I've been aware of The Passage for years but never had chance to pick it up - even though I have family connections to the Cronin surname (although doubtfully any connection to the author!). Recently the final novel in the series was released which prompted me to begin reading.
The book describes a highly contagious pandemic that sweeps the United States, turning people into savage, vampiric beasts (known colloquially as Virals). This outbreak is caused, as is often the case, by people meddling with things they shouldn't. The US military find that after being bitten by a wild creature in a remote forest, patient zero shows increased strength and reflexes. They use his blood to run tests on twelve Death Row prisoners and an abandoned 6-year-old girl named Amy.
The book is split into two main parts, the first dealing with Amy and the fall of America as the twelve spread through the Country, infecting as many as they can as they go. The second is set 100 years after these prisoners escape with only small pockets of civilisation remaining.
In this part Peter is safe and sound behind a walled community that uses ultraviolet lights to keep the Vampires at bay. Nothing lasts forever though and eventually Peter and his friends are forced to leave the community and find safe harbour elsewhere, perhaps even to find a solution to the pandemic.
The vampires depicted in the book are alike to those found in Richard Matheson seminal novel I Am Legend, seemingly little more than beasts with an insatible hunger and exaggerated strength. The author does a remarkable job in describing the deterioration of society and the world around those who survive the initial outbreak.
Most apocalyptic / post-apocalyptic novels I've read have either dealt with the immediate outbreak and resulting meyhem or are set sometime after. The Passage though does both, this works very effectively but is also part of the reason why the book is so big - over 1000 pages in the paperback I've got.
Thankfully though, given the authors talented prose - which can admittedly be a little wordy in places - the interesting subject matter and the well described characters, it feels like a book half it's size. It is however a novel that demands your undivided attention, there is so much going on that should you start to drift you are likely to lose the plot.
It did keep me gripped throughout - one of those books that encourage you to read well past the time you should have gone to bed / left for work / fed the kids. The characters are equally engaging, especially Amy and later on Peter. The story feels suitably epic, vivid and imaginative while the writing is confident with a distinct voice.
The Passage is simply a modern classic, it's deep and clever and crafty fiction that rewards your attention.
Written on Monday 2nd January 2017 by Antony Jones.
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