When it comes to mythological creatures there is one to me that stands leagues above the others. Though rather embarrassing I am admitting in this sentence that I absolutely adore vampires. I’m not exactly sure what planted this infatuation in me, but as I think back it has always been there in some capacity. Even to the point, my overall goal in life is to pen a vampire story that redefines the genre. Now I can’t even start to explain how bold or nearly impossible that is since even the thought would put me in leagues with Stoker, Rice, or (though not a personal fan her work is undeniable) Myers but alas I’m not here to talk about any of them. Earlier this year I decided to sit down and read a vampire horror story that was set to put the culture of the creatures back into terrifying. In 2010 Justin Cronin published a 766-page thriller simply titled The Passage, a story about a government experiment that went terribly wrong, an experiment that would change the face of America.
The Passage takes place across the modern United States as it follows many narrators. A single mother, two FBI agents, a weapons experiment location in Colorado a chemically castrated pedophile death row inmate, and a nun. This, of course, is before the 100-year gap that happens in the middle of the book that brings a whole new list of people you have to keep up with, and honestly, I think that is one of the best things about this book. Cronin expertly ties all of these threads together, weaving even more complex relationships in the second book of the trilogy (I have yet to read the third and final book as of writing this) but even with this note that alone didn’t launch this book into the light. Coming out of a trip to an isolated jungle area a group of Make-A-Wish cancer patients stumbles upon a virus that cures them of their cancer, this would be miracle is quickly countered as they all die but the fact it cured them before killing them was more than enough for the government to research and try to tame this new wonder. Naturally, the marvel of curing cancer was quickly quelled by the idea of using the strain as a weapon as military divisions quickly starts recruiting and experimenting with the virus. Offering a sort of clemency for 12 death row inmates they have the option to be taken to the isolated base in Colorado instead of heading to the gallows, these 12 would then be injected with the virus in hopes of controlling it, creating a super weapon.
This of course ends in the twelve escaping devouring every human they find until the only thing that is left is their brethren.
Cronin paints a dark fall of the US as we know it into an apocalyptic tale of the rein of the Twelve. It’s at this point the book jumps 100 years into the future and moves west to California. We are introduced to a new group of people as they live in a refuge of sorts, a small town with its own laws, its own culture, and belonging. It, like many fringe societies, has a fragile base that is twisted to the point of snapping when a girl shows up outside the wall. This of course turns out to be Amy Harper, though still looking like a child she is over one hundred years old and the only person to be infected by the virus and not become a bloodthirsty monster, it’s with her appearance another band of figures group up venturing out of California into Las Vegas discovering along the way the horrors some people have resorted to, to keep their small communities at peace.
The book overall is one I enjoyed quite a bit, there are times that the story seems to lag and slow but the tempo pace is quite quick for a book that is well over 600 pages, the action scenes are intense and interesting and every action, person, reason seems to have a thoughtful back reason for why or how any of it happens. It’s with this actually that brings one of my biggest issues with not only this book but the second as well. Because all of these characters are in some way intertwined through a past connection it makes the whole story a little bit too convenient. There are times you will have a small group of people traveling across the country fighting off these vampires only to find a long-lost friend at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Or find a note left by a brother tucked away in a trunk, it’s with this repetitive narration I found it annoying that all the puzzle pieces clicked so neatly, the vastness of it all just made it feel forced and illogical but even with that flaw it didn’t really take any of the curious joy I received reading the book. The world, the characters, the dialogue, and even some of the cults along the way are surprisingly complex and there are more than a few humorous moments sprinkled in with all the chaos. The book really reads like a massive cluster fuck leading to the end of the world as we know it than breathing a frail new one just trying its hardest to exist.
The Passage quickly became one of my favorite books and while I cannot say it was enlightening or groundbreaking in one way or another it’s just plain fun. It is a blast of a book written by a well-versed author and that alone is sometimes enough. Now the series is a trilogy and I have yet to read the third and final book but I can say (somberly) the second book, The Twelve, is fine but doesn’t really hold up compared to the first. I do plan on getting around to finishing the series up and I’m sure I’ll word-vomit something about it when I do but as of right now I think I will leave my overall thoughts on the series in this single post. As always thanks for the read!