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"Epic horror" isn't something you hear of very often, unlike "epic fantasy" or "historical epic." But Justin Cronin seems to have done just that in "The Passage," the first book of a new horror trilogy that seems to be equal parts Stephen King and "The Road" -- a gloriously bleak, imaginative book that drags on in places.

It's honestly hard to summarize a book like this, since Cronin hops around between different people, different time periods, and different places. A little girl named Amy is left by her mother at a convent, only for her to be snatched away by a tormented FBI agent. At the same time, the government is attempting a new experiment that might wipe out disease completely and prolong life -- resulting in eleven insectile "vampires."

Of course, something goes horribly wrong. And over the century following that experiment, American civilization is ravaged by packs of vampires ("dracs" or "virals"), leaving the few remaining humans struggling to survive. The one hope for humanity against the vampires is none other than Amy, still a young child who shares a unique tie to the blood-drinking monsters...

"The Passage" is one of the most unique vampire books in years -- it's part military conspiracy, part post-apocalyptic tale, and part vampire horror. And best of all, it reads like a Guillermo del Toro story filtered through the genius of Stephen King -- no drippy "Twilight" romanticism or glamour.

And Cronin's formidable prose is up to the challenge of writing a hundred-year post-apocalyptic horror epic. He writes in a detailed, gritty style that sprawls over several different narratives, sprinkled with moments of poetry ("the spreading darkness, like a black wing stretching over the earth") and lots of ghastly creepiness (oh, the vampires!). The only problem is that with a book this huge, there are times when the story sags and slows down.

And as you'd expect in a true horror story, the vampires here aren't gothic hunks or sparkly bishies -- they're grotesque, glowing, insectile monsters that tear their victims apart. But they're not truly the center of the story -- Cronin uses them as the prism through which we see that mortality isn't that bad, and that the human spirit is indomitable.

"The Passage" is a rare bestselling novel -- an epic, slightly bloated expanse of horror, science and post-apocalyptic adventure that leaves you breathless. Justin Cronin just won the crown.
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Reason for Reading: As soon as I heard of this book, which was before any of the buzz or hype had started, I knew I had to read it as I love apocalyptic novels and this had all the ingredients that made it sound like a book I had to read.

First, all the buzz, the hype, the comparisons to classics in this genre and the talk about this book is true. I fell into this door stopper tome and became hypnotized by the world I had entered. I can't remember the last time I carted an almost 800 page book to the beach with me! But once I had started reading, I was trapped and could only stop reading for the very essentials of life. I have not read Justin Cronin before but this is an author who can write and I will be checking out his two previous works.

Essentially, this is the story of a girl who saves the world. The plot is so complex it is almost impossible to give a summary without writing pages but I'll try. A hideous scientific experiment goes terribly wrong and a virus is exposed in the United States. It eventually destroys modern civilization on the North American continent (the fate of the world is unknown), leaving behind scattered groups of survivors and horrible infected persons who have been turned into something no longer human. Because of their lust for blood and some of their habits such as death by exposure to light the media, in the early days referred to them as vampires and occasionally to the virus as the "vamp virus". However, throughout the book various groups have different names for the infected ones, most commonly called virals, and while some names such as "dracs" refer to vampires, everyone knows these are people who have been infected with a virus. In my humble opinion, this is not a vampire book.

One of the survivors is a little girl who was also experimented on, the last one. She turned out different though, she appears perfectly normal and a CIA agent rescues her where they then flee to the mountains and live a reclusive life. A hundred years go by and now commences the majority of the book. How life is being lead now with the remains of civilization around the new societies, living in a world where nighttime is to be avoided, using sources such as batteries but having no replacements once they are gone. This life can only last so long and one day into it walks a girl. A strange girl, who may hold the fate of humankind in her hands.

I just love this book so much!! There are so many characters and all are so deftly created to be complete, complex human beings. The world Cronin has created is amazingly real and is one that is completely believable of a post-apocalyptic society. His characters deal with real issues such as brotherly tensions, falling in love when it is not reciprocated and when it is, overcoming personal fears, and personal growth. The Passage is a journey in many ways. A physical one across land, one of growth personally for each character and a spiritual one as deep questions are raised and realized.

