The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of those books that you hear so much about and then decide, come on everyone it can’t be that good. Then you look at how long it is and think, wow what a commitment to read this one when there are so many others I want to read. Then you hear there is already a sequel and then the final book in the trilogy is out and you still haven’t read the first one! But you want to read the others so you know you have to read the first one. Then you realize it is a horror/apocalyptic novel and you know that right now, everyone sucks at writing that kind of book. Then you hear there are vampires or zombies in it or something like that and you think oh come on really?
But then you pick it up and, oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!
Special Agent Brad Wolgast and his partner are traveling the country, picking up prisoners and transporting them to a secret government facility. There they are subjected to experiments, experiments almost none survive and those that do, are horribly different. Wolgast receives orders to head to a quiet church and find a young girl that has been abandoned there by her mother. The girl is quiet and there is a strange calmness about her. For once Wolgast questions what he is doing and decides to risk everything to save the girl. But it fails and both he and the girl, Amy, end up in the facility. But while they are there, something goes terribly wrong. The prisoners are escaping and there is something terrifyingly different about them. The move faster than the eye can follow and they hunger, they lust, they need blood. Wolgast and Amy flee the facility and go into hiding deep in the mountains. But the prisoners who escaped, the Twelve, spread their disease across the country and soon, there is no place left to hide.
Nearly a hundred years have passed and society as we know it has fallen. The government is gone and the military is no where to be found. Small outposts shelter the remaining pockets of humanity. In one of these pockets, a place known as the First Colony, a young girl wanders in. She is ill and tired and she is the first outsider that the people of the First Colony have seen in generations. On her heals are the creatures they fear. In the young girl’s neck is imbedded a computer chip. It reveals that she is a hundred years old and her name is Amy.
A band of young people flee the First Colony and take Amy, knowing that the fear and mistrust of the people in the First Colony is dangerous to Amy’s survival. They begin their journey in search of a sage haven. But the creatures that are of the original twelve are never far behind. Even more so is the vestiges of humanity that exist, pockets that pose even a greater risk than the Twelve.
But for Amy, the young girl who has wandered for a hundred, she knows that within her exists, the power to yet save the world.
The modern vampire story, at least in the last ten to twenty years has been diluted to the point of vampires that shimmer in the daylight and play baseball. I mean seriously? So to find yet another vampire book, I am an immediate skeptic. But wait, not only will we have vampires, we are going to overrun the world with them like in World War Z and destroy human society as we know it. Then we are going to offer up a little girl who has the power to save humanity, and humanity in its infinite wisdom and Jesus complex, will of course respond by wanting to kill the little bitch.
So again, color me a skeptic. Then I start to read The Passage by Justin Cronin….oh shit….oh shit…oh shit….
There are some truly terrifying moments in this story. Moments when the rustling under your bed is not just the dog and the closet door in the corner does absolutely look like its a little more open now then it was forty pages ago and oh shit….oh shit…oh shit!
Amy is an awesome character, but what Cronin does so well and pretty gutsy, is that he makes her part of the scenery for most of the novel. The other characters, Wolgast and the kids from the Colony actually carry the tale. Their mission to save and protect her, even though they are not really sure what she really is, is what drives the Passage.
This one is epic and broken up in parts so that it is almost two or three books in one. This is not a modern day kind of vampire novel. This is a throwback to Stephen King and Salem’s Lot and the Stand. Or better yet, this is Robert McCammon’s Swansong and if you have never read that book then why are you even breathing?
The Passage is the best vampire novel I have read in years, perhaps because it is not really about vampires.
A really good read.