Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Format: Available in both hard copy and e-book formats
I know I’m late to the party, but yesterday I finally finished The Passage by Justin Cronin. The story is set one hundred years in the future, after our world has been ravaged by a deadly virus that turns a portion of the population into infected “virals,” who devour what they can of the survivors. The main protagonist is a girl named Amy, who has gained near immortality due to government testing of the virus on children, though she herself is not infected. Cronin stated that he got the idea for the book when his daughter asked him to write a story about a “girl who saves the world” and then the rest just fell into place. Yes, the 700+ page book fell out of his brain, and honestly, I can’t be happier.
There are a lot of comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand, but I can’t speak for them because even though I am usually a rabid King fan, I haven’t ever been able to get through it, though I will try again after finishing this book. For me, the story feels closer to that of Watership Down, my all-time favorite book, which is probably why I like The Passage so much. While the first part of the book takes place in the not-to-distant future, most of the story happens when a plucky bunch of survivors set out to discover where Amy came from, while also fleeing their colony’s impending demise. They travel a difficult road, but Amy, much like Fiver, seems to have otherworldly powers to keep trouble at bay. Eventually come across a second settlement called Haven, which looks inviting on the outside, but holds a dark and terrible secret, similar to Cowslip’s Warren. Even Peter and Alisha reminded me quite a lot of Hazel and Bigwig, but don’t worry, the story is still different enough that there are more than a few surprises.
Cronin’s book literally sucks you into it. Through his masterful world building, I slipped into this story as easily as a warm bath, knowing the characters as if they were my family, fully understanding all their actions and never feeling like they were being shoehorned into some unnecessary situation. I couldn’t wait to turn every page, even though I cringed to see I was nearing the end. Luckily, it turns out this is only the first book in a trilogy, the second and third are set to be published in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
While this has been considered the best science fiction book of 2010, the sci-fi part is really just a set up for what is a heavily character driven drama. You won’t find any advanced tech or mecha MacGuffin here, and even Amy is mostly a normal little girl. The only beef some readers may have with the story is that it does have a mild religious aspect to it, but I didn’t think the dogma was heavy handed. All in all, I recommend this book to anyone who loves immersing themselves into a whole new universe, though I caution that it might be a good idea to hold off until all the books are finished. I know it’s going to be a difficult wait for me.