My only problem with the book is that nowhere in the book's description does it tell me that this is the first in a proposed trilogy. It took a little googling to find that out. So the ending is an ending but it is also a beginning and while I look forward to continuing with the story in the future I was a little miffed at first that the seven hundred odd pages wasn't going to give me a finite ending. My final word, though, is if you like post-apocalyptic books this is a Must Read as it will no doubt go on to become a classic.
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"The Passage" is a stand alone work by Justin Cronin. It is part fantasy, part sci-Fi/adventure and the novel is 766 pages in length.


A new virus has been found in the jungles of Boliva and has been brought back to the U.S. A virus, that when it infects a human, changes the person into a powerful vampire-like creature that has little regard for mankind or his wellbeing. When the infected escape isolation, the world as we know it, is in great peril.


Cronin has created a novel filled with intensity and intrigue. The story unfolds in a natural, unhurried series of events, yet there is virtually no 'down' time in this extraordinary book. Each chapter either continues on with some previous line or begins to develop a new tangent that will eventually link-up with the rest of the story.

The main characters are Amy, Peter, and many other supporting people, including Alicia, Michael, Sara and Caleb, all have the usual blend of strengths and them all very human traits. Great books always have characters that are memorable to the reader, (either in good or bad ways) and this book is no exception.

Above and beyond a good story, there was an under-current of human emotion and internal struggle; a struggle not only within the people in the book but also within the infected. And although the infected were not given a great deal of development, there where a few glimpses of some lingering human emotion in these hopelessly, virus controlled individuals. All this made for a book that was more than just another all-out action/adventure...there was a sense of sadness and compassion that added the book's overall quality.

Simply one of the best books I've read in ages. AND, I must admit, that having read a lot of trilogies lately, it was really nice to have a stand alone work to sink ones reading teeth into for a change. If your mixed fantasy/sci-fi genre lover, I'd highly recommend this work. Easily 5 Stars.

Ray Nicholson
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If you're anything like me, this book will not only keep you awake thinking about the characters at night but it'll keep you up way beyond a reasonable hour, reading "just one more page". I was hooked by about page 20 and couldn't put it down. It's the kind of book that made me wish that I had a whole weekend with nothing else to do but hunker down and read straight through to the end. I became almost anti-social once I started reading because I picked up the book in every spare moment, sometimes ignoring everyone around me because I just couldn't wait to read what would happen next. I endured too many groggy mornings at work after staying up half the night engrossed in the story. This is one of my all time favorite books, it's that good.

This book has been compared the The Stand by Stephan King and to some of Michael Crichton's books. I would have to agree on the comparison to The Stand because it's that kind of book, a long epic journey that grabs you in the first pages and doesn't let go. If you liked The Stand (which is one of my top three all time favorite books) I think you'll like this one just as much. I wouldn't compare it to Michael Crichton's books because I think Crichton's stories are more scientifically believable, and this one requires a few more leaps of faith on parts of the storyline. That said, it's a wild roller coaster ride with sudden drops, plunges and erratic turns when you least expect them. Just when you think things are going to calm down all hell breaks loose again.

In between all the thrilling action and tension, there are a lot of tender moments. I thought Justin Cronin did an excellent job of developing depth of personality in his key characters. They became people I cared about and that I was cheering for in some parts and crying with in others. It's a long book, almost 800 pages of medium size print, but it reads so fast that I didn't want it to end.

I avoided reading many reviews of the book before reading it. Just reading the basic description was a good way to go on this one. There are a lot of spoilers in some of the reviews that would have spoiled some of the fun of it for me. Reading it with little knowledge of what's going to happen was important for me on this one. (You can see, I'm really avoiding telling you any details about the story.)

