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This Summer’s Big Read: The Passage (and a give-away!) May 14, 2010

Posted by Galaxy in Book Reviews.
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Now, when I say “big read,” I’m not just using that term metaphorically. This is a BIG book–784 pages. And it’s a big story–the end of the world as we know it, and what happens next. It’s been getting buzz since the ARCs (advance reader copies) began to circulate among booksellers sometime last fall. If those of us who’ve had a chance to read it already have our way, Justin Cronin’s The Passage is going to be the bestseller of the summer.

I’d read Cronin’s novel The Summer Guest a few years ago — a quiet story about the complicated love of family, set at a summer camp on a lake in the woods. Though many of the details escape me at the moment, I still remember the enjoyment of reading the book, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a well-written novel with a good story and good characters. When I heard about this new vampire novel coming out in the summer, I didn’t even connect the Justin Cronin of The Summer Guest with this Justin Cronin.

Until I realized that they were one in the same person, I hadn’t actually planned on reading The Passage, despite the reviews, because I didn’t feel compelled to read a book about a vampire apocalypse. No doubt, some of you reading this may feel the same, and I’m not going to say it’s for everyone. But. The same novelist who wrote a lovely story about a family at a camp has taken his writing talent and skillfully applied it to a new genre–and what a book he’s written.

Cronin has been quoted as saying that he wrote The Passage in response to his daughter’s request that he write a story about a girl who saves the world. That girl is Amy, an orphaned child kidnapped by FBI agents as the final test subject for a virus that is being studied in a top-secret bunker–a virus that has the potential to cure disease and lengthen life indefinitely. I’m sure you can guess how that will turn out.  The virus turns people into monsters with a bottomless hunger for blood. These are not your sparkly vampires, or your hypnotic-eyed caped counts; these are creatures that embody fear and violent, horrible death. The virus spreads through blood, which means that those victims who are not killed join the ranks of the “virals,” as they are called. Their strength, speed, and numbers quickly overrun the country, leaving a veritable wasteland in its place.

The one chance of salvation lies in Amy, who is rescued by one of the same agents who kidnapped her, from the facility where she is being held. Her response to the virus is not the same as that of the infected adults–though she develops an aversion to sunlight and seems to sense the thoughts and movements of the virals, she is not one of them. In that fact lies a glimmer of hope that the human race may still be saved.

This book is bound to be compared to The Stand, and Stephen King’s high praise, printed large on the back cover, will enforce that comparison: “Every so often a novel-reader’s novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination.”

While The Passage has all of the elements of your typical apocalyptic story (our government makes a hubristic attempt to harness an unknown element that ends up destroying life as we know it, etc.) I promise you that the care with which this story and its characters have been crafted elevate it from the ranks of run-of-the-mill, direct-to-mass-market* territory.

Just one more note (some might view it as a MILD SPOILER, but I was glad to have the information in advance) – there is a cliffhanger ending. I’m anticipating the sequel already!

Intrigued? Here’s your chance to win my dog-eared ARC, before the book is available in stores:

Leave a comment here, between today and Tuesday, May 18 . We’ll choose a winner at random from the comments.

Or, if you don’t want to take a chance with luck, Pre-order your copy today! (Available June 8)

For more about The Passage:

Justin Cronin’s website

Find Subject Zero

*In case you’re not familiar with the term, mass market is the small, fat type of paperback often associated with romances and thrillers found in the supermarket. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


1. Amy Shopland - May 15, 2010

Sounds like a great read!

2. Kate Tagai - May 17, 2010

784 pages and it is a cliff hanger? Is this an epic along the Lord of the RIngs/Harry Potter line? Is this one of those books that captures you, drags you in and then leaves you for years while the sequel is written? It sounds like it has real potential. I can’t say im sold to run out and buy it though, but only because you mentioned Vampires. I’m anti vampire.

Galaxy - May 17, 2010

I know, I know – I didn’t want to read a vampire novel either, but this one is different. For one thing, no one’s falling in love with these vampires. The ending is a cliffhanger, in a sense–you know that the characters are on the edge of something really big happening. On the other hand, I wasn’t left gasping, needing to know what happens next!! Of course, after 784 pages, I may have been simply exhausted…Still, I will definitely read the sequel, if there is one.

3. Lisa - June 16, 2010

Five days from summer solstice and It’s one 50-degree morning in Maine. Is that a sufficiently random comment?

Galaxy - June 16, 2010

Certainly sufficient, but unfortunately too late =( Thank you for reading, though!

4. Amy Shopland - July 30, 2010

I’m 10 pages from the end, part of me doesn’t want it to be over! I put off reading it for a bit (started it the beginning of July), but I have enjoyed every minute and can’t stand stopping! There have been many late nights of reading with this one. Thank you so much for the book!

Galaxy - July 30, 2010

Your welcome! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it =) I hear the next one will be out in 2012–kind of a long wait.

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