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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Passage

The book I'm reading now from the library is The Passage by Justin Cronin. It's a tale of a near future in which a runaway virus presents vampire-like symptomology in victims, causing the breakdown of society. All hope rests on a little girl (and a nun, and an FBI agent, and ... :).

Here's part of a review from The New York Times ...


A Journal of the Plague Century: Civilization Goes Viral. Stuff Ensues.

[...] Mr. Cronin gets “The Passage” off to a vigorous start. We meet Amy Harper Bellafonte, who is modestly billed in the book’s first sentence as someone who will become “the Girl from Nowhere — the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years.” We read the e-mail messages of Jonas Abbott Lear, a Harvard professor who, if these messages are any indication, probably won’t last as long as Amy. (“How ironic that I should finally have the chance to solve the greatest mystery of all — the mystery of death itself.”) We also hear Lear’s complaint that it’s hard to apply for a research grant if the word “vampire” is anywhere in the proposal.

In “The Passage” scientists aren’t the only ones who treat “vampire” as a word to be shunned. Mr. Cronin avoids it too, preferring to use other terms when undead, bloodsucking creatures start entering his story. The trouble begins after Special Agent Brad Wolgast is sent to Texas to recruit a death row inmate for some kind of special government program. “The Passage” is elaborate and digressive enough to pause for a full explanation of how this man landed on death row.

Then things begin to go very wrong. The government program backfires. The condemned man, along with 11 others, begins feeling “a great, devouring hunger” that makes him hanker “to eat the very world.” And the virals, as these virus-infected human guinea pigs are called, get loose to wreak havoc on a colossal scale. Wolgast, who has become Amy’s protector and father figure, is caught up in the mayhem. He apparently succumbs to it, with the words “Amy, Amy, Amy” italicized in his mind.

The italics are as contagious as the virus. And Mr. Cronin begins sounding more and more like Stephen King, whose work “The Passage” often resembles, when he writes a 10-page italicized faux document describing one little girl’s account of the chaotic evacuation of Philadelphia.

This already-exhaustive book is studded with diary entries, academic papers and other ostensible evidence that its fictitious stories of destruction are true. Every now and then, as when the Gulf of Mexico is described as an oil slick, these accounts are even scarier than intended.

Abruptly the book jumps ahead 92 years. The Age of Italics is apparently over. Now it is the Time of Portentous Upper-Case Names. The past is remembered only as the Time Before. At the First Colony in the San Jacinto Mountains a paramilitary regime enforces a strict set of rules called the One Law. Since the world of “The Passage” is as zealously detailed as that of a video game (and as apt to move in linear fashion from one realm to another), Mr. Cronin even provides a brief constitution for the little group of still-human survivors .....

These latter sections of the “The Passage” have the air of an old-time western, though with different sound effects. (“That was when he heard the sound, coming from beneath the overpass. A soft, wet ripping, like sheets of damp paper being torn in half, or the skin being pried off an orange fat with juice.”)

And as its moments of calm are interspersed with battle scenes, the book becomes more familiar. Its most elaborate feats of exposition are out of the way, but there remain some important unanswered questions about Amy: Where did she go? And when is she coming back? There are two books and 900 years to go until her thousand-year destiny is played out.



Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Sounds VERY interesting... some of the best sci-fi has a vampire theme. [Remember the movie Lifeforce? See the trailer at: Patrick Stewart was in it. It was not even a very good movie, but it was definitely creepy.] This story sounds like it has potential!

3:33 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny,

I remember Lifeforce :) I've probably seen almost all old sci fi movies that have shown on tv. It was prettu good.

Yes, I read that The Passage has already been picked up to be a movie by Ridley Scott, so maybe it will be worthy of watching.

5:35 PM  

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