Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Passage” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.69  ·  Rating details ·  8,465 ratings  ·  913 reviews
A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it ... the unimaginable.

Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can.

A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright, has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience us
Paperback, 780 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Bantam (first published May 1st 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Passage, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Natanela I'd say that's even more of a reason to read this.
Being one myself....…more
I'd say that's even more of a reason to read this.
Being one myself....(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,465 ratings  ·  913 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Passage
This book is kind of a beautiful mess. I can think of few other authors with the equal ability to drive me absolutely insane and keep me reading, usually with a lump in my throat. This is my third Connie Willis novel. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorite books of all time, a comedic farce wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a sci-fi novel. It is probably too long and a lot of the plot relies on misunderstandings, miscommunication, missed connections and narrative dead ends. Doomsday Book ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
2.5 stars. Connie Willis combines the idea research into near-death experiences (NDEs) with dreams of the Titanic disaster. A doctor develops a drug that simulates NDEs, and psychologist Joanna Lander starts repeatedly using this drug to attempt to confirm the reality of NDEs and the afterlife. Every time she takes the drug, she ends up wandering the decks of the Titanic, trying to stop the disaster. What is the meaning of this?

This book has some really intriguing ideas and an interesting twist
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: admirers of the written form
This book, about half-way through, does something one may not do half-way through a novel, and then continues, unabashed. I adore it.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
Ugh. I'm sorry, Connie, I like what I've read by you in the past, but I don't think this relationship can go any further. You have some neat ideas, and granted, Doomsday Book was amazing, but dammitall, your writing style is just too unimodal for me. Every single one of your books seems to be filled with this frantic energy of characters rushing around in a frenetic frenzy for several hundred pages; after a while, it just gets tiring. After the three books I've finished, it's just gotten old.

I l
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I will repeat my original review of this book here:

I cannot, in all good conscience, recommend this novel. You will most likely wind up staying up all night to find out how it ends, and I also don't think it's healthy to hold your breath so long as I did while caught up in the final chapters.

This is a brilliant, deeply engaging, philosophical piece of neuroscience-fiction that manages to ponder the Big Questions while maintaining an easy conversational style, numerous moments of both tears and l
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was trying to not give so many 5 star ratings this year, but after having thought a bit about „Passage“ I fear I have to go for another one of the highest ratings.

The novel bears the same typical Connie Willis trademarks of characters missing one another through bad timing, trying to hide from other characters, non functioning equipment or a misleading environment (in this case it is a labyrinthian design of a hospital with corridors ever so often blocked because of repair and/or being painted
B Schrodinger
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book made a grown man cry. Granted, deferring to my partner, 'grown man' may be too strong a word, but you get my point. I'm usually cold-hearted and cynical, but Connnie Willis knows how to press my teary buttons.

At the time of first reading this I had a great lecturer called Joanna who fit the description of the main character to a tee, leaving me emotionally invested in the story more than the average reader.

Moving away from me sobbing like a baby, this is classic Connie Willis. Magnific

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and beca
Ginny Messina
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
I can’t believe I read this whole book. I swear, every time I picked it up, someone had added another 25 pages to it.

I thought about bailing at around page 100, and then again at page 200 and even at page 300! But I loved Doomsday by this same author, and couldn’t bring myself to give up on this one. It’s about near death experiences and the Titanic; how can that combination fail to be interesting?

