The Passage – Justin Cronin

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I’m afraid that I’m the type of person unable to resist hype. If everyone is talking about a book then I need to be able to join in that conversation. The Passage seemed to be one of the biggest books of 2010 and so I had to find out why everyone was talking about it.

The Passage is about vampires and if that sounds off-putting then don’t believe those that tell you otherwise – trust your instincts and don’t get drawn in as I was.

The Passage started off very well. I loved the first section in which we were introduced to Amy, a six-year-old girl abandoned by her mother; and an FBI agent recruiting death row prisoners to research a new virus. The writing was beautifully crafted and the pace was fast  – I just had to know what happened next!

Unfortunately everything went wrong about 200 pages in. The book jumped forward in time, the pace slowed and I became bored. At about the 250 page mark the book jumped forward another 90 years and things became even worse. We lost all the wonderful characters we’d been introduced to and were suddenly faced with lots of random people, all trying to build a new life after the world was devastated by the vampire virus. Unfortunately it didn’t ring true for me. I think my main problem is that I don’t believe in vampires and so can never be scared of them. It all just seemed silly to me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters as there were too many of them and so I didn’t care what happened to them.

The glass behind them didn’t so much shatter as explode, detonating in a hail of glinting shards. The air blew from his body as he was knocked across the room. It was only later that Peter would realize that the viral had come in right on top of them. He heard Sara scream – not even words, just a cry of terror.

At the 400 page mark I nearly gave up, but I felt that I’d already invested too much time to do that and so persevered until the end. I was unaware that The Passage is the first in a trilogy, so didn’t realise that I’d be left hanging after completing nearly 800 pages. That did annoy me a bit, as I had hoped to at least be rewarded by an ending.

I’m sure I’ll love the films, but in an unbelievable world I need emotional connections to draw me in. I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Opinions seem to be divided:

….a mind-blowing book. S Krishna’s Books 

…sillier than I had hoped it would be… Rhapsody in Books

Overall a very interesting concept, but the execution left something to be desired… Devourer of Books

I hope that readers will suppress their sizeist tendencies and embrace this mesmerizing, epic tale.  Lovely Treez Reads

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  1. I’m quite shockedyou didn’t find this that emotional, I did. The relationships that are built up in the first half I would agree are much clearer and defined. But what about all the self sacrifice in the second half (I won’t say more so as not to give anything away) and the relationships that a built up in such a horrific environment?

    I feel a bit like you read a completely different book to me hahaha.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I think we’re finding that we have a very different taste in books :-) I admit that there was the occasional good scene, but it was padded together with far too much back story, far too many characters and so I was always a passive observer with no emotional attachment. Enjoy the rest of the trilogy!

  2. Iris says:

    I haven’t yet felt the need to give in and read this. It is the kind of story that usually doesn’t work for me. Maybe I will give it a try once because it seems to be received so well, but it is hard to “just give it a try” at 800 pages..

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, The problem with trying it is that the first section is so good that is sucks you in…

  3. diane says:

    Jackie…sorry this was a disappointment. I only read 100 pages and decided it was not for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, Congratulations on giving up at the right point :-)

  4. Hm, do a lot of people and readers believe in vampires?! What a bizarre notion…

    I’m conflicted but it irritates me when people are put off anything remotely vampiric because of the Twilight craze. The cult of Twilight annoys me considerably but I wouldn’t deprive myself of potentially entertaining or enjoyable books, TV shows or films because of the word “vampire” being involved (this isn’t something that is reactionary to your post but something I have been noticing for a good long while, online and otherwise. I have a post or two that have been on the back-burner that address exactly this point.)

    I’m more likely to find the hype of The Passage (not to mention its length!) than its vampire content. I’m amazed you didn’t know it was a planned trilogy!

