Yet another book from my currently-reading -list has revealed to me its darkest secrets up to the very last page, and I have a perfect reason to start a new one! (Now Playing: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova)
It took me about a month to read The Passage (2010), by Justin Cronin, but only because of school and other ‘more important’ things that forced me to pause every now and then. When I actually read I read, practically devoured the book, so into it I could sit on the sofa for hours just flipping the pages not giving a damn about the fireplace dying or homework… (Yet trying not to read too fast so that it would would last, but the fact it has ~950 pages helped quite a bit.)
You guessed it; I loved it.
At first, before I started the book, and a bit after it as well, I thought it would be more harsh. A total apocalypse, full of horrible ‘blood-sucking’ beasts (there’s not actually any sucking involved, the vampires – virals – just more or less rip you apart and eat you alive). But in fact, The Passage has a lot more to it than just that.
It has some romance, yes, but more on the likes of Forest of Hands and Teeth than Twilight. Love is not between the beasts and the humans, just the humans trying to find someone to hold on to in a world that’s already fallen apart, and in which ‘hope’ is not really a part of your daily vocabulary.
The book is more or less divided into two sections (it has several chapters divided into several parts, but for the content itself). The first is the Time Before, up to Year Zero, when things went bad, and the virals appeared. The second is about 100 years A.V. (After Virus). I loved the first part, for the whole depressive feel to it, the uncertainty of what was evidently going to happen. But the second part was probably the most interesting, as Justin Cronin created this whole other post-apocalyptic America, where cities still stand and things exist – sort of – but no one knows the actual meanings of things. Las Vegas with its casinos, for example…
The narration in the first part follows more or less an agent, Wolgast, who gathers up death row convicts for a government (or military?) experiment. He’s also assigned to pick up a girl, Amy, for the same purpose. They bond, however, and when things go wrong, he protects her like she was his own daughter, until the end. We also learn a whole lot about the virus itself, the how’s and why’s of the whole thing. The story here is situated in modern life, around the 2014 I guess, so it’s easier to relate to.
The other part follows the life of a colony (the First Colony) in what used to be California, a group of survivors who try to live a normal life, but who live within thick walls and at night are protected by bright lights surrounding the colony. Still the virals get in every now and again, and existence is difficult. Children are kept in a special building called the Sanctuary until they are 8 years old, to give them a safe and happy childhood, but once they are out, they are trained for various duties such as to be a part of the Watch, who stand the Wall and fight the virals whenever they get too close.
Things start to get ugly, though, and the batteries that keep the lights coming on at night are failing. A group of seven leave the colony, following a clue they think will help them defeat the virals for good – and at the same time to try and find out if they are really the only survivors, or if there are others, like them, out there. The rest of the novel follows them as they travel through American wilderness, either on foot, or by fixing cars and trains along the way, trying to outrun the monsters lurking in the dark, as well as some of their fellow human beings.
During all this travelling, the group learns more and more about the virus, about the Time Before, and, as is obvious, about themselves. Babies are born; people die; secrets are unravelled.
The whole of The Passage is all about puzzlement, violence and adventure. About the limits of what it is to be human, and what happens when you die. About friendship and family, and how far one would go to protect their loved ones.
For me, The Passage is definitely one of my new favorites, and I’ve already bought the second of the trilogy, The Twelve. Can’t wait to get my hands on it! The third book, The City of Mirrors, will apparently be published in 2014.