourite vampire stories. Yet to call it just a vampire story really doesn't do it justice. The human survival story was one of my favourite parts too.

Blodeuedd said...

I just could not read this book. I tried but the beginning was soooo boring. 1000 pages of that, I just could not

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I'm feeling I should give this book another try. I listened to about 1/4 of the audio book and then stopped listening, thinking it just wasn't for me. So many have loved it though. Nice review Ryan....you make me want to reconsider.

Autumn @ From the TBR Pile said...

This was my most favorite book of 2010. The next book The Twelve is scheduled to come out next year. I can't wait!

reviewsbylola said...

This is probably my husband's favorite book ever. The wait for book #2 is killing him. I think I need to read it just to see what all the fuss is about.

Rabid Fox said...

I have this on my wish list, but for some reason I am in no hurry to get it. I think it's the combination of its size and the tepid reviews I've read elsewhere. I am going to have to give in and give it a chance though, by the sounds of this review.

StephanieD said...

Ah, so it isn't like every other vampire book out there. This is still on my TBR list but so far I've resisted the lure as I've read mixed reviews. But your enthusiasm for it is infectious - maybe a copy will somehow find itself stowed away for my upcoming summer vacay.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Very well written review, Ryan. This book was one of the "it" books last year at BEA. I'm curious but it's not on my top pile just yet.

Jill said...

I've never heard of this one. The length may scare me off, I haven't been having a lot of time to read and hate to confine myself to one really long book, but it does sound interesting. Thanks for the review.

Simcha said...

I had mixed feelings about this book. The beginning drew me in and kept me turning the pages until the middle part which I kind of struggled to get through but then the end engaged me once again. I agree that the characterization here was fantastic but I was frustrated with how many of the characters died as soon as I came to care about them.

LM Preston said...

I shouted out about your blog: http://www.simplystacie.net/2011/07/saturday-featured-blog-lm-preston/

Staci said...

Sold! I'm reading this one!! I think it's out in paperback so I'm going to get a copy!! Loved your thoughts on this one!

bermudaonion said...

I've read so many great reviews of this one written by bloggers I trust and I'm still leery for some reason.

LoriStrongin said...

While Amy sounds like a fascinating character, and I'm intrigued by the beautiful storytelling you mentioned, but I'm usually disappointed by stories with government agents and conspiracy government plots. So I'm thinking I might just skip this one for now.


Smiles!
Lori

Stephanie said...

I read this book last year while on vacation. I too really enjoyed the story (although have to admit that some of the book was a bit slow for me, and I thought that the author repeated himself numerous times). All in all though it made me want to read book two (whenever that is going to come out)!

Alexia561 said...

Great review! I've kept putting this one off because of it's size, but love your review and may have to give this one a chance!

stacybuckeye said...

My husband gave me this at Christmas but I've avoided it so far because of the size. Your review has me thinking I need to give it a go :)