I take in book related podcasts, spend a lot of time on GoodReads.com and browse the web for upcoming releases that are setting the book industry ON FIRE. Therefore, I'm bound to be sucked into the hype machine that can surround some big releases. This year, I took in the first Stieg Larsson book, The Girl With The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and loved it; the hype was worth it. I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe hype isn't all that bad." I haven't read nearly enough books to consider myself any kind of "book snob" but I wanted to curb those tendencies before they developed.
Therefore, on a recommendation by Stephen King, I decided I should check out Justin Cronin's The Passage.
To sum it up, Cronin jumps on the vampire popularity train that has been chugging along for the last 2-3 years. In what is explained as a ridiculous move by the U.S. government in an attempt to end the war on terror, they attempt to develop a serum of sorts that will enable humans to recover quicker from physical damage and essentially live longer. Like 900 years longer. However, we wouldn't have much of a novel if this experiment was successful now would we?
The first 1/3 of this book follows two government agents as they attempt to round up the final two subjects in the first round of testing. We get some background into who these subjects are; 12 death row inmates and 1 particularly strange little girl, as well as the moral dilemma that follows when one agent develops a soft spot for the girl; the daughter that he never had.
Something goes drastically wrong with the trials and the test subjects develop characteristics similar to vampires. They have an insatiable love for blood as well as the ability to leap, almost fly, long distances. They're also sensitive to light and seem to become almost invincible, aside from a strike to "the sweet spot" - an area somewhere in the center of their chest.
Without spoiling a lot of the events that unfold, know that the book drastically changes about 1/3 of the way in - fast-forwarding 92 years to a post-apocalyptic United States. The book then shifts to follow a small colony of human survivors as they fend off "the virals" - which now outnumber the amount of survivors.
That's pretty much all I'm going to say on the plot; I think it's better if you have a fair bit of ignorance going into it - as with any book.
Let me say that I LOVED
the first 1/3 of this book. The origin story that establishes the fall of modern civilization, while not unique, is structured in such a way that it seems possible - which is frightening. I've always been known to be scared of a potential "super-bug" that would wipe out the human race; yes, this is coming from the guy who refused to take the "swine flu" vaccine because he heard it was not fully tested. I was positive the zombie apocalypse was imminent!
However, when the book switches - we're forced to once again invest in a new group of characters which involves a TON of individual back story that really bogs down the progression of the story. Yes, I understand that it's a trilogy in the making and that all of this is needed but I found myself just not caring; I wanted to read more about the characters from the first chunk of the book!
Granted, there were times in the when the action scenes were well paced and edge-of-your-seat intense, which saved the overall score but unfortunately could not bring me to rate it above 3 stars. Some of the dialog was a little hokey - hopefully Cronin works on that just a little before the next book is released.
That being said, the ending left me intrigued enough to seek out the 2nd book when it's released in 2 years. I have faith in Stephen King; with his firm recommendation on the back of this novel, he must see something in the author that I do not. Like most, I'll give Cronin the benefit of the doubt, hopefully he's headed somewhere fantastic.