So my CBR9 didn’t go quite as planned. I took on a lot of extra work for my job, which cut down on my reading, and was sick for a pretty large chunk of the year, so I’m not going to really come close to the double cannonball I had planned. Still, what amounts to basically a one-and-a-half cannonball is nothing to sneeze at.
The Passage by Justin Cronin (4 stars)
I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the apparent fact that “only” 10 reviews have been written of this book in CBR history. I read it back in 2011 (probably), and it seemed like one of the more popular books at the time. But that was years before I joined this community, and the book came out at a time when Cannonball reviews were still relegated to individual blogs and the mothership. So it’s possible that many reviews have been lost to the vagaries of the internet.
That’s a shame.
Reading it again was a kind of weird experience for me. It brought back all the memories of that time in my life, which I’ll spare you the details of apart from saying that I was in a period of transition. I had left behind the only life I had known as an adult, and was about to take the road that has led to where I am now: marriage, happiness, and fatherhood. So I look back on 2009-2012 with some measure of disbelief and detachment, not quite believing those years happened, and not a little relieved they are in my rearview. This book doesn’t embody that time, for me, but it books, like music, can encapsulate the environment in which they are consumed. Reading this book again had a way of transporting me back there, and the memories of sitting in the break room at work (where most of its reading was done) were as vivid as they ever have been. It was an odd experience, jumping back into this world.
None of which, of course, really says anything about the book, but I was put in a faintly nostalgic mood, and that feels relevant. I suppose there’s something fitting about that, given that half this book is set in a future bereft of knowledge of the past, relying almost exclusively on half-remembered truth and the ineffable nostalgia of a life only understood through group-memory.
Going into this re-read, I had intended to only skim the book. Though I read it years ago, I have never picked up the sequels, and wanted to refresh my understanding of the world and its characters. Though I didn’t have a firm grasp of what happened in the book, I did remember it as one book divided into two mostly good stories. My intentions didn’t hold, though, and I eventually got sucked into the story…until the halfway point, when the story jumps ahead 100 years. I found the jump to be just as jarring and disappointing as I did all those years ago, and Cronin lost me once again. It’s a shame, because he’s created an interesting world, and is capable of writing interesting, if relatively thin characters.
The Passage begins a few years in the future (2018, I believe), and follows Amy Bellafonte, a young girl abandoned by her mother in a convent, and Brad Wolgast, an FBI agent tasked with recruiting people to be used as test subjects for a deadly virus found in Bolivia. These test subjects eventually lead to an outbreak of the virus, which causes massive casualties around the world. The story jumps 93 years into the future, and centers on a particular self-sustaining colony of survivors. Their community is beginning to disintegrate, and are under threat from Vampire-like “virals”.
It’s a great premise, if you’re into post-apocalyptic fiction, and it’s mostly handled very well by Cronin. My only real qualm is the jump from “pre-apocalypse” to “post-apocalypse”; it felt far too awkward and jarring. I suppose that was intentional, but having to start over in the middle of the book and get to know a whole new set of characters undoes all the momentum of the book.
I’m still going to pick up the sequel, though.
Paradox Bound by Peter Clines (4 stars)
After reading 14 and then The Fold, I’ve been on a Peter Clines binge. This seemed like the natural follow-up.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of each book diminished. I loved 14 and thought The Fold was very good…..Paradox Bound was, well, just “good”, I guess.
This book is about time travel. And, apart from a few exceptions, I’m generally not a fan of the genre. It doesn’t help that I had just read two books of cosmic horror by this author. I probably didn’t come into this with the right mindset. Eli Teague meets a mysterious stranger as a child. She then disappears before a hail of bullets and screech of tires. She shows up again a few years later. These two events leave the mark on the boy, and he grows up to be a young man obsessed with the beautiful woman he hopes to meet again (but probably never will).
But, of course, he definitely does. And he then meets a terrifying man who has no face, and he can’t help but try and track this woman down to save her life. Only….nothing is what he thinks it is.
The characters here are basically the same as the characters in 14 and The Fold (though I didn’t like them quite as much, here), which I’d be lying about if I said I didn’t find that a bit boring. But my real problem was just that I don’t really love time travel as a plot device. I can suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that an apartment building can have portals to other realms, or that Cthulhu is a real threat to life on earth…but the time travel explained here (while interesting) is a little too vague for my comfort.
My relative ambivalence to this book, though, shouldn’t be taken as advice to steer clear. It’s probably due more to having read two excellent books by the same author and being slightly disinterested in the subject matter. That’s less the fault of Peter Clines than it is poor timing on my part.