The Passage by Justin Cronin - the $5 million novel

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Werthead, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Well, my criteria is usually a little different from others, so I'm not a good gauge. I read all kinds of fiction so the fact that Cronin is an award winning novelist is neither turn off nor attraction. I don't care if people say the writing is good in reviews unless they can give me a detailed analysis of why they think it's good, and that very seldom occurs (but I can of course take a peek look to see for myself.) Like I said, it's hard when a book is first out to get detailed plot information -- which is why SFFWorld is often very useful -- but what I have learned so far is not making a big push for reading the book over other things I want to read.

    That it has the teenage chosen one girl center -- neither incentive nor disadvantage.
    That it has vampires -- neither incentive nor disadvantage.
    That it may have sections from the virals' pov -- incentive.
    That it uses western elements and has a train chase to Las Vegas -- not exactly a disadvantage, but not a big incentive either.
    That it has a Terminator plot teamed with The Stand -- neither incentive nor disadvantage

    And so on. Basically, when a person dislikes a book, they are quite gabby about it, but when they like a book, they tend to not be very detailed about why and you are left with basic information about the story itself. The information so far is fine, but has nothing to make me perk up my ears with great interest. (What perks up my ears is not the same as will attract many other readers, of course, as we are all subjectively different.)

    So I'll wait. I'll learn more about the plot, maybe sample the writing, read some other things first. I'm just getting around to reading Acacia, for much the same reasons. It's not like the book is going anywhere.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  2. Arith

    Arith Registered User

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    Hi Kat. I guess i am always careful about posting story elements because i don't want to ruin the book for others. As for your points.
    The girl really isn't a "chosen one" like you'd think and definitely does not act cliche at all. Shes a very defined character and why she is where shes at and why she is what she is is fully explained and makes sense. She just happens to be the culmination of the experiment with the virus and is actually a secondary character in the book. The vampires are harder to describe. The run in pods of threes, usually either three or six to a pod but sometimes more if one of the original virals are around, you do see some of the book from the main virals perspective and it is really effective. The only way this has western elements is because they have horses and its set out west but it doesn't not have a "cowboy feel" is that is what you were worried about. The train part is also a small part of the book but it is a pretty cool scene. I think the cooler scene is when they are sending the children away from the cities on trains in the beginning. The car hitches are rigged with explosives so that is a car is invaded by virals they can blow the hitch and detatch the car. Problem is, all the cars behind it detach too. Really cool imagery. Its kind of like the movie "The Vikings" when the horns are blowing and they are sending the women and children away. He paints a great picture.
     
  3. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    I guess I'm just wired differently Kat. If I see a good review from a reviewer who has similar tastes to me, (like a Werthead for example), and then see 4 to 5 other good reviews without really seeing any bad ones, I'm going to jump on that book, even if it's about two little puppies trying to find their way back to Candyland. I may make an exception if I think the book is going to be too dark, or contains things I really don't want to read about (The Steel Remains is a good example of this), but for the most part, a good book is a good book.

    So tastes differ? Of course. I'm going to have a different Top 10 books then most people. But for the most part I rely on the fact that people who like SFF will enjoy pretty well the same basic things in their books. So if 15 people tell me it's a great book to only 1 or 2 that says it isn't, I'm going to trust it.

    On the other hand, when I'm reviewing a book I try my best to say what was good and bad about it. Mostly because I have this pressing need to tell people what was good and bad about a book, but it can be useful to people reading those reviews.
     
  4. John Quixote

    John Quixote Registered User

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    Just finished it a little while ago. I read the last 300 pages in one single afternoon session. The Passage is the best book of its kind I've read since The Stand awed me so many years ago.

    As a post-apocalypse aficionado, my favourite portion of the book was the first third, with a very effective depiction of the phased breakdown of civilisation and the survivors' way of life afterwards. I think a lot of post-apoc fans know and love this civilisation is collapsing... collapsing... collapsing.. is collapsed! stage best of all, and I'm no exception. The book had me there.

    And it is not a vampire book. I'm now cringing every time I see the lazy blurb 'the vampire novel of the year!' etc.

    I'm looking forward to Vol 2 (in 1 year? 2 years?), particularly given the way it ends. The book's main threads are tied up in a way I found satisfying (if a little rushed), and there's a good hand-off to the next instalment right at the end. I can't wait, but at the same time I know I can wait. I'm a Song of Ice and Fire fan. I know how to wait...
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2010
  5. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    The ending made me want to kill people. That was the most build up ever for such little pay off.
     
  6. Snowy

    Snowy Registered User

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    I have mixed feelings about the book myself. I saw it in the shop, was intrigued (and loved The Stand) so decided to buy it.

