I know. This book was pretty vastly hyped. At least hyped in the circles I travel in. Fine sure. Whatever. So it's mostly just The Post-Apocalyptic Forums and the Apocalypse Whenever group at Goodreads.com and the Post-Apocalyptic Community. The point being that amongst those rather vocal groups for the longest time it was all The Passage all the time. How great it was. That the movie rights had been purchased after an intense bidding war even before the book had even been released. Even Time Magazine succumbed to a bout of bandwagon jumping as it proclaimed The Passage to be the sixth best PA of all time (right between The Drowned World by G J Ballard and World War Z by Max Brooks). This was written the very day the book hit the shelves mind you. Soon after that many of my 'tweeps' began to write what could only be called 140 character love letters to Cronin. The final straw was that Megaton decided to 'book-club' it. So that being the case I was forced to begin reading it before most of it became ruined for me.
As some more observant readers may know I recently finished up my master's degree. My wife's grandmother who thinks I'm a pretty awesome guy gave me something like 30 bucks. Yes now I'm certain of it. Thirty dollars. I spent a portion of that money to get The Passage. There was a couple other books I wanted to get to before I read The Passage but not wanting it spoiled and because I grew tired of skipping over post in various places that mentioned the book in any way. So I finally knuckled under and did it.
This post will be spoiler free don't worry. I wont be 'that guy'. Without giving too much away I'll simply say this book is broken into two distinct but unequal part. The first part deals with the gathering of some individuals. It also deals with the background of the virus itself. The second part is much longer. In a move that made my head spin Cronin moved the narrative into the future. It deals with how the people live a hundred years after the release of the virus.
I read many descriptions of this book that opined it was similar to The Stand by Stephen King. Trust me the only thing that was similar was everyone dieing. That is it. I'd say it had something in common with 'Salem's Lot but no. The vampires in that book only took over that one town and then got their asses handed to them at the end. The book altogether reminded me most of 'The Road by Cormac McCarthy'. Not the material of the book but the style of the writing itself. Rich eloquent writing. It wasn't quite on the level of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery but is was better and of higher vocabulary than most of my normal fare offers.
The opening of the book; the first part was unlike anything I have read. But the second much longer part reminded me most of the 'Emberverse' series by S.M. Stirling. Not that it had anything to do with electricity being lost or anything. It was the medieval feeling of it. Living behind walls and knives and crossbows being your main weapons. It all lent the feel of the Emberverse.
I'm not going to mention the exact part where this happens but if you've read both Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Passage you'll know what I'm talking about. If you've only read The Passage you'll recognise this: In Watership Down the rabbits find a warren that doesn't have a chief rabbit. But since Cowslip is the first rabbit from the warren they meet it's called 'Cowslips Warren'. The warren is weird. The rabbits are all happy and well fed. Hazel's group is a little ill-at-ease because they don't see predators. They let their guard down when they see all the fantastic food that is available in Cowslips Warren. The warren looses its luster when they discover that the nearby farmer has been shooting foxes and any other predators that come near and also supplying them with the great food. But he also (every now and then) will snare a rabbit for the stew pot. The rabbits of the warren have chose safety and good food over personal liberty and free will. When the Hazel and the rest discover this they make plan to leave. Other rabbits join them.
Also later a train saves the band of rabbits from General Woundwort.
Final thought: I enjoyed this book. Though not as much as all the hype let me believe I would. In my mind I've got a pretty solid top ten:
The Stand by Stephen King
It's Only Temporary by Eric Shapiro
Summer of the Apocalypse by James Van Pelt
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
Empty World by John Christopher
Some Will Not Die by Algis Budrys
Blood Crazy by Simon Clark
Dark Advent by Brian Hodge
Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt
With honorable mentions for:
Fire by Alan Rodgers
and Blakely’s Ark by Ian MacMillan
I wouldn't replace any of the top ten but I think I'd place The Passage in place of Blakely's Ark. I'd recommend it friends and family and all don't get me wrong. But you do have to remember I've read more PA than anyone I know.