I do not usually write book reviews for this blog. It's true, but this particular story was so amazing that I had to include it not only on my goodreads profile, but here on my blog, among all the idol rambling!
Do not read this if you prefer to know nothing about books you wish to read. It doesn't contain spoilers per se, but it does talk about the plot and characters.
Justin Cronin's 'The Passage' was published in 2010, among the fantasy sector, which seems to have exploded in the last few years, it certainly stands out.
The first thing you notice is the cover, a mysterious looking young girl. She looks like she knows something you don't. This is a great cover and will entrance you to pick the book up like it did with me. The next thing that is obvious is the size, a chunky thing, going for over 900 pages. This would intimidate some people. Not me. The longer a book is, the more I want to challenge myself to read it.
From the first page I was hooked, you couldn't tear me away from it if you tried. The story starts with the background of Amy, the main character, and how she came to be about. Before the not-too-distant future spirals out of control.
This is a vampire story, make no mistake. But it is not your 'Vamps fall in love too' kind of tale. No, these creatures have been engineered and created from normal human beings. What could that have possibly achieved in the first place? The answer, getting people off death row, and conducting extensive scientific experiments on them.
The Twelve were rapists, murderers and perpetrators of horrific crimes, but whatever they did before, what they are now is much worse.
North America falls into disarray in the space of one year. Colonies are set up with high walls and people employed as 'watchers' - checking the outside for what they call 'virals' 24/7. If one creature gets in, the whole of the community would be doomed. 92 years after the main attack, in what was previously the Republic of California, at first colony, the lights that help protect them at night from invasion are about to go out, and engineer Michael knows it.
A crew that is formed of friends and family, and they plan to escape the colony after Amy finds them. To the right people, Amy represents hope. After all the sorrow they have endured, her arrival and meaning is seen as a blessing. However some see her as representing death, the outside world, fear. This divides the community, and starts civil unrest.
Cronin's examples of the 'mob mind' are excellent, and show how one person can stir up a whole community of people with the right words and actions.
The adventure that a small amount of the colony take, after they find a map directing them to where it all began, in Colorado, is inspired. Cronin's use of human emotions is deep and truthful.
The virals are extremely mysterious. Nothing solid is revealed about them until near the end. Even though they were created by humans, seem to be evolving and changing as the years pass.
And who is Amy? This quiet, precocious child who seems to live forever. She protects the group outside the colony, and never gets attacked herself. The virals seem to hear her thoughts. As do the humans.
The character development is fantastic, it flows effortlessly and stays true to that particular characters personality at all times. Amazingly accurate and believable circuitry and machinery descriptions really add to the story and are a big part of Michael's character.
As it moves along, the story gives little tidbits of future plot lines that are perfect for keeping you interested. There is an amazing, descriptive narrative that pulls you in and holds you there.
Even though the virals are the enemy, Cronin has a way of portraying them so they still have remnants of human quality. That even the main characters sometimes empathize for them.
As the group of people from first colony make their way across North America, they find pieces of what they call 'the time before' - cars, buses, photo's and more. The way they deal with what we know as everyday objects is just what you want to see. Wonder and curiosity.
Cronin's replacement of language, such as 'flyers!' instead of 'jesus christ!', 'littles' instead of 'children' is great. The loss of religion, because nobody remembers it, save for a few individuals, is also poignant.
'The Passage' is so engrossing that you don't want to stop reading it, but you need to take a break at times to let the massive amount of information sink in. It helps to flick back and re-read sections just to understand the whole thing better.
There are twists and turns in the plot that you just do not see coming, and things that initially seemed like they had a very clear meaning, end up meaning something completely different. Cronin's incredibly storytelling quality makes it easy to follow too. Even with the multitude of characters and stories.
I felt stunned, absorbed, in a state of perpetual dreaming. This book, this incredible story, transports you utterly, wholly and completely.
This book is about perseverance, unfaltering comradery and a dystopian future. Above all things though, it is about hope. Never-fading hope that can conquer all things.
This is my favourite book that I have read in 2011. 5/5 stars. I highly recommend this book.
What is your favourite book you have read this year?