    1. Jackie says:


      “a lot of people and readers believe in vampires”

      The point I was trying to make is that I believe in fire, famine, disease etc and so the author doesn’t need to persuade me to be scared of them. With vampires and other made up monsters the author has to persuade me to be scared of them, having a much harder job. I had the same problem with triffids, but Wyndham did a fantastic job and by the end I was petrified of triffids. When reading The Passage I was never scared of vampires – I found their appearance amusing rather than terrifying.

      I think the problem with vampires is that the author must have a passion for them to want to write a book about them (assuming they aren’t just seeking the Twilight cash-cow) and I have never liked Buffy or Twilight or anything with vampires. This means I’m unlikely to be on the same wavelength as the author. I keep seeing people post about how this isn’t just another vampire book, but I’m afraid it is. The best written one I’ve read, but still a vampire book. That said I still keep seeing vampire books that tempt me – The Radleys by Matt Haig is calling me at the moment. Perhaps one day I’ll find one I enjoy.

      1. I hope you do – maybe The Radleys will be that book!

  5. Jules says:

    I like you didn’t like the book or it’s overall execution, and I also didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy. All I heard was how fantastic of a book it was, a great thriller, on and on. And it did just fell short. You’re right about to many characters, so you couldn’t connect to them, not to mention the pages and pages devoted their background story. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a lot of background information on a character, but not so much at one time, you can no longer remember who is who. And if its a planned trilogy, then the background character information should have been spread out.

    Good review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jules, It was good to know that I wasn’t alone in not knowing it was a trilogy. All the initial reviews I read just raved about it and then once I’d decided to try it I stopped reading the reviews – it must have been those ones that mentioned the trilogy aspect. :-(

  6. Sandy says:

    I would have bet the farm that you wouldn’t like this…too bad I didn’t!!! I agree with you that it slowed down a bit in the middle, but I felt that it was necessary to build the new society, and the relationships that would be key to the greater story. I also want to speak up here, and say that it is not a vampire book! It is more about the destruction that man brings upon himself. It could just as easily been the superflu or ebola or whatever that killed off the earth’s population. It is about survival once the rules of life change. I am personally sick of vampires, but this just didn’t fall into the same category.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Well it is good to know my reading tastes are predictable!! You’re right that much of the book could have been vampire free, but it still felt very vampire-ish. It is good to know that all the time you spent listening to this book was worth it – I look forward to your review.

  7. Jessica says:

    hahaha I finished this a few days ago and believe me my review is just as scathing as yours (if not more so) the first 250 pages were brilliant but then it just got sillier and sooooooooo boring. I struggled to read the last 300 pages and only finished it because by that time I had already invested day on the thing. Never again will I fall for hype.

    Anyway glad you felt the same ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, LOL! Sounds as though we had a similar experience with this one. Let’s hope the film is more enjoyable -)

  8. Karen says:

    I think our reading piles must be looking very similar at the moment Jackie! I’m about 120 pages into this one and I’ve put it aside for the moment because I was actually starting to get a little bored (from your review that might be a bad sign!). I was very connected to the story of Amy, like you, but the other parts I have read so far just feel quite dense and hard going.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, Yes. I recommend abandoning it now – I don’t think you’ll enjoy the rest. I could be wrong, but I think our tastes tend to match quite well?

  9. violet says:

    Oh dear…to read 800 pages and then be kept hanging is just torture and inhuman. Sorry you didn’t like the book all the way.

    1. Jackie says:

      violet, It was actually quite a fast book to read, so 800 pages isn’t as long as it sounds. Annoying though – especially the trilogy aspect!

      1. Jesse says:

        If it is such an easy read you should be capable of surpassing the urge to tell others to cast aside a decent novel. Despite the fact that we all have different taste in literature, I do not respect those who start something and do not finish it. Read the whole book for its entirety and then tell me how you feel. This is not pointed at you in any way I just feel as if people are feeding off your post. I just finished the book and it had me sucked in, could not put it down. I did not know however it was a trilogy. I didn’t even know what I was looking for until I asked the lady at Barnes and Nobles to recommend a decent zombie novel! However again I guess we all differ in taste. I love me a good zombie novel.

