I’m not really sure where to start with this book.
It’s monstrous. In the best possibly way.
Did I like it?
Yes, absolutely. I’m half-way through the sequel already.
Is it easy to follow?
Yes & no.
The plot is the yes. Essentially, the military create ‘vampires’ by unearthing a long-lost disease. (I’m not sure if paleovirology is a thing but it sounds cool.) The army think they can control their subjects and the disease. Yeah. You got it. Guess what happens…
The no? That’s twofold: the cast of characters & the massive time jump about a third in.
I mentioned in a recent review of ‘Salem’s Lot how I was struggling to keep track of a town’s worth of people. (I’ll leave the comparison of Justin Cronin’s style to Stephen King to other people.*) I have the same numbers issue here. Except a lot of the people in The Passage are related and have similar names. There came a point where I had to roll with it and think that maybe character X was Y or possibly Z or actually Q’s sister in disguise as TBWJzjsi7aaQ’s brother. Kind of. And that’s before we add in first names and surnames and nicknames…
And the time jump? Did I mention that?
The book is essentially a long prequel and main story. The prequel sets the scene – where the virus is from, how it’s released into the wild and so on. The story then skips approx. 100 years into the future to a band of survivors in the ‘Colony’. It was a big break and left a lot of questions about certain initial characters unanswered, people I was ‘invested’ in. There were moments when I felt almost cheated by not knowing what had happened to them. As I struggled with the vast secondary cast, I occasionally felt I was reading purely to see what happened to the original people. Some of my questions are kind of addressed later on, but there’s a long wait for those half-answers.
The story is incredibly well-written. There are moments of poetic prose interspersed with sections that are brutally simple. The nastiness within the novel was the latter: it’s clean. There were no lengthy descriptions of monsters dripping in adjectives and doing things adverbily to their overly-described victims. The scare was all the more powerful for that.
Partly because of the quality of the writing, there were a few places were the story seemed to jump, almost like a stylus on a record. A motive that I didn’t get. An action that made no sense. A monster’s inability to do something which I thought they could. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what those moments were now, but I remember them jarring.
To wrap up…
For those interested in apocalyptic thrillers, there are a lot of staples here: the hunt for food/ weapons/ safety & surviving government f**k ups. (We’re due a major one at the moment, surely…) Then there’s the banding together of the people who have fled the relative safety of their home and the resourcefulness they need to survive. It’s well done and there’s enough realism, hard luck and fortune to keep it interesting.
For those interested in ‘vampires’ (‘virals’). You’ve got it all. With a twist. References to crosses, mirrors (reflections), hanging upside down, blood and so on.
Would I have changed anything? Yes. Filling in the gap between section one & two. Book two addresses some of that time lag (brilliantly) and it’s nice to see some of the pieces slotting into places, but I think I’d still have preferred the story in order. By the time I get to the end of the trilogy, I may have different view.
All in all – a great read.
You can pick up a copy of The Passage here.
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