Justin Cronin’s vampire novel, The Passage, starts with a government experiment gone wrong and the world (at least the parts we get to see) has been completely destroyed by criminals injected with a vampire-gene who, with their offspring, have decimated the human population.
From the beginning, we learn that Amy, the 13th vampire and a young child, holds the hope of the world and then she vanishes from the story. From there, Cronin detours for much of the book to a colony of survivors. Since children and very few adults were allowed safe passage to the colony, most of the knowledge of contemporary human existence is lost within 90 years. Through the stories of about 10 characters or so, the entire history of the colony and founding families is told. There is equality in this post apocalyptic society but with intense structure to keep those within the lighted walls safe from the walkers.
We hear the story from many points of view as well as some journal entries written and discovered at some later date, seemingly many years past the current story. It isn’t until toward the end of the novel that Amy returns and once we walk outside the walls of the colony do we learn what has happened to the rest of the United States. Finally Amy is the central storyline, although we never hear directly from her. And in showing several successful colonies, Cronin is really able to explore what would happen if the infrastructure in US collapses.
This isn’t a typical vampire story since its combining the horror story of the vampire with the post apocalyptic world. A good part of this novel is setting up the story of a trilogy so it felt a bit tiring, especially when going into such detail about the colony only to have it destroyed when the expedition returns. I think novelists should focus on one clear novel before writing a trilogy and each book should stand on its own while complementing the others. Otherwise it sets up each novel to be incomplete, which I think happened in this novel. I think a successful trilogy is when at the end of one book the reader is excited to see what happens next, not frustrated due to an incomplete story. I think the trilogy, if Cronin can keep up the story, will be better as a whole than its parts.
Read January 2012