  10. Heidi says:

    I also got caught in the hype. I was going on vacation and I thought one big book that I won’t finish- and it was on sale – and I was curious. I am not done quite yet but heading into the final run. I actually liked the second part better- the colony and their culture was interesting. The santuary seemed somewhat unbelievable though. The game of go to sounds a little bit like the Uno card game I wondered:) Have to admit I knew it was a triology going in but I was hoping for some closure with the book …… There is a interesting discussion on (It was a readalong book for June) on the book if you do a search under the author’s name. There is a discussion and the comments were really interesting and their is a section at the end where the author answers questions from the readers. I think this author is actually a pretty talented writer and I believe this book is quite different from his other works. I am interested to see what they are like.

    1. Jackie says:

      Heidi, Thank you for letting me know about the Salon article ( for those interested) it was a great discussion. I was interested to note that there seemed to be a fair split between those that loved the book and those that didn’t over there too.

      I hope that you enjoy the ending :-)

      1. Heidi says:

        Well I finished it. Can’t say I liked the ending. It was really abrupt even for a trilogy. For being so long he should have been able to wrap it up in some way more! I am not sure if I will read the rest of this trilogy or not but his writing quality in parts was good enough that I think I will try some of his other books. He has won the Pen/Faulkner award so we’ll see.

        1. Jackie says:

          Heidi, Exactly! He should have been able to give it a slightly more rounded ending, but I agree that the writing was generally of a good quality. I might even be tempted to read another of his books in the future, but this trilogy is one I’ll be leaving on the shelf.

  11. Amy says:

    Ahhhh I loved the first bit too, and am now around page 400 (and have been for months). I know I have to go back and finish it, but I’ve been putting it off!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Oh dear! That 400 page mark seems to be a real dull spot in the book. :-( Good luck making it to the end!!

  12. Fyrefly says:

    I actually thought the virals were more plausible than normal vampires, because they were sci-fi vamps (created by science) rather than fantasy vamps (created by magic). I admittedly have an overactive imagination, but I thought they were terrifying! Sorry it didn’t work out for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Fyrefly, I’m afraid my science background over thinks these things too much – it takes a lot for me to believe this sort of thing. I’m pleased you are able to get over these problems and just enjoy the ride :-)

      1. Jesse says:

        You science background, please you are picking up a science fiction novel what did you expect, for it to convert your feelings for science in order to believe that this could actually be plausible please. At first I thought you knew what you were talking about but now I just see a person with too much time to over analyze the whole concept of a decent book. Fyrefly I agree the book was interesting and despite the time lapse and switch in characters, it was a good read that left me wanting more. Go out and read a biography for gods sakes Jackie and stop being such a critic.

  13. raidergirl3 says:

    The Passage is about vampires and if that sounds off-putting then don’t believe those that tell you otherwise – trust your instincts and don’t get drawn in as I was.

    ha, that made me laugh this morning!

    I just don’t ‘get’ vampires. I kind of enjoyed Colleen Gleason’s regency vampires, but that may be the setting as much as anything. I even tried Sookie, since I loved another of Harris’ mystery series, but again, meh. My kids read Twilight and didn’t like them – if they had liked it I might have read it just to share with them.
    thanks for the warning as I often get caught up in the latest book too.

    1. Jackie says:


      I’m pleased I gave you a laugh!! I haven’t heard of Colleen Gleason, but I’m not very knowledgable about vampire books so that probably isn’t surprising.

      Sorry you didn’t get to share Twilight with your kids. Hopefully you found something else to read along with them :-)

  14. Olduvai says:

    I didn’t realize that it was to be part of a series either, and when I read those last few pages, I could only helplessly whimper about the lack of a conclusion. I think I enjoyed it a little more than you did, although I skimmed my way through quite a few pages in the middle.

    1. Jackie says:

      Olduvai, I share your pain! Trilogies should have a proper ending just like standalone books.

