Erin (PT)'s Reviews > The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
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Jul 09, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, apoc-post-apoc, horror, mind-powers, poc, vamps, zombies
Read from July 09 to 21, 2010

I'm still chewing on what I think about The Passage and I think it's a book I'll be thinking about for a while to come. Which may mean that it should get a higher rating from me, but, despite Cronin's impressive writing skills, some of his choices leave me at the end wondering, "Well, what was the point of all that?"

Which is not to say that a story needs to have a point other than its own telling, but the vague spirituality and musings on God and fate that permeate the books serve to make me feel like there is supposed to be a point...and that, at the end of the day, I'm just not getting what it is.

What I liked most about the book is that, though I might have been able to see a curve or two ahead in the narrative road, I never felt certain about where Cronin was steering the overall story. I had no idea what his endgame was until he was unveiling it and, even then, it wasn't entirely what I was expecting. Unpredictability gets an author high marks in my book, because it's seldom that an author can keep me guessing in this way.

Though it felt a little naive/idealistic in small ways, I also really liked the way race and gender were handled in the book. The gender politics gave a nod to the realities and difficulties of being a female in a dwindling, post-apocalyptic society without robbing them of agency or representation and the text gave a variety of female characterization to choose from. Race was present and equally varietal, but uncommented upon, simply part of the reality.

My biggest complaints are probably the aforementioned vague spirituality that informs the book and the unwieldy drag of the ending, leading to a postscript that, besides being personally unsatisfying, also, I felt, detracted from the overall narrative, leaving me with that cloudy feeling of, "What was the point, then?"

Overall, a meaty and fascinating read, by an undeniable talent, but I don't feel like Cronin stuck the landing.
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Caroline  It really felt like the book built up to a big climax, then kept going for a while and then suddenly stopped.
Odd. And the spiritual/religious aspects of the book -- whether they were supposed to reflect the author's philosophy or were intended more as symbols -- didn't really work for me either. When he got down to actual story telling or character, though, and these glimpses of different possible societies, I thought it was really compelling.

Erin (PT) I have a feeling that at least some of that is that this is the first book of a trilogy, a fact I didn't find out until after finishing it. But I agree completely with you.

Caroline  Heh, I think the main difference between fantasy that is published as genre and fantasy that is published as literary is that they don't TELL you the literary fantasy is going to have a sequel until after you've read it. (Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" has similar issues.) But I'm actually glad to hear that because there were some things that I was waiting for the book to address (what happened to Carter? what's up with that town in Oklahoma) that never happened.

Obviously, I will read whatever happens next even if I bitch about it ;).

Andre I hate you for making me read this.

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