mark monday's Reviews > The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin
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's review
Jul 08, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: alpha-team, after-the-fall, horror-modern

when i read horror, i'm usually looking for: (1) cheap thrills or (2) surreal and metaphysical weirdness or, best of all,
(3) an epic full of dread and melancholy .

there is plenty of the first sort and so much of it is trash. but fun can be had with trashy things and i'm no snob. the second type can be a little more hard to find, but there's a lot to be had as well, if you look in the right places, especially the past. but the third kind, that's the hardest, i've only found a few. Declare, It, The Terror. and The Passage. in a lot of horror, i'm not exactly eager to slowly lose myself in the world depicted - the experience is often more like a rollercoaster or a fun nightmare. but that last category, those mournful sagas - they are my special favorites. i may not want to live in a novel's world, but if it is a world that is so carefully crafted and then grown, one filled with tragedy and sadness and coming together and coming undone... i find it very easy to get lost in those worlds. it is a great feeling.

so on to The Passage. it is an excellent novel, complete with multi-leveled characters, spiritual mysteries, exciting action set pieces, and the trappings of several genres (vampire, post-apocalypse, and in the first third, an on-the-run-from-the-government-style thriller). the writing is solid, well-crafted, and certainly in no rush. particularly outstanding is the depth of characterization present in even minor or elusive characters such as the scientist Lear or the child molestor Grey. the first third of the novel is pretty much perfect, tightly-paced yet generous with motivation and context, and featuring three of the most warmly written and sympathetic characters i've come across in a while: Agent Wolgast & Sister Lacey & Anthony Carter: fallen agent, unearthly nun, misunderstood criminal. the empathy created by the author for these three and the depth of their background stories... i just really was not expecting that and it was wonderful to experience.

unlike many other readers, i felt the remaining two-thirds were very strong, moving easily between a wide range of physical and emotional landscapes, from complex world-building to pointed irony to moments of eerie beauty to straight-up horror (particularly in the Haven sequence). although it could be said that characterization was a bit less rich in the last two-thirds, the range of emotions depicted was often on a wider and more dynamic scale - the reader is able to watch characters actually grow and change.

i appreciated Cronin's vampires. they certainly run against the current grain! although the threat of their bizarre, bestial presence looms over the entire novel, they remain enjoyably enigmatic and largely in the background. i assume the amount of attention paid to the vampire Babcock and his traumatic past (also very well done) will be paralleled in the sequels by depictions of the remaining vampires.

The Passage has been compared to The Stand; personally i think The Passage is superior. my only real issue is the very ending, which could come across as cheaply ironic and unnecessarily brutal if it wasn't clear that this is only book 1 of 3. i assume that this disturbing cliffhanger of an ending will eventually be resolved with the same sensitivity and grace brought to the rest of the novel's various episodic sequences.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 8, 2010 – Shelved
March 1, 2012 – Shelved as: alpha-team
May 6, 2012 – Shelved as: after-the-fall
October 4, 2012 – Shelved as: horror-modern

Comments (showing 1-50 of 50) (50 new)

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Becky This is an awesome review, Mark. :D

mark monday thanks becky!

message 3: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe Oh, man, I have to read this, and Declare, and It, because I dearly loved The Terror.

message 4: by mark (last edited Aug 04, 2011 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday Kaethe, you should definitely read them! i think they are all top-notch. they are all really immersive experiences.

message 5: by Kaethe (new) - added it

Kaethe Looking forward to them all.

Cathryn I can kind of understand why some people were dissappointed when it jumped forward in time but I liked that just as much as the first part of the book. I can't wait for the sequel.

I'll have to try out some of your suggestions.

message 7: by Antonio (new) - added it

Antonio the book is great and characters that you love and hate. these aren't your vampires but more like creatures. the end will have you begging for more. i recommmend this book to fans of horror, vampires, epic

Annabel Smith I'm with you Mark, i thought the characters were really well-written.

mark monday who was your favorite(s), Annabel?

Annabel Smith I really liked Michael. I thought Lacey was a strong character too though the part she played was small.

The character of Babcock was a really amazing construction, I thought.

What about you, who were your faves?

message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday Michael, Lacey, and poor Anthony Carter.

definitely agree about Babcock!

Annabel Smith Carter was a great character too, absolutely. I guess we'll meet him again in the sequel.

message 13: by Rory (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rory Williams There are going to be two more? Thank goodness! I hated that ending with a passion.

message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday the second one should be out later this year!

Cathryn October for the sequel. Can't wait!