  15. I read the first section on the train to D.C. for a conference and adored it. I didn’t get much reading done while in D.C., and when I picked it back up again, I had trouble getting into the shift. I’ll pick it up again after the Booker madness, but I think I’m at a good stopping point for now. My husband read it and adored it, so I do look forward to finishing it. I’m curious to see the screen adaptation too!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I hope that you manage to get back in to The Passage. I’m sure that the films will be fantastic – I’m actually quite looking forward to seeing it :-)

  16. Lydia says:

    800 pages is a huge investment of time, though opinions seem to be divided among two extremes: Loved it! vs. Extreme Disappointment & Boredom. A colleague of mind attempted to read it, got through the first portion before it jumped into the future, and lost interest, eventually starting another book.

    Chunksters are a difficult breed; they’ve got to be REALLY captivating.

    Unfortunately, it appears that this one didn’t make the cut.

    Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Lydia, I think the problem is that average books are disappointing when you have invested so much time in reading them. If you’d spent a few hours reading an average book then you wouldn’t mind. If you spend an entire week then you feel a bit annoyed. Length does seem to widen the gap between love and hate!

  17. Meghan says:

    I thought this one was a bit overrated as well, although I seem to have liked it more than you did. For a thriller, it’s not really all that fast paced, is it? Similarly, I don’t think I’ve ever been scared by a vampire book. Maybe grossed out, but not scared. In fact, books rarely scare me at all now that I’m thinking of it, I can’t even remember the last time one scared me!

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I expected it to have a much faster pace than it did – especially when I realised how long it was. I have been scared by books before – the first section of The Stain was very scary, but perhaps I’m expecting too much from them. Perhaps they’re not meant to be scary?

  18. Emma says:

    I hate twilight and all the vampire romance but I loved The Passage. I agree with you that once it got to the new set of characters I found it dull and boring for a good couple hundred pages… but once it concentrated on a small group of them you got to know them really well and come to love them I found…I found it really emotional and could really see them all in my mind so well. I did know it was the beginning of a trilogy so I knew all along that this wasn’t going to be it! I thought it was original, an amazingly well thought-out story and great literary writing (something not really found in today’s vampire fiction…) I can’t wait for the next one!

    1. Jackie says:

      Emma, Thank you for explaining why you like it so much. I really hope that you find the rest of the trilogy just as good.

  19. caite says:

    I would agree with Sandy That I would not really consider this a vampire book, not as most people think of a vampire. But, I did not like the book as much as she did..or as little as you.

    I do thing it peaked about 200 pages in…and then there was a big section that could have been greatly edited down. Yes, there was a history and characters to build. But it was way too drawn out..and then I think it came to a pretty good end.
    In that hulking 800 pages was a decent 400 page book, crying to get out.

    1. Jackie says:

      caite, I think it peaked at about the 50 page mark!! I agree with you about the editing – I may well have enjoyed this book if it had been half the size. There were too many back stories and other slow, pointless sections. I’m sure the film directors will sort that out :-)

  20. Kathleen says:

    I took this one on my camping trip a few weeks ago and never got around to reading it. The first reviews were all such raves but I think that was maybe because the first to read the book were those most disposed to like a book of this ilk? It seems like now I am reading more reviews like yours which are not quite as positive. I felt like I was missing out on the hot book of the summer (yet again) but am now quite happy to wait and read it when I am in the right mood.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I agree. The first reviews were all ravingly positive, but the average ones are beginning to trickle down now. I think I’d think twice about picking it up now, but when I got my copy I had only seen glowing reviews. I hope that you enjoy it whenever you get round to starting it.

