Friday, July 2, 2010

The Passage

By Justin Cronin

Amy is 8 years old when she is abandoned by her prostitute mother into the care of nuns and Sister Lacey. FBI agent Wolgast is rounding up 12 death row inmates, people with no living relatives or connections, to take part in a military experiment, to be infected with a virus that not only offers immortality, but also transforms. When he is instructed to collect Amy, he struggles with handing over a little girl. He soon discovers she is unique and despite his trying to escape with her, they are caught. The experiment goes as planned until the unthinkable happens, and the creatures escape into the world, and create a disaster to humanity of apocalyptic proportions. Wolgast manages to escape with Amy.

Fast forward 92 years to a small survivor colony whose only weapons against the virals are light, blades and bows. Their society is sorely tested with the arrival of a little girl.

There is much I liked about this book, the fact it was a vampire story with bite, none of these namby-pamby uber good looking things in a gothic romance. These creatures mean business. I also liked the fact humanity is brought to the brink of extinction by its own folly - the search for eternal life. It is rich in symbolism, a chosen one, grail like searches and pilgrimages. It is very thought provoking and makes you consider how thin the veneer of civilisation is. It is a beautifully written piece of work.

My big gripe with this book is the sheer size of the thing - 766 pages. It is huge, intimidating and way too long. You could happily remove 250 pages of it and I think the story would have been far the better for it. It gets a bit bogged down which makes parts of it an exercise in endurance. which is a shame, because I loved the story idea, and the characters are beautifully drawn.

The whole thing is a bit I am Legend meets The Village. It will lend itself very well to the movie version, the rights of which sold for ridiculous amounts of money (why don't these things happen to me?) It is to be directed by Ridley Scott.

The Passage is the first of a trilogy of books, which is clear as it finishes on a bit of a cliff hanger. Overall I felt it was worth the read, but beware, if you start it, you're there for the long haul.

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