Post-apocalyptic Literature – Review: The Passage

The Passage is a hefty chunk of a book. I read it in softback, and could still probably have used it to brain a few enemies. Those with short attention spans will want to read something else, and news that it’s the first in a series will probably make non-readers groan, though by doing so they’ll be missing out on something fantastic.
I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. It starts slow- we don’t even get exposition or plot until chapter five or six- but it uses the time it’s got to build up characters and tell us their stories. The fact that Cronin does this only means that your heart breaks more effectively when the plot does start happening.
By the time it’s got going though, it goes with what seems breakneck pace. Plenty of time is still given up for plot and characterisation, but the book has grabbed you in it’s claws and won’t let you go again until it’s forced you to watch. And it’s brutal, god is it brutal. I was pleased about this- too many post-apocalypse group shy away from the horror or the brutality, but The Passage shows it to you. I don’t mean it’s heavily gory- though it does go for the gore when necessary- just that it makes you feel the loss and hopelessness of the end of the world.
I was very pleased that Cronin didn’t take the overused zombies route. It is still an infection that destroys the world and changes people into monsters, but I was getting tired of zombies. They aren’t the only threat. While I don’t want to tell you what Kronins monsters are, they are terrifying and a refreshing take on the subject.
It’s not without it’s flaws though, and one flaw is the writing. Mostly, Cronin’s writing is good- spare and taut and just descriptive enough, and brilliantly evocative, but occasionally he slips too far into the lurid. Despite being grabbed by the book, some passages made me raise my eyebrow at his overuse of metaphor and simile. However, some other passages made me read them again and again just for the sheer beauty of them, so that complaint remains small. It certainly didn’t ruin the book for me.
A word of warning though- The Passage is emotionally draining. I had to take a break from reading it as it left me exhausted. It sat, two thirds finished, while I read emotionally simpler things. The Passage is emotionally complex, full of despair and pain but with just enough hope and love to lighten the load.
Despite the length of the book I was please to find out there were going to be more, as towards the end it was clear the story couldn’t be wrapped up, even in this huge amount of words. I loved this book and cannot wait for the sequels, which I will, of course, review here.
 

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