    It is fantastic in the opening third, I really empathised with the characters, and found their actions believable. However:

    I was really looking forward to the apocalypse hitting. You know it is coming, as the plot exposition about the weapons lab where The Twelve are being created moves forward. When it comes though, you do not get the gradual disintegration of society as per The Stand, where you get the little vignettes of people unwittingly spreading the superflu. Rather the protagonist and young Amy know it is coming, and hole up accordingly. The descent into armageddon is then relayed by trips to a local store, newspaper articles etc. I read the first section waiting for a gloriously told descent into the end times, but when I reached it was disappointed that you learnt so little about it. A lot of the reminiscences from the second section would have been just as powerful, if not more so, had they happened in the present tense.

    The second section of the book was where I struggled the most. All of the characters you have grown to know vanish as you are catapulted 90 years into the future, and you have a whole load of new ones to get to know.

    While there are some fantastic elements, there is also an awful lot of world-building which either does it for you or doesnt, and I fall into the latter camp.

    The main issue I had was the sprawling dramatis personae, many of whom are pretty unnecessary in the overall scheme of things. Not only do many get killed piecemeal without really having any impact on the reader - you just don't 'know' them well enough to care.

    The imagining of the camp, the defences against the virals, and the growing threat that the camp is facing, are fantastic though.

    Once you hit the third section of the book, the pace picks back up again. I found the initial cast in section 2 to be too much, and when you get back to a smaller number of players I found it easier to keep track of who was who, and what each was motivated by.

    The story also picks up pace dramatically in this section, before reaching an end that, while a little bit of a let down in some ways, has left me hungry for the next instalment.
     
  7. Hobbit

    Hobbit Now.. A Seriously Likeable Administrator Staff Member

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    One of the things that I pointed out when I reviewed it was that you could've split the first third from the middle as a separate book, though, of course, the last part doesn't quite make sense without that first part.

    And of course we now know that The Passage is the first in a series: I'm going to mention the 'trilogy' word, though I'm not entirely sure that that is still the case. :D

    Mark
     
  8. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    Had the three parts in the first book been split out into 3 seperate books and lengthened, I would be absolutley happy. 3 books busted up into pieces that dont work well together will make me sad. I'll still buy them and read them, but i'll be sad.
     
  9. Snowy

    Snowy Registered User

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    I read somewhere that The Passage was actually 3 books originally, condensed into one.
     
  10. Pvt

    Pvt Registered User

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    I read this book, but I wasn't all that impressed. It was all over the map! I still have no idea why Amy has superpowers and that was before she was injected. Why was she chosen to begin?! No one even know she was a mutant.
     
  11. Snowy

    Snowy Registered User

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    Amy was chosen because...

    She was just as invisible as the guys spirited away from death row in terms of her background and how much she would be missed by the world, and the doctor behind the experiments wanted a child to use

    IIRC anyhow

    Dont recall her having superpowers though!
     
  12. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    she knew she was special in some way, plus the polar bears smashed through an enclosure to talk to her telepathically.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2010
  13. Snowy

    Snowy Registered User

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    Oh yes - fair point well made, I forgot that bit :p
     
  14. Pvt

    Pvt Registered User

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    This little fact throws the logic of the entire book into question. I don't know how anyone read the Passage and not question this at all.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2010
  15. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    There are a variety of things i didnt feel made much sense.
     
  16. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    Ok all the odd stuff aside, do you guys feel a second or third book could really pull things back on track?

    I think this story might be lost for me. I'm having a hard time envisioning circumstances that might pull it back to an immersive, coherent world.

    EDIT - it could be like gardens of the moon though. maybe cronin tidies up all the jumpiness in the plot and timelines and logic. Maybe books 2 through 8 become the best post apoc story ever?
     
  17. Khale

    Khale Registered User

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    I am just assuming that this will be explained in the sequels. I thoroughly enjoyed this book but could not help but wondering why this tidbit was thrown in pre-injection. Cronin must have a reason.
     
  18. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    I'm going to assume no for now at least. I'll add it in with her fluctating ability to ward off the Many, which seemed to come and go to fit the needs of the plot for some reason.

    It also seemed like a lot of characters had psychic "feelings" at one point or another. Auntie, Maus, Peter at one point, Theo, probably more if i dug deeper. That's pretty sloppy in my mind, like ghetto foreshadowing. It's not even nessasary, its post apoc for gods saek of course its going to be ominous.

    I'm officially leading the Cronin doubters brigade. He would have to have a very good sequel (trusted reviews) for me to consider reading him again. Or an Erikson like addmision of lack of attention to detail.
     
  19. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Andols, would you mind putting in a spoilers box what drove you crazy about the ending? Thanks.
     
  20. mickyg

    mickyg Registered Lurker

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    If this has already been answered I apologise, but this is part of a trilogy right? So does it end on a cliffhanger or can it be treated as a standalone book?

    I'm interested but I've got so many books to read that I don't really want to start a series that leaves me hanging for years.

    Thanks