Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Passage, by Justin Cronin: Don't judge a book by its cheap lookin' dress (or try to make vampires; bad idea.)

The Passage
Justin Cronin
New York: Ballatine Books, 2010
ISBN: 9780345516862

Oh hey, girls and boys.  Let’s talk about The Passage, shall we?

I’ll be the first to admit that I wrote it off at first glance.  I was convinced it was some tricksy Hay-Zeus agenda book, masquerading in a mass-market paperback dress.  There’s no shame in being a cover judger!  That’s also not to say I’m 100% certain there isn’t some secret to-be-revealed agenda of a fictional religious sense, because at a short 800+ pages and a cliffhanger, this OBVI needed to be the first in a trilogy.   Persnickity snark aside, there is enough other stuff going on that moved this book from the supermarket checkout line in my mind and into an an esteemed position on my summer reading list (for the win!).

A recommendation from J.Hawesome, who knows what I like (I blame her for Outlander) and reads what I tell her (J - you’re welcome for Twilight), this is not a mere vampire novel.  It is part dystopian exploration of an decimated United States now afraid of the dark, part ethically and morally questionable scifi experiment gone horribly wrong, and yes, part beach book thriller.  My friends, I am no slow reader.  This book, no exaggeration, took me fooooreeever to read.  While I at times resented the fact that I was still reading it, I did find myself wishing I could find the time to hole up and spend some quality time with it.  I’d be lying if I didn’t start to work about infection myself when I caught myself dreaming about it, which is kind of horrifying, if you’ve read it (but I didn’t have THAT dream, phew). 

Because I’m too lazy to take this seriously in the same week I am throwing a pop-up book store (okay, a summer reading book fair), here is how I summarized it on my list:
 There is nothing sparkly about the vampires in this epic novel. After something goes
horribly awry following secret government experiments on human subjects, a plague is
unleashed that alters the DNA of humans to become horrifying blood-thirsty creatures.  Humanity is nearly extinct, but a few souls have survived, and may be closer to a cure than they realize.
In short, I put this on my summer reading list because it holds great appeal to kids of a certain type (generally those pumped to be reading huge thriller type of books; see also: boys), and is highly readable.  It is, quite literally,  heavy lifting (unless you go for a digital copy too), but it ain’t hard, if you catch my drift.   The main maturity requirement is in commitment, so I’d recommend it to really avid middle and high school readers, who can hang with the stiffs (ahem, adults).  It’s a fun summer read!

For those of you who are now obviously convinced from my awesome summer reading list blurb that you want this to be your hawt summer read, you are done (with this review), son.  Go and get thee a copy!

Let’s let the big boys and girls play with some spoilers now, shall we?

  • Let’s talk about Amy.  Specifically, let’s group therapize ourselves about how annoyed we were with her.  Remember how to talk again already, girl! I mean…what the flip?  That was some ice cold “forgetting,” Amy.  It was so, SO annoying, how you inconveniently forgot to be like “oh hey guys, I can solve all our problems with my Jedi mind tricks, but instead I’m going to spend at least 2/3 of my time in this book being an archetypical, creepy, girl with powers, who only remembers them last minute, because DUH – I have two more books to appear in, thanks to my creators book contract!” I’m not that disgruntled, I’m really not.  She’s just the most annoying.
  • Why is this talking to animals business never explained?
  •  Am I the only one who never felt the heat between Peter and Alicia?
  • Why does Michael NOT have a love interest when it seems like everyone else does?  It better not wind up being Amy (ditto for Peter).  Refer to that first point.
  • I totally thought several of the plot points would not be revisited.  I had loose end fears borne of prior experiences with supermarket mass-market paperbacks, okay? I was especially convinced that would be true of Galen’s story.  However, I was pleased that there were tidy bows, throughout!  Way to tie things up, Senor Cronin!
  • Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about that cliffhanger end.  I worked 800+ pages for that?  Seriously?
  • Can we talk about the how the library they stumble across is actually a lair of tricksy death?  Mwahahaha, here we librarians had you all thinking it was a place of knowledge, information, entertainment, digital books that are so, sooooo long….
  • Why didn’t I read this on the beach?
  • I’d really like a map of the settlement, ala the end pages in many fantasy novels. I kind of have an idea, but more questions than imagination.  How high ARE those walls?  Is there like…chicken wire over the top?  I have so many questions.
  • Let’s talk about one major thing I can’t forget.  You mean to tell me people are freaking out about dwindling electricity production capabilities, but have had an endless supply of light bulbs for close to a century?  You’ve got some s’plaining to do, Mr. Cronin.

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