kingshearte's Reviews > The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
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's review
May 07, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: 2010, fiction, post-apocalyptic-dystopian
Read from May 07 to 12, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not I really liked this book. There were aspects of it I really did like, and aspects that I really kinda didn't.

I liked the characters, for the most part. They were definitely well-drawn, and likeable in the cases where you're supposed to like them. I liked the plot, conceptually. I don't think that an experiment like this is beyond the realm of possibility at some point, and while it's not a new idea (an episode of ST:TNG dealing with the weaponization of people has one of the best endings ever), it's interesting to see different writers' ideas about what might happen. I liked how Cronin subtly placed this book in the future, but a very near, recognizable future. Jenna Bush is the governor of Texas at the beginning of this book, which I'd say places it a mere twenty or thirty years away from now, and that helps give it a certain realness that I thought was well done.

I found it too long. Although Cronin has divided his book into 10 parts, plus postscript, in a broader sense, it really only has two parts, plus an introduction. Introduction: the birth and early life of Amy. Part I: the virus's origins and spread, Amy's escape, and the panic spreading. Part II: Almost 100 years later, we meet a whole new group of characters -- survivors -- and see them try to save the world from the still ravaging virals. The problem with doing this, with jumping forward so far, is that all the setting up of situations and characters that you did for the first part becomes mostly moot, and you have to do it all again with your new set of characters and their situation. And that, frankly, really dragged the middle section of the book down for me. It started out pretty good, and once it got going again, finished quite strong, but I just found that the middle got really bogged down in the details of the politics of this colony, and the interpersonal relationships and drama, and it was all just very tedious. That said, by the time he was done, like I said earlier, he did end up with some very well-drawn characters, so it wasn't all pointless, at least. But I still think it could have been shorter. Conversely, maybe the first part should have been shorter, so it felt more like the set up for Part II instead of making you think this was the direction the story was going. That way you might not get quite so invested in those characters and that story, and screeching to a plot halt for the new set up wouldn't have been quite so jarring. I don't know. But in any case, the middle dragged.

And then there was the ending, which is what I'm really ambivalent about. Almost right up until the end, I kind of thought he was being too good to his characters. Every time we thought we lost one, we get them back. People and circumstances just kept aligning in just the right ways at just the right times to save all our people, and I found that a bit too unrealistically optimistic. And then you get to the end and he drops the hammer. They get back to their colony and find absolutely no one left alive. They've killed off one large group of the virals, but there are still millions more, and the half dozen people left plus two hybrids are supposed to somehow wipe out the rest of them? But the worst part is the last paragraph. The last section of the book is a record left by one of the characters who didn't go back to the colony, but instead to different colony at Roswell, with 30,000 people in it. And the tag on the end of that is, "Recovered at Roswell Site ("Roswell Massacre")". Seriously, Mr. Cronin? The last thing you want to tell me in this book is that pretty much everyone dies? Gah! It's just such an intensely depressing end that it's hard to walk away from it feeling too good.

There were also a lot of unanswered questions, like who saved Theo and Maus from the viral that was going after them? Did the virus spread to the rest of the world, or did it just wipe out North America? An author doesn't need to answer all the reader's questions, but when you've left it in such a depressing and hopeless position, it'd be nice to get some kind of closure other than "everybody dies." OK, apparently there are to be two more books, so I guess the lack of closure is OK. It's still a hella depressing ending, though.

One other thing that didn't make sense to me was after Alicia got injured, they used the Any serum to save her, but with the intention of killing her before she turned viral. But how does that make sense? If you're just going to kill her, what's the point of saving her with the serum in the first place? I did not get the logic there at all, but whatever.

Anyway, so what I'm left with is a book that had a lot of really good stuff in it, but that still left me with a profound ambivalence toward it. Would I reccommend it to others? I honestly don't know. I don't regret reading it, and it didn't feel like a waste of my reading time or anything, but yeah. I just don't know.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Mike (the Paladin) Thank you. I've been trying to cut through the hype on this one...huge publicity, a movie deal already, on and on. I have slogged through so many long pretentious books only to get this kind of "original" belly drop ending. It never occurs to publishers that this type of ending may have been original 4o years ago, but they've become common, even trite. I also found out this 800 page tome is the first part of a trilogy (Will he pull a "Jordan" if all the following books are best sellers? Will it suddenly require "more volumes"?) I think I'll wait to see the "epic" finished, if I live that long.

message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan I have a couple of comments regarding your Roswell Massacre concerns. First, the colony of 30,000 was not in Roswell, NM. It was in Kerrville, TX which is down in the hill country. Roswell was a large military post. So not everyone was killed off. Second, making too many conclusions about the notation "Roswell Massacre" is iffy at best. The term "massacre" doesn't really tell how many were killed. In fact it might be an incident that does not even involve the virals. And, as you correctly pointed out, the author had a way of NOT killing off characters.

message 3: by Chrism (last edited Jul 25, 2010 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrism I agree with much of what you say, but I think you are reading too much into the ending. First, Roswell was just a garrison on the way to Kerrville, the city with 30,000 residents. Second, I do not think it is anywhere close to certain that Sara, Hollis, and the other characters were killed in the Roswell Massacre. If you recall, Peter asked Amy what was wrong before they left, as if she saw something that was going to happen. Amy said she thought they would be fine because Sara was a good driver. That could refer to getting to Roswell, but remember the Humvee was destroyed before they got there and they basically walked into a patrol. Driving skill had nothing to do with it. I think the obvious implication is that Sara drives at least some of them out of the attack on Roswell.

Karla Yes, I agree. There are lots of irritating techniques in this book ("somehow he just knew what to do" UGH!), but one of the things I like is the legitimate foresight of the more supernatural characters. I agree that I think the driving comment refers to her getting them out of Roswell alive (at least it had better LOL).

Also, the serum/Lish, thing. He didn't use the serum to try to kill her. He tried to use it make her into another Amy (to save her; to counteract the "bad" virus). He thought it failed, however, so THEN tried to kill her with a blade.

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