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The Passage (Book One of The Passage Trilogy) Summary & Study Guide

This is one of several places where I felt this writer excelled. Not only is his story rich, compelling and just a little too close to possibility for comfort, but the characters are fully developed, likable and very real. None of that oh so earnest stuff, no one is too good or bad to be believed. The characters are like you and me. They are like our uncle, our neighbor and our friend.

Even now, when for me the story has been told, and I know where it went and what happened to them all, they linger. This has not happened for me for a very long time. I will miss them. Never mind the genre, ignore the hype. Pay no attention to the reviews, good or bad You will not be sorry.

Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born". A reckless government experiment. Take twelve doomed subjects, inject them with a virus, with the intention of creating an army of indestructible warriors.

A failed catastrophe, as the infected become blood-thirsty carnivores, wiping out most of the US population and possibly most of the global one. These murderous creations are known by a variety of names, including: virals, smokes and dracs. There are human survivors, scattered throughout the country, protected in sanctuaries, living on what food they can find and battling the ever-present virals.


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A young girl named Amy has emerged from Ground Zero, to lead this rag-tag bunch. She has "powers" of her own and plans on guiding the group through a kind of "Passage", with hopes of a victory over the infected. This amazing story, the first of a trilogy, offers everything: breath-taking adventure, chilling horror, strong characters and soaring human drama, all told in deft,literary prose.

Like this: "When all time ended, and the world had lost its memory, and the man that he was receded from view like a ship sailing away, rounding the blade of the earth, with his old life locked in its hold: and when the gyring stars gazed down upon nothing, and the moon in it's arc no longer remembered his name The Passage by Justin Cronin is a monumental piece of fiction that is one of the few books I can say really scared me.

Starting with a virtual page introduction that shows us the terrifying possibility of medical experimentation that has gone wrong. Twelve men taken from death row have been used to create vampire-like beings that are killing machines with a blood lust and are practically immortal. A security breach unleashes this horrendous medically altered group who bring with them nights of carnage and violence.

Within weeks, the world has been forever altered and all that remains are scattered survivors with a future dictated by fear. Along with these twelve, there was one more, six year old Amy, an abandoned child who is brought to the mountain laboratory and used to incubate the latest version of the virus. Amy does change but not into a monster. Amy becomes something else, perhaps the last hope for mankind. After the apocalypse, the story picks up again almost years later. Amy has only aged to be a young teen and she stumbles into an enclave and before too long, a group has banded together to embark on a quest to find the secret behind Amy.

There is a lot happening in this book, but the one constant is Amy, and while all the characters have unique voices and storylines, one quickly learns not to get too attached as death is a constant companion. I found The Passage to be an intricate but always exciting and compelling read. The author's writing has elevated this far beyond that of a simple dystopian story. He writes in an evocative, beautifully constructed style giving the reader both a suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of insurmountable odds. My quibbles are few.

Firstly this book was exceeding long and, I accept that as there is a lot of story to tell, but my problem was that there was no resolution!

There is no end, no wrapping up, no closing the book and feeling the story is complete. It just stops. I know this is the first volume in a trilogy, but I would have liked a little closure instead of being left totally in limbo. Now I know why most of the contemporary work in that genre left me cold: it wasn't this.

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No one needs to even bother writing another. Beyond being a great post-apocalyptic horror story, The Passage is, at it's core, about humans and what drives them. I think to Cronin, people are made of glass, and he can see inside of them as easily as you or I see what's on the other side of a window. And Cronin not only sees what's inside, he presents it beautifully as master of the simile. Consider: "Texas, state-sized porkchop of misery. I like movies as much as the next guy, but The Passage is an example of why books will almost always trump them : film only captures the visual story, with almost no sense of the poetry of it's language -- a painting without the memories held in the hand of the painter.

I think The Passage: The Movie, will likely be a pale, albeit entertaining, facsimile of the original. My only critique is that the brilliance of the first or so pages of Act I aren't sustained through to the end. The story continues to intrigue, but something about the writing just wasn't as luminous; maybe the characters that don't make it through to Act II were favorites of Cronin? I don't know, but something changed. But if you are reading it, and around page you get bogged down an consider bailing, re-consider: it is worth it. This review refers to the audiobook version of The Passage: Every time I hear a book recommendation from Stephen King it gets me moving.

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Either straight to the library, bookstore or to my audible. When he says it's good I can usually take it for granted that I'm going to love it. When I started listening to this book I admit that I was a little disappointed by the prolonged plot development.


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  6. I expected vampires to be around every corner from the very beginning. I know it's not fair for me to expect a novel of this size and complexity to develop without laying some serious groundwork but that's how I felt after reading the reviews and all the hype that proceeded my reading of this book. What kept me going and kept me intrigued through this stage was just how well it was written. Characters were fully developed and believable and eventually you understand that maybe this "vampire" book is different from all the other vampire books you've ever read.

    In fact as you proceed through this book that is exactly what you will understand. Cronin's vampires are not the Bela Lugosi type. They are not descended from a long line of bloodsuckers going back to the time of Dracula. I think it's also safe to say that the vampires or "virals" are not Bella Swan's type either.

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    An exploration to solve "the mystery of death itself" that is sponsored by the military. Of course, the expedition doesn't go as planned and the virus is unleashed on the explorers. Rather than containing the problem by dropping a nuke on the area the military decides to try and harness the power of the virals. What could possibly go wrong?

    The military begins to test strains of the virus in hopes of developing a mild mannered vampire that could be controlled and used as a weapon. As test subjects, they select from a pool of already mild mannered convicted killers currently on death row. I suppose the thinking here was that nobody was going to miss these people right? Maybe they should have selected from a group of people who had less of a blood thirst already.

    Of course eventually things start to go awry. The unknown powers of the virals result in a security breach that allows for their escape. The only light in the darkness at this point in the novel is the mysterious child named Amy. Amy is a bit of a mystery.

    She was also selected by the military to be tested with the latest strain of the virus. The effect the virus has on her body is significantly different than what has happened to the other test subjects. Even before she was abducted for testing Amy had some mysterious powers that will hopefully be explained in the next installment of this series. Shortly after the escape of the virals the novel jumps 90 yrs into the future to a time where the virals have basically destroyed the entire country.

    Small isolated communities continue to survive in this environment by relying on technology that was left behind by their ancestors. Huge lights keep the virals away during the night. Lights powered by batteries that are slowly dying. Explaining their politics, frustration and general fear of the unknown.