The Passage: A Novel

The Passage  - Justin Cronin "The Passage" presents itself as a mammoth epic on a paranormal horror scale, but it doesn't always hold its water in due considerations. On one hand, its cumbersome presentation (excessive passive voice, several glaring errors that editing could have addressed, and overfocus on characters that had little to do with the plot in favor of omitting several key expansions) did not help the overarching story. It frustrated me more often than not, and while the tale is well worth reward in presenting a beautifully rendered dystopic environment, it's hard to ignore some of the issues in the work.One thing I will give Cronin, however, is the strongly asserted grand cast. The author knows the characters intimately and presents them in a way that has dimension in the larger conflict of "The Passage". (Some of the character fates will bite you hard, and I warn now that there are several instances of character deaths in this novel.) Even the characters that don't play such a huge role in the overarching conflict have their chance in the limelight. The way the story switches between certain perspectives (first person/third person) also provides an interesting way to view the story - but I feel that the author does it too much, and it hampers the progression in a way that's glaring in the second part and third parts of the work. The first part of it, however - brilliantly told.The premise many will find interesting: the U.S. government conducts a series of secret tests among twelve former criminals in a study of vampire like creatures called Virals. The Virals are savage creatures, searching for blood, possessing massive strength and intelligence, and - here's the kicker - they can somehow cheat death and terminal illness like cancer. Hence the need for the research. Of course, it goes horribly awry, and what results in the novel is a separation of pre-Viral society and post-Viral society.Pre-Viral society's covered in the first 250 some pages of the book, and revolves around a unique set of characters which the reader follows within the story. Very well developed characters, in fact, and jarringly gut punching situations of horror and blood. I did feel the impact of the events (and losses - curse the losses!) in this part of the work. Then, in the post-Viral world, the reader comes to know another set of characters that are progressively developed and have to deal with the trials of Viral invasions, and ultimately towards the attempt to stop them. The second part of the novel, however, is hampered by overindulgent explorations (telling the reader, not showing), and plot points that aren't aptly addressed. The ending leaves me to think that there is more to this story (another thing that frustrated me) than where it leaves.On an aside note: the two characters in this novel I liked the most were Wolgast (pre-Viral) and Michael (post-Viral), personally, because both of their characters do have flaws, but they're also likable enough to follow in the progressive scheme of the story. The character I have to give due credit for growth is Peter (post-Viral). I think it's important to say that it's hard NOT to care about this cast, but there are technical questions about the story that aren't addressed that I think hamper the plot. Nonetheless, if one follows this story for the events and character study, and interesting dystopic environment, I think it could be an enjoyable experience.Overall score: 3/5