AudioBookFans's Reviews > The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
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Jul 14, 10


Every time I hear a book recommendation from Stephen King it gets me moving. Either straight to the library, bookstore or to my audible.com account. When he says it’s good I can usually take it for granted that I’m going to love it. When I saw a tweet come through @audible_com saying that Stephen King said when you read The Passage “the ordinary world disappears” I was immediately hooked and I was downloading it to my ipod about 10 minutes later.

When I started listening to this book I admit that I was a little disappointed by the prolonged plot development. I expected vampires to be around every corner from the very beginning. I know it’s not fair for me to expect a novel of this size and complexity to develop without laying some serious groundwork but that’s how I felt after reading the reviews and all the hype that proceeded my reading of this book. What kept me going and kept me intrigued through this stage was just how well it was written. Characters were fully developed and believable and eventually you understand that maybe this “vampire” book is different from all the other vampire books you’ve ever read. In fact as you proceed through this book that is exactly what you will understand.

Cronin’s vampires are not the Bela Lugosi type. They are not descended from a long line of bloodsuckers going back to the time of Dracula. I think it’s also safe to say that the vampires or “virals” are not Bella Swan’s type either. There are no glittering vampires prancing around in this novel and from what I’ve seen so far it is unlikely for a human + viral love story to break out in any of the subsequent books in this series.

Cronin’s vampires have a very mysterious sci-fi/biomedical/apocalyptic origin that is brought to life through the reading of email correspondences sent by researchers who are exploring the depths of the jungles of Bolivia. An exploration to solve “the mystery of death itself” that is sponsored by the military. Of course, the expedition doesn’t go as planned and the virus is unleashed on the explorers.

Rather than containing the problem by dropping a nuke on the area the military decides to try and harness the power of the virals. What could possibly go wrong? The military begins to test strains of the virus in hopes of developing a mild mannered vampire that could be controlled and used as a weapon. As test subjects, they select from a pool of already mild mannered convicted killers currently on death row. I suppose the thinking here was that nobody was going to miss these people right? Maybe they should have selected from a group of people who had less of a blood thirst already. Of course eventually things start to go awry. The unknown powers of the virals result in a security breach that allows for their escape.

The only light in the darkness at this point in the novel is the mysterious child named Amy. Amy is a bit of a mystery. She was also selected by the military to be tested with the latest strain of the virus. The effect the virus has on her body is significantly different than what has happened to the other test subjects. Even before she was abducted for testing Amy had some mysterious powers that will hopefully be explained in the next installment of this series.

Shortly after the escape of the virals the novel jumps 90 yrs into the future to a time where the virals have basically destroyed the entire country. Small isolated communities continue to survive in this environment by relying on technology that was left behind by their ancestors. Huge lights keep the virals away during the night. Lights powered by batteries that are slowly dying.

Cronin paints an interesting picture of First Colony in the San Jacinto Mountains of the California Republic where the story picks up. Explaining their politics, frustration and general fear of the unknown. They live their life knowing that if the lights go out the virals will come in.

Jumping so far into the future and picking up on the lives of a completely different set of characters was a bit disorienting at first but you eventually forgive the author as the action intensifies. As new leads develop regarding the root cause of the virals a group of individuals sets out on a mission in hopes of learning the truth.

Their mission takes you on an intense viral ridden ride through the west into the unknown. For fear of giving away too much I won’t elaborate on any additional details.

However I will say that I can’t see how this series can be resolved in two more books. Even books the same size as The Passage. I loved every minute of this audiobook but the war against the virals doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to being won by the end of The Passage. Much work is left to do if humanity is to prevail.

I won’t hold it against Mr. Cronin if it takes six more books to finish the story instead of the predicted two.

Thoughts on the audio production: Well you just can’t go wrong with Scott Brick. It is no wonder he has over 400 recordings under his belt. I’ve read some other reviews of his narration on this book that were unfavorable but I just can’t see what they are complaining about. His narration was consistently compelling throughout the entire novel. His voice acted out all of the emotion that filled the pages of The Passage and totally enhanced my overall experience. I would gladly listen to another book read by Mr. Brick.

Overall: Did it live up to the hype? Yes. If you haven’t already go out and get this book. Understand though that this isn’t like other vampire novels you have read in the past. Give it time to develop. Early in the book there is groundwork being laid that is crucial for the rest of the series. Lastly you may want to keep a flashlight next to your bed.

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