Luke Devenish's Reviews > The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
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Jan 23, 11

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Read from January 17 to 23, 2011

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Luke Devenish Crikey, what an opus. Or, as the denizens of The Passage would say: 'Flyers!' I picked this up knowing practically nothing about it, save some good (yet kind of vague, now I think of it) word of mouth. The back cover blurb gives little away. I was lured in by it being an epic tale (tick), multi-protagonist (tick), heavy with intrigue and mystery (tick, tick), and redolent with the promise of something nasty lurking in the woodshed (big tick). The Passage delivers on all these fronts, but also delivers a hell of a lot more. The publishers have made a conscious decision to remove what's REALLY going on from the blurb. Any and all trace of the dreaded V word is missing, which was just as well for me because my hand would have strayed to another book on the shelf otherwise. A silly prejudice on my part, no doubt, but the vampire genre has become such a boring bubble just begging to burst. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing for an end to it. Hence, this is why The Passage is being marketed as something else, I suspect - something, well, a little ill-defined, frankly. But this is splitting hairs. The Passage achieves a fresh and very different spin on the genre. No gazing looks, self-denial and heaving boosies here. What I best enjoyed about this book is the truly gob-smacking shift it takes about a quarter of the way in. I can only call it radical - but its very effective, and it allows the true depth of Justin Cronin's vision to emerge. The new location and characters are a tad overwhelming to begin with, but the story hits its stride again after a while, once the action properly resumes. The subsequent story is TRULY epic, the blurb doesn't fib. The central characters' ordeals are considerable, their journey protracted, their stakes life or death. My biggest unease while reading was not whether everyone would get munched up by a viral, as they call them, but whether the many loose ends from the first quarter would remain untied. Mercifully, most of them weren't. There are several satisfying pay-offs when characters from the prologue start to reappear. Thank God for that. But there are still enough loose ends left over to sniff a sequel in the wind. All good.

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