In fact, the story was interesting, but the book was too long by about 200 pages—-mostly due to r
Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist collecting first-hand accounts of NDEs -- near-death experiences -- at a Denver hospital. Frustrated by new-age Mr. Mandrake, who keeps getting to patients ahead of her and polluting their accounts with leading questions and suggestions, Joanna eagerly joins forces with Dr. Wright, who is experimenting with simulating NDEs. However, finding volunteers who meet the criteria is tough, and keeping them is even harder. Joanna decides she should be a subject hersel
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
"Passage" is a remarkable work from a remarkable author. I've read it at least twice and it still blows me away. Willis treats the great question of what happens when we die with humor and sadness. Her treatment of the subject of dementia rang especially true. I had visited my grandmother in the nursing home (many, many miles away) when she was very far gone with senile dementia. She was completely unaware of her surrounding. Some of the things she was saying were eerily echoed in "Passage." I h ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
It would be fair, I think, to say that Connie Willis has a formula. Take a well educated 30ish year old trying to solve an unsolveable scientific mystery. While trying avoid an incredibly annoying coworker/family member/etc, they meet a similarly inclined professional of the opposite sex who they join forces with. Armed with a general disdain for the absurdities of contemporary society and a somewhat uncanny knowledge of classic literature, they spend several hundred pages trying to piece togeth ...more
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book left me reeling- it forces you to confront your own mortality. When I finished the book, I literally just laid on my bed with my eyes wide open. I suggested it to a friend, but she it found it "too difficult" to get into. If you're up for a deeply moving experience, I cannot recommend this book enough. ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Connie Willis excels at meshing humorously satirical commentary on interpersonal relationships with insights into the human condition that are so true they almost hurt. In 'Passage,' Joanna Lander is a researcher at a large hospital investigating near-death experiences. Her work is complicated by the difficulty of interviewing people who are near-death, but especially by the new-age charlatan who insists on being considered her colleague, Dr. Mandrake. Much of Joanna's time consists of trying to ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I landed on a 4-ish stars (maybe 4.25?), partly because of things that aren't exactly the book's fault, like how aspects of it just feel adorably dated. I also find that even when I love a Connie Willis book, there is a distance with character feelings especially when it comes to romance. Which is fine! But I find myself filling in a lot of the gaps, re: the shipping and man the books would just be perfect with more depth to character feeling/romance...

I actually started this two years ago and t
James M. Madsen, M.D.
First things first: This is a spoiler-free review. And if you're considering reading "Passage," don't read the Wikipedia article about it first; that article includes in passing a spoiler for the most significant plot twist in the book, about three-quarters of the way through the tale.

"Passage" focuses on two researchers (Joanna Lander and Richard Wright) of near-death experiences (NDEs), on their subjects and friends (especially a sharp-as-a-tack nine-year-old cardiac patient, Maisie, and Joann
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
haven't read a book that knocked the breath out of me like this one did in approximately, like, an eon. cerebral, intensely emotional, + passages of airtight suspense. i feel like i raved about the last willis book i read, too. didn't i? (my account's nifty already-read backlog tells me that i indeed did.) yes, the author could've shaved off a hundred pages or three, and the har-har elbowed joke of a supporting character cast (all! of them! stereotyped to the last dotted i and crossed t!) got pr ...more
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
What an amazing book! As a huge Connie Willis fan, I had been wanting to read Passage for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. Willis manages to surprise the reader with every book she writes as she explores diverse styles and subject matters. She also has a talent for finding the comedic potential of the least likely situations. I don’t want to go into a detailed review of Passage so has not to give spoilers about what happens in the book. Suffice it to say that Willis’ exploration of Near Dea ...more
In Passage, two doctors, Joanna Lander and Richard Wright, team up to study NDEs (near death experiences), hoping their research will assist with reviving patients who are coding (going into cardio arrest). The scifi aspect comes in when Dr Wright comes up with a cocktail of drugs that replicates a NDE in a healthy person. In true Willis comedic fashion, the number of volunteers the doctors have lined up for the trial dwindles to such an extent that Joanna herself decides to go under and experie ...more
May 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
I cannot believe I am giving one star to a book written by Connie Willis. Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog are two of my all-time favorite novels--and I'm not even narrowing that down to sci-fi. But this was just a mess.

One of the recurring themes in Willis' novels seems to be institutional and technological dysfunction. In Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, this is kept within bounds and is mildly amusing. People keep missing each other, playing endless telephone tag, etc.
Apr 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
I went to the library to check out Willis' Doomsday, but this was the only Connie Willis book available...

There's a reason for that. It was awful.

The plot plods along and, as mentioned before, the running gags are not only referenced too frequently, but they don't lend anything worthwhile to the story. The cafeteria's always closed, hallways are constantly being painted, Joanna never remembers to eat lunch but Richard's lab coat is magically a vending machine, poorly written comedy ensues... yea
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Only Connie Willis could make me love a science-fiction novel about two doctors researching near-death experiences and their potential medical scope. The entire book is a buildup to a metaphor about life and death and grief, and when, about two thirds of the way through, Willis connects the threads and the metaphor comes together, the story proceeds in a way I could never have predicted, a way that's daring and gutwrenching and the only way she could possibly have taken her story.

