Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Posted by Simcha 5:07 PM, under | 9 comments

When Justin Cronin’s eight year old daughter expressed her concerns that his books were not interesting enough, Cronin asked what she thought he should do about it. His daughter responded that he should write a book about a young girl (preferably red-headed) who saves the world.

During the next few months father and daughter discussed some ideas for this hypothetical novel until Cronin decided to take the next step and see if this was a story that he actually make something out of. The answer was a resounding yes and The Passage has gone on to become one of the most popular books of the year.

When I started reading The Passage I actually had very little idea of what the book was about. I had added it to my wishlist back in February, after hearing a rave review of it on Books on the Nightstand, but then I made a concerted effort to not read any other reviews to avoid picking up spoilers. All I knew is that the book involved vampires and a young girl (a combination that made me a little nervous). I also knew that the book had become immensely popular and by the time I finally got a hold of The Passage my curiosity about it was pretty intense.

At 784 pages, The Passage can be a bit intimidating, as well as a real challenge to lug around. Even after I finally got the book it took me a while until I felt ready to crack open the pages, since I sensed that this would be a book that might take me a while to get through and so I needed to clear my “reading schedule”. But once I did begin reading I immediately got pulled into the story and into the lives of each of the characters that Cronin so painstakingly created.

Cronin’s way of developing his characters was my favorite part of the book. Each character, no matter how minor, is fully formed, with back-stories and motives which the reader is allowed a glimpse of, even for those characters who are only around for a few pages. Even the “bad guys” will earn reader’s sympathy at times because we have seen the way their mind works and have come to understand them.

The Passage is also the first dystopian book that I’ve read which begins before the events leading to the apocalypse, or world-changing event, have taken place. All the other books I’ve read take place after the world,as we know it has already come to an end and we learn about the past through the current characters, but in The Passage we are actually there when it happens as well as in the future which results from those events. I thought that was pretty neat.

But while I flew through the first couple sections of the book there were other parts that took me longer to get through, where the pacing lags and the story gets a little dull, and in the end it did take me several weeks to finish it. By the time I came to the end of The Passage I admit to being somewhat relieved. While it was a fascinating and exciting book it was also unrelentingly grim, with few (if any) “light moments” which often made it a hard book for me to read. I wasn’t even particularly disappointed that the ending doesn’t wrap up the story in any way, I was just kind of glad to have come to the end.

My feelings about The Passage are mixed. It is an exciting, creative and well-told (aside for a few pacing and wordiness issues) story, but it exhausted me. Despite the fact that- for most part- the story had me hooked, when I wasn’t reading The Passage I didn’t feel compelled to pick it up again. And once I finished The Passage I didn’t feel the intense desire to immediately continue reading the sequel as I usually do with books that I have enjoyed. I’m not even sure if I’m going to read the sequel at all.

I would have to say that The Passage is a book that many people I know would enjoy, but it’s not for everyone. Since I have a hard time reading dark books for a prolonged amount of time I probably would have avoided The Passage if I had known more about it. But even so, I am still glad that I read it even if I don't continue on with the rest of the series.


How interesting that you especially liked one of the aspects of the books I especially didn't like, namely: "Each character, no matter how minor, is fully formed.." To me, it seemed like just as I would get emotionally invested in a character, he or she would be eaten! There were some inconsistencies too that I suppose are inevitable in a book that size. But still, I will probably keep reading when the next book comes out, because I can't resist a dystopia!

rhapsodyinbooks: I had actually debated with myself about mentioning this fact because I wasn't sure if it would be too spoilerish (can that be word?), but it did also make it hard for me to connect with any of the characters when they kept dying off. But this didn't prevent me from appreciating the care that went into the development of each of the characters.

I got this book for Christmas, so I appreciate your insights!

eh I do not know, the library has it on audio..I want the read deal. If it does show up I will give it a go, but not rushing out an buying

The one thing that got me really excited about The Passage was Stephen King's glowing praise of it; however, the size is putting me off. And my suspicions regarding unnecessarily long sections were confirmed by your review.

Tara: I hope you enjoy it. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

Blodeuedd: This is not a book I would recommend to listen to in audio. I think it would be confusing, with all the different characters. Plus it's so long. If you do decide to read it, get it in book form, though I'm not sure if this is a book you would enjoy. It's different from the books that I've seen you read.

Stephanie: I don't put much stock in authors' comments on books but I do think you would probably enjoy The Passage. The wordiness issue can easily be resolved by the occasional skimming ;)

I still haven't read this one yet, but it's on my must do list for the coming year.

I've got this on my to-read list as well, but the length does seem intimidating. Thanks for the heads-up on the dark aspects. I'll probably have to read this alongside another book.

As I'm permanently behind my Google Reader entries I'm glad that today I found the time to read your review. It fits perfectly because last week I received my paperback copy of The Passage.

I'm not sure when I will read it. Today I finished Vampire Empire Book One: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith.
It has been a great read. There are vampires in The Passage. But my next books should be without vampires.

After reading your informative and thoughtful review, I think I need to have some days off to enter the world of The Passage. Therefore I decided that Easter will be a good time for me to read The Passage.
I hope it will be a lot better than Under The Dome by Stephen King, which has been my most disappointing read in 2010.

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