Adventures in Bookland: The Passage by Justin Cronin
OK, let’s get one thing clear from the start. If, by any chance, you ever find yourself on a military appropriations committee and someone appears before the committee to ask for the funding to create a race of super soldiers that, by the way, happen to derive their powers from psychotic vampire bats, just don’t do it! Seriously, just say no. No, no, no.
This is the biggest draw back to the first part of Justin Cronin’s mega blockbuster vampire apocalypse: can you really believe that anyone, even the most jingoistic of patriots, would really say yes to such an idea? What’s more, after giving these potential super soldiers ‘the shot’ – distilled super vampire bat essence – these new super soldiers (who are all, incidentally, condemned killers just to add some human darkness to the vampire brew) all hunch up in corners, eating rabbits raw while producing rows of new razor teeth. Now, come on. Suppose you’d been mad enough to let things go this far, you’d still decide, being a ruthless sort, that the time had come to bring a curtain, a terminal curtain, down on all this.
But no. You leave it too late and the vampire super soldiers escape and – well, not to put too fine a point on it, eat the world (or at least America, the two being pretty well synonymous for the purposes of the book). And that’s just in part 1!
So, despite the slightly (well, completely) ludicrous premise, the story rips along and I really enjoyed part 1. But then, we reach part 2 and it pretty well all stops for about 200 pages. Yes, this new, post-apocalyptic world is all very interesting, but come on, do we really need to hear ALL the backstory? I think not. I have a life, commitments and lots of other books to read. So, I skimmed and I advise you to do the same. You can do so safely: I suggest taking a quick look at every fifth page, just to get an idea of what’s going on, and then continuing. The story does get going again, but it takes some 300 or 400 pages to do so. And then, you get to the end, and find that’s just the end of part 1. I mean come on! So, getting to page 872, or whatever it was, I faced a question: how much of my life did I want to devote to this story? Now, it’s true some stories can illuminate an entire life but The Passage isn’t one of those. I’d suggest limiting yourself to a week’s reading time on this one, while hoping that Justin Cronin employs a more aggressive editor for part 2.
The obvious comparison is Stephen King’s The Stand. Is The Passage as good? No. Despite The Stand being even longer (although it does finish the story within the confines of one book) at no point reading it did I start skipping – I wanted to read it all. With The Passage, I wanted to know what happens in the end, but preferably without having to plough every furrow along the way.