Friday, 6 January 2012

Review - The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage
Justin Cronin

766 Mother-freaking pages

Here’s the thing about this monstrosity of an apocalyptic book - I can’t get it out of my head.  Like the heartbreaking wail of Adele’s haunting lyrics, this book has taken up shop in my head, kicked off it’s shoes, and made me a believer in the ruins of the world to come.

It didn’t start out that way.  No sir, it did not.  I mentioned in the pre-review that I bought this book last Summer right after I left my husband, and then it promptly sat on my shelf and waited until I was ready to take it on.  I would pick it up once in awhile, read the back cover for the umpteenth time, and then pick something else to read and obsess over (Hunger Games, I’m looking at you).  I finally started reading it just before the holidays, and almost wrote it off.  The beginning of this book, up until just after 250 pages, reminded me so much of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, as if they had met in a dark and dingy dive bar one night and passed a notebook back and forth, writing a story one line at a time.  That’s not a bad analogy, since I quite enjoy most books of each of them and especially enjoy their imaginations, but I just wasn’t in the mood for 766 mother-freaking pages of that (I have Stephen King’s latest to look forward to for when that urge hits).  I trudged through, not wanting to quit so soon, and if I’m honest, slightly curious about what was taking place on the pages.

And then the vampires showed up.  At this point, I actually rolled my eyes and sighed loudly.  How did I miss that this was a story about freakin’ VAMPIRES?  I must have been drunk when I bought this book, and clearly blind when I looked at recent reviews.  VAMPIRES.  Not only was I blindsided by an element that I’m beyond sick of, but it was made worse by the scene of a nun listening to an almighty voice (hers?  God’s?  PTSD?  Evil Vampires?  Good Vampires?  We’re left to decide for ourselves here) telling her to run off and distract said freakin’ Vampires so Little Girl can be saved.

Annnnnnnnnd I’m done.  Except I hate quitting books, especially so soon (percentage wise).  So I sighed loudly again, turned the page, and 500 pages later, my mind was OFFICIALLY BLOWN.  Suddenly, we’re introduced to characters that I slowly fell in love with (Galen Strauss turned out to be my favourite), a setting that was described so realistically that I felt like I was there, and a plot line that had me emotionally intrigued.  Oh, and the vamps that I hated so much?  Turned into almost zombie type creatures, as compared to Human Beings with Feelings That Sparkle and Fight the Urge to Drink Blood, so it almost felt okay to like them.

It took me three weeks to finish this book, which I at first chalked up to it being the Holidays, and a lot of distractions around (spiked egg nog, how you doin’ baby?) and of course, the rage and tears included with my first Holiday season without my husband (did I mention that whiskey helps heartbreak?).  Then I realized something - I was reading it slowly because I was savouring it.  Yes, I was distracted, but I wasn’t in a rush because the characters and the story were staying with me until well after I’d marked my page and put the book down for the night.  I didn’t have to rush through it to see what happens, because I was enveloped in the story itself. 

I’ve never had so many mixed emotions from one book - the highs and lows I went through in reading this book were equal to that of the highly over-used comparison to that guy you can’t decide if you love or hate.

It’s not a perfect story.  Some things I still have questions about, or don't understand.  Like why the group always runs into more survivors that help them continue to survive, yet never survive themselves.  Or what Auntie’s purpose in the story really was, other than someone to tell the readers some of the things that happened in the past.  Also, the amount of secondary characters can really get confusing - I almost wished for a character tree to refer to.

Long story short (ha ha!) - get your bottle of Jack and sit down, because this book is going to fuck with your head.   I can’t wait to continue this crazy ride this summer when the sequel comes out.

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