If this book were a movie I think it would have an "R" rating due to violence, so while it might be suitable for older teens it might be a little too graphic for younger ones or for kids. I'm 61 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and plan of giving the book as a gift to several people of different ages in the future. The publisher noted that this is the first of a proposed three part trilogy. The way it ends leaves several questions unanswered, but still wraps it up enough to be a satisfying ending. I'll be the first in line to read the next book. Amazon, when can I pre-order Part 2?
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on October 21, 2012
I absoluteley could not put this book down! I probably have less friends now then I did when I started reading this book because I devoted every spare moment of my time to it!
I have never head of Justin Cronin prior to reading this book. I tend to read a lot of mystery/thrillers ie Lee Child.
After reading the decription of this book it caught my interest so decided to check it out. I was a put put of at first by the thickness of this book however once I was a couple of pages in I wished it was longer!
Justin does an amazing job of setting up scenes and describing his characters. He takes his time describing all of the details to the point where you feel that you are actually there! I am not a fan of vampire stories however I still loved this book immensely.
It ended a bit abruptly however that just made me want to grab the follow up to this book - The Tweleve.
I promise you if you pick up this book you will NOT be disappointed!
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on April 6, 2011
Imagine a future where secret government meddling has resulted in the escape of a virus that transforms most of the human population into vampire-like beings who have more in common with the alien from the film "Alien" than they do with Dracula, Bill from True Blood, et al. This is the basic premise behind "Passage", and it's a great read. "Passage" should appeal to both vampire fans and those who enjoy post-apocalyptic tales. Many elements of the story are not particularly original, but Cronin's depiction of the survivors' small community, struggling on yet doomed to fail, is for me quite vividly told and intriguing. This is the first volume of a trilogy and the author has successfully set up a very long arc (included in the narrative are documents from a conference in the far-distant future); it's a big order to fill but I'm hoping that volumes two and three will prove just as enjoyable.
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on July 1, 2010
Had a chance to read through this book and managed to get a copy at my local Costco. Regardless where you buy it, it's a woderful read. Justin Cronin has a unique talent with words. Throughout the book, you meet a number of characters which are constantly being developed through the story. You may get to the near end and forgot about a character at the begining on to discover how a character is well intertwined with the story. The story of post apocolyptic North America guides your through time and landscapes as Justin creates a new world and new (or no) order to the way we see our world. His story abuot a remarkable girl, wise beyond her years and the people who love her that will do anything to ensure her survival for reasons beyond their comprehension. Excellent read and I am looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy.
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on November 19, 2012
Finished The Passage last year and have been ranting and raving to anyone who will listen to read it. While it usually only takes me a couple of days to finish a book, I took my time with the book cause I knew I would hate when it ended, and it was the most amazing book I had ever read. Waited for what seemed like ever for The Twelve and I'm taking my time to finish it as well; I'm already amazed. While it is a work of fiction, the characters and the emotion are so raw and real. Though he tends to kill off my favourite characters and I want to cry and kick him for it every time, I love it. What we end up with is something real and not romanticized. It's a beautiful piece of art, and I can't wait to finish the series, no matter how sad and lonely I will feel at the end. Now...back to reading the book!
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on August 9, 2013
This is an amazing saga and quite the story. It starts in current modern time with some weird government experiment that goes terribly wrong and launches the world into a pretty scary apocalypse. The story moves along with unexpected twists that kept me reading and reading along. It also gave me a few nightmares and a new appreciation for our modern comforts. The author is quite good at building anticipation and fuelling our imagination with creepy expectations and yet, for all its horror, it's not too gory. That said, it's a big novel to take on (almost 800 pages) and, even though I'm very curious to see how the story evolves, I'm not sure if I will have the stamina to read the other two books (The Twelve, City of Mirrors) -- we'll see! I give it 5 stars (excellent).
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on July 17, 2010
I purchased this prior to all the hype surrounding it as I love s.f./horror/end of days novels. I sure wasn't disappointed. The "Passage" takes you where you may not want to go..... up half the night trying to stay awake not wanting to put this down for a moment. I found, even during the day, I was thinking about the characters and wondering how they were doing.... wow! It's by far the best novel I've read in years. I can't recommend it highly enough. It would make a fantastic movie. A great read by an inspiring author. Thanks!
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