Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ is the first in a trilogy of novels about the end of the world via vampire plague. But there are no sparkling vampires here. No slayers. No blunt metaphors. This is a genuinely frightening story of a foolish government experiment that lets loose a horrific plague across the continental USA.
The novel spans almost 100 years, beginning with an ill-fated expedition to the wilderness in Bolivia, continuing through the stealth scientific testing of the newly discovered virus on death-row subjects, then escalating as the virus is accidentally unleashed on an unsuspecting world. After a 90-year time jump to the future, we get to follow the last vestiges of humanity, barely clinging to survival as their battery-powered lights begin to fail, just in time for hope to emerge from the desert.
Hope takes the form of Amy, the final test subject before all hell breaks loose at the military compound where the virus experimentation is occurring. She survives the virus yet someone retains her humanity. She is a ‘daywalker’ who does not drink blood. She ages, but extremely slowly, and is built much hardier than your average meat popsicle. There’s always been something a little… off about Amy, even before she is forever changed. The complex anti-hero agent who kidnaps Amy and delivers her for experimentation is also the man who saves her and keeps her safe as the world falls apart.
There is a touch of spiritualism throughout The Passage that might have rubbed me the wrong way had it been handled with less skill. But Cronin plays this card sparingly and effectively when needed, to bring an air of added mystery and intrigue to Amy’s plight.
As soon as I finished The Passage, I downloaded and started reading the next novel in the trilogy. That is unheard of for me. With few exceptions, I am a one-and-done kind of reader. But, The Passage hooked me in.
I cannot wait to see what happens next.
5 velveteen rabbits out of 5.