Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

24 Aug

We all know how it’s supposed to go, thanks to warehouses full of movies and libraries full of novels – when civilization ends, those who remain are left to scrounge together a living among the discarded relics of lives that were led, and proved to mean absolutely nothing. How the world ends – and this is actually what it’s about, isn’t it? We are selfish and have no real conception of ‘civilization’; when civilization falls, it is our own personal worlds that crumble into dust – is not really important; sure, the reasons are interesting, from a dramatic or scientific or mystical point of view (that’s aimed at you, 2012’vers), but what actually matters is what will happen after it ends. How will the people that survive the end of everything they know and have come to take for granted react, live, carry on?

This is, at its deepest heart, what I think The Passage is about; that journey from ‘this’ into ‘that which waits’, and how those who had the good fortune to survive make the journey.

First off – Justin Cronin is a man who will -hopefully, if he can stay away from natural or un-natural disasters, etc- probably become a legendary writer and storyteller. I’m not saying this lightly at all, believe me; I’ve read literally thousands of books since I started reading, from different genres, for different reasons, and sometimes, I’ll admit it, I’ve listened to the hype surrounding a particular novel and thought, “You know what? I’d be an idiot not to read that.” Not because I’m prone to hype, exactly, but because I’m, prone to being infected with excitement. Hearing about The Passage way back definitely piqued my interest, but not so much that I was waiting on tenterhooks for the book to hit the shelves – movies like The Road and I Am Legend were still fresh in my mind (no. I haven’t read either novel, but I will, one day) and with the whole population of the world (or very nearly so) having some knowledge about the Mayan take on 2012, the ‘end of the world’ or ‘the fall of civilization’ really wasn’t as exciting or interesting anymore. Sure, the movies I’ve seen about the End were all exciting and awesome for their own reasons, and there’s something strangely thrilling about watching the planet become a wasteland, or completely explode; but the fact of the matter is it had been done to death. From every conceivable angle. But there’s just so much more to this novel than what anyone expects – I’ve sold the book (I’m a bookseller, for those who don’t know) as a literary horror novel, but that, also, is just a fraction of what The Passage is.

But forget about the hype. The hype will have you thinking and expecting many things about The Passage, and it’s akin to being able to perfectly describe the beauty of a ray of sunlight entering a darkened room – you just can’t, or not as well as you’d like. The novel is stuffed, absolutely stuffed, with so much that concentrating on any one aspect of it is like looking at a pebble on a mountainside and believing it to be more interesting and beautiful than the mountain itself. It’s the same reason why I’m not going to give you my thoughts on the plot or the characters or the myriad rhythms and emotions and scents that fill the book – I’d be focusing your attention on that pebble, attractive though it may be.

All I will say is that I cried after reading the first chapter – not torrents of tears, but I was captured in an incredible moment. The last time that happened was with Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones, and before that, with Whiskeyjack in Memories of Ice. Yes, I am a guy who is not afraid of crying, but that’s beside the point. There are just scenes in novels that really affect you, and after 5 minutes of reading, in the first chapter of The Passage, I was crying. Am I saying that this novel is sad? For sure. But it is so much more, and to really give yourself a chance of catching even a glimpse of what The Passage has to offer, you need to allow yourself to cry when you read something sad or cheer when you read something awesome. I want to say that The Passage isn’t suited to readers who enjoy light reading material, but I hope that you, too, will give this book a try. It probably won’t be for everyone -no novel can claim that, or ever will- but a helluva lot of people will probably be swept away by The Passage – I was, and I’ll gladly admit it.

Justin Cronin is an absolutely incredible writer and storyteller. Fact.

10 / 10

For more info about the book and Justin, follow this link; to order your copies, click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK.


Posted by on August 24, 2010 in Reviews


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6 responses to “Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

  1. warhammer imperial guard

    August 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

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  2. Chelle

    August 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed The Passage and that it moved you. My overall experience was different. I was left feeling a little unmoved, I guess you could say, when I finished the novel. You can check out my review and share your thoughts on it at my blog if you want.

    It’s been at least a year since I’ve watched I Am Legend but I could not get it out of my head while I read The Passage. I don’t think this was a totally negative thing (I do like the movie). The premises were so similar and the vamp descriptions were very similar.

    As for The Road, do read it. It sounds like something you might appreciate (I hate to say “enjoy” because it’s a rather dark book on the surface). I’ll have to say I think McCarthy’s The Road is a more significant piece of work than The Passage. Or, maybe just more significant in a different way, and one that I enjoy more.

    Now I’m rambling…anyway, nice reivew!

  3. thejamminjabber

    September 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    A little hyperbolic in your praise. I enjoyed The Passage, but feel it’s a tad overrated. I guess that comes with the territory, no?

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      September 20, 2010 at 11:38 pm

      What can I say? I really liked this novel – it completely captured me and held my attention. 🙂


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