by Barb Biggs, Boyd County Public Library Branch Manager
If you’re a fan of Stephen King and haven’t yet read The Passage, I would whole-heartedly recommend that you do, and soon. I say soon because it is coming to the big screen, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), and you don’t want to be the one person sitting in the theater who hasn’t read it.
The Passage, written by Justin Cronin and published in 2010, is the first novel of a planned trilogy. The second book, The Twelve, came out last year, and the third is due to be released next year. Fair warning: the book is huge. Like, almost 800 pages. But it’s worth the investment.
It opens in the just-distant future as a group of scientists are hiking in the Bolivian jungle. They meet an unfortunate end, but their work lives on in a secret U.S. military base in Colorado, where, the government tries to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on the virus carried by the South American bat that infected the scientists. The government believes that they can use the bat serum to transform death-row inmates (because who is going to miss a few of those?) into U.S. Army super-soldiers with an enhanced immune system, super strength and agility.
What they end up with is much more than they bargained for: “virals” that can control your dreams and rip you apart so quickly you don’t have time to fight back. Not that you could. Fighting the virals is impossible. And then the virals escape the military facility. An apocalypse is at hand and humanity is almost completely wiped out.
We then meet a six-year-old girl, Amy, and her mother. They are down on their luck when we meet them, and things go from bad to worse quite quickly. Amy gets recruited by the FBI to become a part of the medical experiments, called “Project Noah,” because they believe her young age will allow the virus to live with her symbiotically, and not violently as it did with the inmates.
Fast forward almost 100 years. A compound in California houses about 100 people who have survived behind walls and lights that never turn off. When Amy shows up there, their way of life is changed, and a quest begins. I don’t think I can really sum up the plot much more without giving too much away, so I’ll leave it at that.
Cronin isn’t your typical vampire writer. He graduated from the uber-prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop and had small, literary novels under his belt before The Passage was published. He said he first started developing his ideas in 2006 when his daughter asked him to write a book “about a girl who saves the world.”
The Passage was one of those rare manuscripts that ignites a bidding war before it’s even published (the advance was something around $5 million for the first two books, and $1.75 for film rights for just the first of the planned trilogy). I also want to mention that besides Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this is the first vampire novel I’ve ever read. In fact, I make a conscious effort to stay away from them. But the lure of this one finally got to me, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. It is a very well-crafted book with fleshed out characters and a fast-moving and thrilling plot. Plus, when the blockbuster film comes out, you can say, “Hey, I read that!”
You can find “The Passage” at BCPL. Place a hold on it today by visiting www.thebookplace.org.