Book Review: “The Passage” by Justin Cronin

"The Passage"Remember my post about how I needed to avoid “epic” while editing my novel-in-progress? While I may get a little overblown with story arcs, points of view and sprawling backstory, Justin Cronin is a genius at all of these things–he does epic right.

The Story    

“The Passage” is  a vampire suspense novel…but not in the traditional sense. You won’t find any darkly handsome, sparkly, charismatic creatures lurking in these pages. Cronin’s vampires are destructive beasts–science experiments gone wrong. Through infection and carnage, these creatures threaten mankind and civilization. With the help of a strong cast of supporting characters, the main character, Amy, is charged with the task of solving the problem of the monsters and saving what’s left of the human race. Unfolding over a century, with another book to come, this story defines epic.

The Review

I couldn’t put the book down. Toward the end, I stayed up until 2 a.m. on a workday because I was hooked, and then had to pull the covers over my ears so the monsters wouldn’t get me. It’s the kind of disaster that could actually happen; the story pulled a number on my imagination.

Cronin did an amazing job with the characters. They each had their own story and personality; there was no homogeneity amongst them. He drew out their character and purpose organically–one of the most challenging tasks a writer faces. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters, rooting for them to get through the nightmare and come out on top.

If you aren’t a fan of religious allusion, you might be a bit annoyed by some parts of the story. I’m pretty secular, but the biblical stuff didn’t bother me. It had its purpose. My only issue with the writing–Cronin uses the word “hardpan” about 5 million times. In case you haven’t already noticed, repetition is one of my little pet peeves. But I’m just as culpable when I’m writing.

What I Learned

There is little more powerful than a compelling character. This truth goes beyond the novel, of course. Just think about the television shows you most enjoy. If I don’t care about, or feel connected to, any of the main characters in a show, I’m not going to watch it (think 2009 television series, “V”). “The Passage” reminded me that every character should be strong. It’s all too easy to artlessly plunk someone into a story as little more than a device, but laziness is a disadvantage in writing; readers will pick up on it. Because the story often pulled me away from the main character for huge chunks of the book, the other characters had to be just as compelling.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel. If you’re ordering it on Amazon, be sure to pick up one of these as well.