Passage - becau
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, scifi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
This one of few books I have read that stayed with me long after I read the last page. The theme of the book that we come into this world alone and will leave alone echoed Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel.

I agree that some of the hospital maze scenes do get tedious, but I was white-knuckled as Joanna tracked down the NDE of her subjects.

The last few paragraphs are very sad and poignant.
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read! I have long been interested in NDEs (Near Death Experiences), even did a research paper on them back in college, so this novel was just the ticket for me. Are NDEs an indication that we are immortal or simply a physical response to the brain shutting down? We don't have those answers, but this book does a good job of balancing both sides of the argument in a very entertaining and engaging manner. Spoke to my scientific as well as my spiritual side, without ever being preachy. B ...more
I've read a few Connie Willis books now. And I've come to a conclusion. She's out to fuck with us. And she needs a better editor. The premise and core concept of this book are great. And I wanted to finish it because I had to know how it ended. But it was a torturous journey.

This book reminded me very much of Doomsday Book, also by Connie Willis, in that so much could have been solved by people just talking plainly and picking up the god damn phone. It felt like 90% of this book was caused by p
This 2001 novel shows the same sprawl and bloat as in her latest two novels, leaving me yearning for the slim brilliance of her slightly earlier "Bellwether" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog". Here she flies with a creative idea of a female psychologist, Joanna, and a male neurologist teaming up to elucidate why the brain generates a relatively common set of experiences in near-death situations. That an experimental drug might help research by simulating the patterns engaged in the "Near Death Exp ...more
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
OMG!!!!Finally!!!!!AFter all this time!!!!Whew!!!! Yes, this is my way of saying, "Holy Shit! This book was in serious need of a competent editor." 700 pages...over 16000 locations on my much unnecessary repetition. This would have been a good, to the point, great read at about 425 pages. The author was allowed to just go on...and on....and on...and on...exhausting! Also, way too much medical jargon. She had the doctors giving too much dialog about RIPT scans and all the different dr ...more
I don't know what to say about this book. I feel like it deserves a review, and yet I feel like it deserves better than I can give it. Passage takes place in those four-to-six minutes that start when a brain loses oxygen and end when the dying brain cells can no longer hold on ... and the person’s consciousness slips beyond the point of no return. What does one say about that time, that time which we all must experience sooner or later, and ultimately must experience alone, as the human mind str ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Discussion Questions 2 43 Jun 19, 2016 01:51AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Ha'penny (Small Change, #2)
  • The Death and Life of Superman
  • A Thousand Degrees Below Zero
  • The Wall
  • Howling at the Moon (Tales of an Urban Werewolf, #1)
  • Little Red and the Wolf
  • On the Prowl (Tales of an Urban Werewolf, #2)
  • Compel (Rae Wilder, #2)
  • Demon Girl (Rae Wilder, #1)
  • Immortal (Immortal, #1)
  • Blood, Smoke and Mirrors (Bad Witch #1)
  • Leader of the Pack (Tales of an Urban Werewolf, #3)
  • Run Among Thorns
  • Enchant (Rae Wilder, #3)
  • Forever (Immortal, #2)
  • Remedial Magic (Faeriewalker, #0.5)
  • Getting to 'I Do'
  • Sparta
See similar books…
Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer. She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.

She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards. Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground (August 2008). She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Ficti

Related Articles

  Die-hard mystery fans are always on the hunt for their next supremely satisfying whodunit. To help you stock that Want to Read shelf, we asked...
114 likes · 38 comments
“That's what literature is. It's the people who went before us, tapping out messages from the past, from beyond the grave, trying to tell us about life and death! Listen to them!” 1585 likes
“They say the dead can’t speak, but they can! The people in this book died over sixty years ago, in the middle of the ocean, with no one around them for miles, but they still speak to you. They still send us messages—about love and courage and death! That’s what history is, and science, and art. That’s what literature is. It’s the people who went before us, tapping out messages from the past, from beyond the grave, trying to tell us about life and death! Listen to them!” 7 likes
More quotes…