Review of The Passage by Justin Cronin

I kind of sort of hate it when a book comes out and it is compared to all of the other popular books in it’s genre. I understand the need for comparison,so when someone looks at a book they can say oh this was compared to BOOK A, I really enjoyed BOOK A so I will probably enjoy this one. However, it does bother me when I’ve read all the books the upcoming read is compared to, so I wind up expecting it to be like them. This, friends, is what happened to me when I read The Passage by Justin Cronin. I had seen comparisons of the book to The Stand and to The Road, so I was leaning heavy on The Stand comparison, which I do think hindered the book for me.

The first act of The Passage by Justin Cronin is brilliant. You see, The Passage is a vampire-crossover-into-zombies book, but for grown-ups. What happens is the government, of course, creates this strain of disease to make people super human. Turns out they use death row convicts for test subjects, smooth move, Uncle Sam, smooth move. Of course, you all have seen delightful films such as 28 Days Later, so we all know what happens. THE EXPERIMENT GOES HORRIBLY WRONG. Me? I love that. I love seeing the breakdown of society. I like seeing that we aren’t quite as infallible as we thought we were. Right, so there is this whole cast of characters in the beginning of the book which I got really attached to, and of course only one of those characters really makes it to the second part of the book. That character being Amy, who was also part of the experiment, but she’s a normal girl, not a murderer, so she doesn’t turn into a bloodthirsty viral.

Then, of course, we have the rest of The Passage by Justin Cronin to contend with. This part of the book does not deal with the same characters as the first half. Of course, the rest of The Passage is set 100 years into the future. Honestly, I thought that made The Passage a bit disjointed. I really did not care at all about the new characters at first, they were kind of just thrown at me. Later on, I did connect a little bit with the characters. However, they always seemed at arm’s length to me, especially Amy who is in both parts of the book.

I think what Cronin does really well is society-building. He creates this community and gives it distinction and function. Then peoples the community with unique characters with quirks and personalities and such. The way he does this made his society believable. I think when you are building a world/community, you don’t want the people’s motivations and decisions to be contrived, so it really is something which I think takes skill and craft, which yes, Cronin has in spades.

I will say The Passage completely battered my emotions. It was tragedy, then oh ray of hope, then smash smash smash. I actually had to start reading a romance novel in the middle of reading The Passage, that’s how much it affected my nerves. I mean, ultimately there is hope, but still I think so much tragedy is a cheap ploy on my emotions. I don’t like being toyed with like that. Sure, it’s wonderful when a book can have an emotional impact, I just don’t know how to feel about it when that impact occurs over and over. It made me weary, and left me with conflicted feelings towards the book.

I would recommend The Passage by Justin Cronin with reservations. Don’t read this expecting Abigail Freemantle, Larry Underwood, Trashcan Man, Stu Redman or Franny. Don’t read this book expecting sparkling vampires. Don’t read this expecting a super-quick read. I know I am a very fast reader, and this book took me over a week to read. Now, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just The Passage is literary so I had to take my time processing. Plus, hah, the pages are bigger than what I’m used to. However, if you are into societies, world breakdown, large casts of characters and epics, then by all means check this baby out.

Other Reviews of The Passage by Justin Cronin:

Rhapsody In Books
S. Krishna’s Books
Boston Bibliophile
Books I Done Read

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Mrs. DeRaps says

    I can't wait to read this story. I love a good epic now and again. Thanks for sharing your criticisms and your honest thoughts. And, I've heard that this is a longer read, but it's summer and I need a book that will last me more than a couple of days. Thanks!

  2. Peppermint Ph.D. says

    I love that you provide the other reviews at the bottom of your posting…so helpful to read so many different perspectives of the same novel…different aspects of the book stand out to different readers. I was unsure of this book but am adding it to my amazon wish list.

  3. Great review, I have been seeing a lot about this title. Waiting for it on CD though.

  4. rhapsodyinbooks says

    I totally agree that the characters in the first half were better than the second.

  5. Debbie's World of Books says

    Great review! I had similar feelings although my problem was so many people raved about it I felt let down (I posted my review the other day). I was really surprised based on the book blurb how small a part the first section of the book played. I thought we would see more of Agent Wolgast & Amy and how the world falls apart. So all of a sudden to be 100 years in the future did feel very disjointed.

    I agree I never really connected to the characters in the second half of the book but that community was interesting to see. I do want to read the sequel to see more of what other parts of the country have evolved into.

  6. hi, really like the review. i read this epic on holiday and enjoyed it, but you’re right- lazy comparisons totally mis-sold it to me. still, not bad at all, though i was pleased to pick up a normal 300 pager afterwards…
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