Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere – The One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years – she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.” (p. 1, ARC, may vary from final published version)

Now how can you resist such a first line?! It’s difficult for me to provide a succinct summary for this one, because it is such a sprawling narrative (Marie – The Boston Bibliophile – says it reminds her of LOST, and in terms of storytelling and scope I can totally see that, so if you love LOST, you'll probably love this). But basically, it’s about a top-secret US military project to produce super soldiers using a “vampire” virus that, of course, goes horribly awry. The first section of the book is pre-outbreak while the later sections occur some 90 odd years into the “North American Quarantine Period” (it is unclear what state the rest of the world finds itself in).

The atmosphere has more the entertainment thriller vibe of Stephen King’s THE STAND than the bleak, literary vibe of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. And while it falls squarely into the post-apocalyptic genre, I loved that there were a couple of limited-reach dystopian societies thrown in for good measure.

The central character is Amy, though we never experience the story from her POV. There are, in fact, multiple POVs over the course of the narrative and all are important from a big picture perspective, though at the page level it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

What I enjoyed the most, probably, were some of the details of living so long after a complete society breakdown. Obviously nothing new has been produced or imported, so survivors have to make due with stuff from Before. How long can batteries last? Canned foods (best by dates be damned)? Army issued MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)? What would you call blue jeans if you found them at an abandoned shopping mall and had never seen before? How would react if you saw the movie Dracula after being mercilessly hunted by vampire-like creatures your entire life?

I can definitely see this being a big hit when it comes out in June, and I WILL be reading the rest of the trilogy, assuming of course we are not wiped out by a vampire virus by then. Find out more about THE PASSAGE (and request a review copy!!!) at the publisher's website.

My Rating – 4 Zombie Chickens: An Excellent Example of the Dystopian (Post-Apocalyptic) Genre
See Index of All Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore

25 comments:

Melody said...

This sounds so intriguing! Will definitely add this onto my wishlist! Thanks for the lovely review, Lenore!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, you have got my attention on this one - I am actually even a little buzzy from excitement. I loved The Stand and The Road. What does it say about my twisted personality that I love post-apocolyptic stories? Thanks for the head's up!

Steph said...

I haven't really jumped on the vampire bandwagon that's recently emerged in publishing (and more) since Twilight broke out, but this one really sounds like fun! I admit to be intimidated by the book's large size, but it sounds like it's a page turner!

Lenore said...

Steph - It's really not so much about the "vampires" themselves. And they aren't ANYTHING like Edward Cullen!!

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I've been hearing so many things about this book! Lucky you for scoring a copy. Sounds much darker and intense.

Lenore said...

Katie - I have to thank a very special book angel for loaning me her signed copy and paying over $20 to ship it overseas!!

Lily Child said...

Wow! This book sounds amazing! I will definitely get it once it becomes available! :)

nomadreader said...

I'm so glad to see early reviews of this one. I can't wait to read it!

Steph Su said...

Whoa, a vampire virus? Sounds kind of like I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. :) I think I'll check this out, thanks!

Lauren said...

This sounds incredible, and your review has definitely got me looking forward to it. I even just popped over to my favourite online retailer to check the UK release date. Result: too far away!

Kathleen said...

It will be hard for me to resist something that reminds one of LOST...I am so addicted to that show. This one sounds like it would hold my interest.

Staci said...

I've never watched an episode of Lost but I think I've missed out on some serious fun. This one sounds excellent and I'll be looking for its release date!

Kathrin said...

Wah! You got your hands on a copy? I can't wait until it's out :-) It sounds so good.

Beth Kephart said...

There's such an interesting story behind this book—I knew Justin when he was a Philly writer writing literary realism, and have since had fun following his career as he got the mega advance (at first under a pseudonym) and career changing support for this very different kind of book. Yours is the first review I've read, and I thank you for it.

Jen Robinson said...

Sounds like one I won't want to miss. Thanks!!

sharonlovescats said...

*drools* I wanted to read this before and now I cannot live without it. I love dystopian books of course, but I also loved book with multiple povs.

Zibilee said...

I have heard Marie just rave about this book also, and after having read your review I am super psyched to get a chance to read this one. It sounds like a great book, and since I am a huge Lost fan, it will probably be a great read for me. I am really glad you loved it! Great review!

alitareads said...

This book sounds super creepy - and wonderful! I love those first lines. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this one.

bermudaonion said...

Sounds fascinating - I could totally see the government doing something like that.

stacybuckeye said...

I'm in the mood for this one right now, but I'll have to settle for ading it to my tbr list. Great review!

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

This looks like the perfect must-have summer read for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Kristen @ Daemon's Books said...

You had me at Lost :) I'm dying to read this book and I'm so glad I only have to wait a few more days now.

Chris brown said...

I wasted three weeks reading this. YES. It was a fun read. Yes! I could not put it down. But usually when people write books they have a little thing called an ENDING! What the heck did I read this for? I still don't know who Amy is. A nuclear bomb blows up Babcock? Oh how original. If Babcock dies why doesn't everyone else except Zero? They all have a slightly mutated form of Babcock's virus. And who is Zero anyway? Why does Antony bite the Nun and what happened to the other people Antony bit? Why does the old black lady see and hear things other people can't? Isn't she the same old black lady from The Stand? In fact aren't ALL these characters from the Stand? In fact, if you read The Stand, you already know how this will end. God did it! Biggest fing cop out in literature.

Chocolate Mom aka Blupoetres said...

First...clearly Chris Brown was sleeping through some of the chapters because a lot of his frustrated questions are answered.

I'm a total LOST fanatic and can relate to the comparison easily especially with the jumps of perspective and time.

Fantastic writing and story telling...can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!

Italia said...

The Passage is the first book in a trilogy from Justin Cronin and details an amazing journey, not just of the characters in the book, but the journey of humanity in general. The Passage is post-apocalyptic and will have you reading frantically for the first two hundred pages as the World is changed forever.

The first part of the book deals primarily with science gone wrong and the typical government going too far situation. But, while you may have heard The Passage is a book about vampires, it's not quite the vampires you may be thinking about. The so called "virals" are the bad guys in The Passage, but in my opinion they are not even the main story, just the catalyst. Though they play a large role in the destruction of the the world as we know it, the story really revolves around the next generation of people who have grown up in a world very much different from our own.