  21. mee says:

    Your second paragraph made me laugh! Vampire IS off-putting for me! I’ll stay away from The Passage. Thank you for an honest take on such a widely popular book!

    ps: Perhaps one vampire movie that I liked (wasn’t even a book) was Interview with a Vampire.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I don’t mind some vampire films – I almost enjoyed Twilight :-) I haven’t seen Interview with a Vampire – I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  22. Jenners says:

    I like it a lot more than you did … but I totally object to calling it a vampire book!! : )

    For a certain type of reader, this is a totally great book. But for others, not so much! For me, it was a blast … although I would say it did drag a bit in the middle.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Sorry for calling it a vampire book. I’m afraid I’m not an expert on these things, but for me it felt very vampire-ish ;-)

  23. She says:

    800 pages and no ending? I think that would have driven me insane.

  24. It was just okay for me – I almost gave it up but stuck to it to see what the hype was all about… I have a feeling I’d like the movie better than the book since they probably need to cut it shorter. I agree i like the first part the best. I don’t think I’d read the rest of the series, but may just google spoilers (like what did for the Twilight series – I read the first book and googled what happened in the rest of the series)

    1. Jackie says:

      Christa, LOL! I love the thought of someone googling for spoilers to avoid reading a dull book! I don’t think I’ll do that, but I’m sure I’ll watch the DVDs when they come out – I won’t be rushing to go to the cinema ;-)

  25. Dot says:

    I too preferred the first part of the book, the second part has an entirely different feel about it. I think it will make an excellent film though, not sure if I shall read the others in the trilogy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dot, It was like two different books wasn’t it?! I’m sure the visuals for the film will be fantastic – a much better medium for this story :-)

  26. Stephanie says:

    I am on the fence about whether or not to read this one. My husband is reading it right now, as we speak. He has got about 50 pages left. He tore through it, only having started it Sunday. When he’s not at work, he’s reading it. However, I am not sure it is my cup of tea, so we’ll see if I decide to pick it up or not.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, It is a faster read than it looks, but I understand your dilema. I don’t think I’d pick it up knowing what I know now (trilogy!!) but I wish you luck with making your decision!

  27. Lisa says:

    I’m so glad you didn’t like it either, Jackie! For an 800-page book, there were a lot of big gaps and questions. Even if Cronin goes back and answers them in the sequel(s), they made for frustrating reading. For example, what happened with the team in South America from the email section? How did the Feds come to know about Amy? What exactly *is* the deal with Amy, anyway? He could have easily trimmed the middle section and given us some more info.
    I was getting so frustrated and annoyed, that little copyediting errors started jumping out at me, like his repeated misuse of the word “scrim.” I can’t believe I read the whole thing!

    1. Jackie says:

      Lisa, I’m not so bothered about all the unanswered questions as I assume that most will be resolved in the rest of the trilogy, but I would love to know what the deal is with Amy – that scene in the zoo was just weird!!

      I didn’t spot any copywriting errors, but I tend to struggle to see them in any book. Sorry you found so many :-(

  28. Hannah says:

    At first The Passage looked like a book that would be good to pick up, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve seen lots of reviews that the book just doesn’t cut it after the first few hundred pages. I’m thinking I may hold off on this one…

    1. Jackie says:

      Hannah, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time :-) I recommend waiting for the DVD!!

  29. Charlie says:

    I’d like to read this sometime in the future but at the moment the page count has me viewing my shorter paged TBR’s in gratitude. I was unaware of the sudden switches in time however, and a completely new set of characters sounds, well, random. That said it can work, provided there’s a good link, but once you get attached to the first lot of characters changes are difficult to adjust to.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, The large page count does allow for lots of characters and shifts in time, but I didn’t think either was handled well.

      Enjoy your shorter books :-)

  30. Jessica says:

    Sigh. I’m about 200 pages into this and can’t find the motivation at the moment to continue. I will, eventually, but the hype got to me too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, It is good to know I’m not the only one having problems at the 200 page mark. Good luck with the rest of the book!

  31. Amanda says:

    I’m always so glad when I see reviews like this. It makes me feel okay that I’ve decided not to read the book at all.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, LOL! I like crossing books off the TBR pile sometimes too!

