four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
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0

A-The PassageJustin Cronin is the author of the novel The Summer Guest (2004) and the award-winning short story collection Mary and O’Neil (2001). A graduate of Harvard University, Cronin is a professor of English at Rice University. The Passage, an apocalyptic thriller, is the first in a planned trilogy.

The Story: In the near future, Jenna Bush is governor of Texas, gasoline is four times as expensive as it is today, and America is still embroiled in the "War on Terror." The military is conducting highly classified biological experiments, using death row prisoners as test subjects for human bioweapons, a breed of vampire soldiers. When the project suffers a security breach, the results are devastating. Now, a young girl and a troubled FBI agent must learn to survive in a landscape that is both unrecognizable and filled with very real threats.
Ballantine Books. 784 pages. $27. ISBN: 9780345504968

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4.5 of 5 Stars
"What makes this novel such a riveting read is that Cronin packs as much breathless action and as many compelling characters into the before as he does the after. ... [S]peculative fiction at its finest." Carole E. Barrowman

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Cronin gets everything right: suspenseful pacing using third-person viewpoints that alternate throughout his massive tome; interesting characters with all-too-human flaws (from pedophile laborers to nuns and FBI agents); and just enough verisimilitude in his science fiction-cum-horror plot to have readers believing his fictional apocalypse might be plausible." Dorman T. Shindler

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Techies will love the technical and procedural details Cronin offers about this new dystopian civilization’s workings; parents will be drawn in by the various domestic dramas and the ‘child-in-peril storyline.’ ... The Passage is the type of big, engrossing read that will have you leaving the lights on late into the night for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that light keeps vampires away." Ed Nawotka

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Cronin painstakingly weaves the threads of a narrative so involving and immediate that when he jumps ahead almost a century, it’s hard at first to release those characters and invest in the dozens of new ones that emerge in The Stand–meets–The Road journey that follows. ... [H]is bogeymen, the vampiric, blood-hungry beasts known as ‘virals,’ are magnificently unnerving, and his power to compel readers to the next page seldom flags." Leah Greenblatt

Onion AV Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As good as it is, The Passage seems destined to have too few vampires for the vampire fans and too many of them for quality literature fans. For those who can find their way to the middle ground, though, it’s a lot of fun." Todd VanDerWerff

Critical Summary

"What’s not to like?" was the general consensus among reviewers, who found Cronin’s massive tome excessively entertaining. In a startling departure from his earlier work, Cronin has crafted an apocalyptic thrill ride filled with fantastic action sequences and brilliant characterizations. And the writing is memorable as well; the Onion AV Club noted that, "[w]hole sections of The Passage could be plucked out of the book and inserted into a Best New Horror anthology." Ultimately, The Passage is certain to keep readers enthralled and excited for the next installment--an amazing feat, considering the novel’s length.