The Passage (The Passage 1) by Justin Cronin

Stars: 2 out of 5

I am a sucker for an end of the world as we know it book. That’s probably why I regularly dip into zombie books, even though finding good ones becomes a challenge. So the Passage was right up my alley. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a slog of a book.

The main issue is that this book is way too long – at almost 900 pages, it’s a doorstopper if I ever saw one. Which means nothing happens in a hurry. In fact, I would say that the events progress at a glacial pace.  And while that works well in the first part of the book, where the author sets up the story and introduces the characters, it absolutely kills the narrative later on. In fact, I spent 3/4 of this book skimming over endless descriptions and inept dialogue to get to the few exciting parts.

As I said, the first part of this book is the strongest, with the most developed characters and a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, it’s also the shortest. Just as we get to the end of the world, the book jumps 100 years ahead and introduces a whole new set of characters and goes into painstaking details to describe the Colony and everything that happens there (spoiler alert – it’s not much). So we get about 300 pages where absolutely nothing really happens. It wouldn’t be that bad if the characters were interesting, but they are not. They feel flat and one-dimensional. I didn’t care for any of them even by the end of the story. Even some of them dying just elicited a shrug as a continued to skim ahead. 

It doesn’t help that Amy, who is supposedly the center of this story and this chosen child, is a non-entity. She is more a plot point or a magical McGuffin then a person. We don’t know what she thinks. We don’t know what she wants or likes. And we don’t know why she is so exceptional in the first place. What differentiates her from the other Twelve? Why did she keep her humanity when they transformed into something else? Never explained. We never get to be privy to her thoughts and motivations. We only see her through the eyes of other characters, and half the time what she does and says doesn’t make sense. And no matter how much other people tell you that she is exceptional and important, I don’t see it. 

There are also so many threads introduced in this book and never fully explored or even used. Like the vials with the modified virus. Why introduce that as a possible weapon against the Twelve only for Amy to destroy them 50 pages later? And everyone acting like she did them this huge favor by doing so. In fact, everything this child does is treated lie gospel by the other characters, like she is some sort of messiah that can’t do no wrong, when nothing in her behavior supports that. That’s what happens when the author tries very hard to persuade the reader of something but does a bad job showing it.

My final gripe with this book comes from the heavy handed attempt at spiritualism. It’s implied that Amy was special even before the virus (the episode with the animals at the zoo). It’s implied that it was God’s will to destroy the world.  And for Amy to save it later. When? No clue, she sure didn’t do it by the end of this book, even after 900 pages. So we have some characters who do completely irrational things because they “hear God’s will” or “feel that it’s the right thing to do”… and other characters just follow along. If it was me and I was asked to follow somebody across vampire-infected country from California to Colorado, I would at least ask why. And the explanation that there is a 100 year old signal that is talking about a “her” that might be the kid that just brought death and destruction to my home wouldn’t be enough to persuade me. 

This book had so much potential, but I feel like it was squandered. 

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