  32. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more – yet I find myself mostly agreeing with your review! I have loved the first part but found it insanely hard to connect with the characters in the second part. I’ll give the next book a try, but I just don’t think I’ll rush to get my hands on it when it comes out.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kay, I hope that you manage to connect with the characters in the next book :-)

  33. stacybuckeye says:

    I’m waiting for all the hype to die down before I read this one. I want to forget how much most people love it so my expectations aren’t too high. Your review helped with that ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      stacybuckeye, LOL! Sounds like a good idea!

  34. tim says:

    this is not a vampire book…this is a beautiful work of fiction, there is an untangible quality to the writing which makes it a beautiful read…i am not surprised if you are expecting things to blow up, vampires to fall in love with high school girls, etc….this is literature and those of us who loved the book loved it for that reason.

    1. Jackie says:

      tim, I wasn’t hoping that vampires would fall in love with school girls and I do love literature, but I’m afraid this one didn’t work for me. I hope you enjoy the rest of the trilogy just as much. :-)

  35. Dee says:

    I didn’t know about any hype,I just plucked his off the shelf in my bookstore because I liked the front cover….yes I can be that fickle, lol. I didn’t know it was a trilogy, next book not due til 2012 no less, so as I neared the end, I started to get a little suspicious and annoyed that the book was ending and they were only just getting started. so I googled and found my answer. I really don’t go for the teeny bopper Vamp stuff, in fact after much bugging from my 14 year old daughter I read about 3 pages of the first Twilight book and wondered who on Earth allowed such rubbish to be published, the writing is appalling, not that I am a literary genius. Back to “The Passage”… Apart from a couple of chapters in the middle, I liked how it really kinda mocked the Vampire notion. I think it made it more real given that the ‘virals” stemmed from a biomedical blunder meet serial killer DNA. I was really drawn into the story, I love the biomedical, human error and annihilation edge and although I was drawn to the characters and was annoyed by the jump and sudden loss of them, it didn’t take me long to warm to the new ones. Although given that Amy is the girl who lived to 1000 years, give or take a year or two, I suspect and can only assume that the next two books which should account for about 900 years, will subject us to a few character changes and time jumps. It is a book of biblical proportions, a rewriting of humanity and the will to survive. A piecing together of a human history lost. I loved it, hated the abruptness of the ending but definitely loved it….the second book being so far off though is really off putting, but I guess like the potter series it’ll probably be book movie book movie book movie. Let hope Ridley Scott makes good on the brilliant writing of Justin Cronin and keeps to the story as it is written. Can’t say I’ve seen a Ridley Scott movie I haven’t liked so we’ll have to wait and see.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dee, 2012! Wow I didn’t realise you’d have to wait that long. Thanks for explaining why you love this one so much. I’m sure that Ridley Scott will make a fantastic job of this movie and I’m sure I’ll love watching it. I hope that the rest of the trilogy is worth the wait :-)

  36. Mama T says:

    I have just finished the book and will agree, in most part wth your comments. The pace varied considerably throughout the book: just as I found myself becoming entrenched in the story and the dynamics, it changed, almost like I was reading something completely different. I felt really BUMMED at the end of the first part, then confused, annoyed and bored during the second.

    Then, just as I felt about to quit and move onto greener pastures, Amy returned and the things picked up.

    Unlike others, as this book was given to me as a gift, I had not read reviews and really had no idea what it was about – if I had I may not have read it: I HATE post-apocalyptic stories, they’re all doom, gloom and death.

    One thing I do question is why people refer to this story as a ‘vampire’ book(?) Did I not get it? Although the virals drink blood (I assumed they actually ate people too)and avoided the light, that was about as far as the vampite concept went,I felt.

    In a weird way, I have to admit that I enjoyed over 50% of this long-winded, overwritten book and even though I’ll try ro fight it, I know I will end up finishing the trilogy – I can’t stand not knowing how things end (although I aknow it will be predictable).


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