Monday, 2 August 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

FBI agent Brad Wolgast took an assignment to gather 12 prisoners from death row and save them from the needle. In return, they sign over their lives to the Federal Government even thought they really don’t know why. With their only alternative being certain death, it’s not hard to convince them that the government is offering them a better option. All go willingly in the end, even Carter, who is not like the others.

Then one day, Wolgast and his partner Doyle are asked to pick up a little girl who was abandoned by her mother at a convent. Suddenly, the whole thing seems a little less morally acceptable to Wolgast. Sending convicted murderers who are destined to die anyway off to be used as lab rats is one thing, using a little girl for the same is another. Wolgast suddenly finds his whole world collapsing around him as he comes closer and closer to an experiment which will change the world. “32 minutes for one world to die and another to be born.” (quote from blurb).

I’d love to go on about this, but don’t want to give anything away for those who still might want to read the book. I bought this on a whim because Audible was selling it for only one credit instead of two for a limited time and I thought why not. 1 Credit for 40 hours of entertainment is not a lot and most of the reviews were good. It was worth it in the end. It’s a highly entertaining, well written book. The prose is good, the characters are good, the story is good and the plot is totally unpredictable, what’s not to like? - I should add that the narrators were all good as well, which is a real bonus when you spend 40 hours listening to a book. - It’s the kind of good book you can’t put down. I finished it in just under 5 days, despite the length. Like I said, the plot was mostly unpredictable which kept me on the edge of my seat. At most points, I could imagine 5 or 6 ways he could have taken it, but Cronin took the novel in directions I never even thought of. It was also easy to care about his characters, even though there are an awful lot of them and it’s not always clear which are going to be the most important. Some seem like they will have a huge effect of the novel, and then pretty much just disappear. Some seem like they are important, but then events change their standing in the book and the fall along the wayside, but those who take their places are just as interesting as the ones who are no longer there.

What I also find interesting is that Cronin leaves quite a bit open to guesswork. In some respects, the reader knows a lot more than the characters, but in others, the reader is clueless. This means that guessing at what’s going on is a bit of a hit and miss and not everything is always clear, even to the reader who is privy to more information than the characters. This is what keeps the story interesting through the parts of the novel where the pace slows up. You never quite know what’s really going on and you desperately want to find out.

The only negatives I have about the book is that it is really long and by the time you finish it, you really are ready for the story to end – and even all good things do come to an end. It only ever drags a bit in one spot, which is part 5 where there’s a lull in actual action, but even that is negligible (see comments above). What I really mean is that you’re just ready for the story to come to some conclusion. This moves us right along to my only other criticism, which is the conclusion. After all the reading and all the worrying for the characters, there really is no conclusive ending. No one expects a Disney ending with all loose ends tied up and a bunch of happy campers running around singing The Circle of Life, but something a little more satisfying would have been in order. As it is, the ending is left wide open, leading me to assume there will be a sequel. I’m perfectly happy for there to be a sequel too, but I would have liked a little bit more of a conclusion of some sort. It feels a bit like having your ice cream fall out of your cone when you’re only half way through, you get a bit of something, but not as much as you would like. At least many of the answers to the many mysteries are more or less provided; otherwise I think Cronin might just have gotten himself lynched at one of his book signings. Reading through all of that and not getting answers? That just wouldn’t be acceptable!

My rating? 40 hours in 5 days? For me to listen that much in so little time means it’s a really good book (either that or someone forced me to listen at gun point…). This one gets a flat out 5 out of 5 from me.

PS, I do wonder if this isn’t a bit of an Anti-Edward book because the “vampires” in this one may glow a bit, but they certainly don’t sparkle!

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