Andrea Hollenbeck You are an amazing writer. Whet a great summary!

message 17: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thank you very much, Andrea!

message 18: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Wilde Im reading it for the third time Lish is def my fave !! Also i imagine the sticks to look a bit the the creatures in the film Avatar . Great review !!!!

message 19: by mark (last edited Sep 24, 2012 08:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thanks Kate. i need to re-read this right now, the sequel comes out in just few weeks!

Annabel Smith mark wrote: "thanks Kate. i need to re-read this right now, the sequel comes out in just few weeks!"

I'm about to start re-reading too, so i'll be firing on all cylinders when the new book hits the shelves.

Maciek Great review, Mark! I wanted to read this novel for a while but was skeptical about it because of mixed reviews. The things you enjoyed about it are the things I enjoy - especially your first paragraph. I think I will give it a try one day soon!

message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday i hope you do! the sequel just came out.

Maciek Thanks, Mark. Your description of the novel as an epic full of dread and melancholy is what I also would appreciate about it. Can't wait to see what you'll have to say about its sequel as well!

message 24: by Dustin (last edited Oct 19, 2012 10:18AM) (new) - added it

Dustin Maciek wrote: "Great review, Mark! I wanted to read this novel for a while but was skeptical about it because of mixed reviews. The things you enjoyed about it are the things I enjoy - especially your first parag..."

Hi, Maciek! You should give The Passage a go someday. I think you'd enjoy it.

Excellent review, Mark. I really liked it a lot!

message 25: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thank you Dustin!

message 26: by Dustin (new) - added it

Dustin You're very welcome.:)

Michael Cattigan Great review and I agree with everything you say!

message 28: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thanks Sam! Happy New Year! having just woke up, i'm pleased to announce that you have received my very first Happy New Year of the day.

Lizzy I am so with you on the depth of character in the first part. I found myself crying for Anthony Carter with the telling of how he ended up in jail. It's been a long time since I've felt so attached to a group of characters!

message 30: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday poor Anthony! what a tragic character.

his role in The Twelve is important and interesting. hope you read it.

Kelly Boskey I also thoroughly enjoyed this book. I usually don't like lengthy novels but this drew me right in.

message 32: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Very good review. A good points to think about when reading :-)

message 33: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thanks Megan!

Shovelmonkey1 Just finished this and moving directly onto the twelve!

message 35: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday yay!

message 36: by Siren (new) - added it

Siren Love this review! It's in depth, and you describe the foreshadowing, plot, characters, your personal reflection on the novel, basically your review has everything. Enjoyable, let alone amazing, reviews are hard to find. Usually people just bitch and bitch and bitch and trash the author when they don't have a creative bone in their body, and they know it.

message 37: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thank you Amber, glad you enjoyed the review. I hope you like the book! I loved it.

message 38: by Will (new) - added it

Will M. Weird that it's not categorized as horror haha Might give this a try soon, it's been sitting on the shelf for way too long. Although the size is quite discouraging.. I have a million more fantasy novels to read :/ Awesome review once again.

message 39: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday thanks Will! I loved this book

message 40: by Debbie (new)

Debbie toyoshima I loved the book, yes it was long, but it kept me engaged. I was horrified as I turned the last page and found that Sara's Chronicles ended with "I hear gun shots" and then that was all he wrote... the end.
End of Document - Roswell Massacre...

Is that the last book? or is there another sequel?

message 41: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday Debbie, there is a sequel! The Twelve. and a third & final book is in the works.

message 42: by Debbie (new)

Debbie toyoshima Thank you! i'll look for it. I knew it couldn't end like that. I was seriously depressed as I turned the last page last night. I found the book at my Y on the book table. I find a lot of really good books there =)I guess I'll have to order this one hehehe Thank you again mark.

Marcy I'm almost done. This book is consuming me. Not good bedtime reading. I felt positively hopeless as the Night of Blades and Stars was winding down. Stress dreams followed.

message 44: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday I'm glad you are enjoying or "enjoying" this great book! the sequel is pretty good too.

Marcy There is no Marcy. I am Babcock.

message 46: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday *shudder*

Mahalia Chalmers I just finished the passage, I am on holiday and it has taken over my life these past few days to the point I was even dreaming about it. can't wait to start the twelve.

message 48: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday I can't wait for the third book! I've read this one twice (just as enthralling the second time around) and will probably read The Twelve a second time before the finale comes out.

Laura I started reading this today and thought I would hop on to the reviews. Little did I expect to find you here Mark but I instantly felt excited that I did. As you know, my love of The Terror has led me to closely monitor your reading habits. I trust your good opinion Mark. I am ecstatic that you like this book.

Right, I'm off to finish it.......

message 50: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday I hope you like it! You've been wonderfully positive about my reviews of the books we've both enjoyed, so I'm particularly hopeful this book will strike a chord with you as well.

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