Book Review on The Passage

The Passage: Going Viral
(written by a member of the Teen Advisory Group)

If you like apocalyptic fiction, horror stories, or both, then you will love Justin Cronin’s The Passage. The summary attached to the novel looked pretty simple: “A security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment that only six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte can stop.” But to my surprise, the novel expanded into a realm filled with countless characters, descriptive imagery and an exceptional storyline. It is the first book in The Passage Trilogy, and after reading it I could hardly wait for the sequel.

I infer that there’s a new topic in fiction solely based on “super-soldiers”. This novel portrays this topic very well. The plot begins in the year 2014, when the U.S. government attempts to create a new form of “super-soldier”, but it only ends in disaster. It instead creates half-immortal beings that the locals coin “virals”. They appear to be vampire-like because that they have fangs and have almost the same abilities as a vampire (like high jumping and speed). The virals expand their legion across the globe, bite by bite. These are not your typical vampires (not the sparkling ones in “Twilight”). The vampires I’m talking about are ruthless, bloodthirsty and grotesque in appearance. A multitude of people and minor characters fall victim to the virals’ attacks, in both the “Before Virus” setting and the “First Colony” setting. In fact, they grow more powerful as the storyline progresses, to the point where they are referred to as an army, called “The Many”. The leader of “The Many” is no doubt a long-term viral, but I can only say that his name is Babcock.

There are some people who like books with one setting and those who like multiple settings. In the case of The Passage, there is a lot of setting to take in. Just to clarify for all those interested in the book, there are two major settings. One is “Before Virus”, which is the setting that takes over the first half of the novel, and is primarily focused on Amy Bellafonte and her misadventures as she escapes the swarms of virals. Amy is the main protagonist of this trilogy, and as I explored her life and her impact on the characters, she appears to be the savior for the survivors. You could say she’s a living miracle, and she has several astonishing powers. Although I cannot say what those special powers are, I can say that she is most definitely stronger than she is described. Her true, designated role in the series will be revealed in the novel and perhaps more in the trilogy. The “First Colony” setting takes place a century after the virus outbreak, and to me it looked like the world started over from scratch. But it was much different, of course. The First Colony can be compared to a typical literary utopia, where people follow the rules and almost never speak or question of what’s on “the other side”, so to speak. I think this can be a major strength for the novel or a flaw, depending if the reader can handle jumping from setting to setting. There are even more characters to keep in mind in the book, and I have found it to be quite puzzling trying to remember who’s who. There’s also a third section, but it is occasional and brief. It takes place a thousand years after the outbreak, and it is basically the journals of a First Colony character. It’s somewhat useful to a reader like me, as it provides more detail of the coming events in the novel through a different perspective.

The Passage is a compelling tale of adventure, horror, suspense, and a pinch of romance thrown into the mix. Don’t get discouraged if the plot starts to take some unexpected twists and turns, because this novel is written for readers who like to explore different settings and perspectives. It accurately depicted how vampires should look and behave, and it explored the inner emotions of each character. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading complex books with lots of characters. The Passage will have you at the edge of your seat and anticipating the next two books of the trilogy.

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