My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pop quiz! Which of these is a quote from Mojo Jojo of the Powerpuff Girls, and which is a quote from Justin Cronin’s The Passage?
“ONE EGG LEFT?! For a nutritious breakfast, TWO eggs is the minimum requirement! And I have but ONE, which is ONE shy of TWO! And it is TWO that I need! Curses! I must immediately purchase some eggs, for I need to have breakfast, and without the eggs I cannot have the breakfast that I so require!”
“She moved to where the bodies lay, the men and also their horses who were dead with no blood in them as was the case with all things that had died in this manner.”
Now, to be fair, it was only the one section of the book where Mr. Cronin was writing in this particularly long-winded style. And I’m pretty sure that he didn’t mean for that part of the book to be read in Mojo Jojo voice. That it did in fact pop right into my brain, though, made it significantly more difficult to take that bit seriously.
And really, that’s the first problem I have with this entire book: its length and verbosity. As someone who’s been working hard the last couple of years to learn how to write more concisely in an effort to sell my initial novels, I cannot help but react badly to an 800+ page doorstop of a novel. Especially when this leads into the second problem I have with the book: that so much has been made of how Amazing and Awesome Mr. Cronin’s effort to write a genre novel is, when he’s not doing a single thing in this story that I haven’t seen done just as well and more concisely by SF/F genre authors. Yet, since he’s the big-name literary author, he gets plaudits that the vast majority of SF/F authors will never be lucky enough to achieve.
Secret government experiment, prompted by Mysterious Investigations into the jungle? Check. The experiment going horribly, horribly wrong? Check. A rampaging virus that turns a lot of the population into vampire-like creatures? Check. Survivors that must eventually band together decades later to find the ultimate way to get rid of all the vampires? Check. Mysterious Young Girl who may be the KEY TO ALL SALVATION? Check, check, and check. Seen it, lots and lots and LOTS of times.
All that said? If you can slog through 800+ pages, and you can deal with the hard time jump between the first part of the story and the rest of it, the book’s actually not half bad. Mr. Cronin uses some tropes that did make me roll my eyes quite a few times (and which will doubtless do the same for anyone who’s read more than one SF/F or horror novel, or who’s seen more than one SF/F or horror movie), and the very end of the book in particular provoked an “oh for fuck’s sake” out of me. It did, however, keep me interested enough to make it all the way to the end, even though it was verbose and cliche-ridden.
And in the end, if a book does that and I’m even mildly entertained, I am willing to say that it did its job. I’m still trying to decide if I want to actually buy a copy to keep in my personal collection, but I was quite fine with checking this out from the library. I’d recommend the same for anyone who might be on the fence about whether to buy this one. Three stars.