The Passage (The Passage #1) by Justin Cronin: Book Review

Title: The Passage
Series: The Passage #1
Author: Justin Cronin
Publication details: June 8th 2010 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, thriller, suspense

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

First off, the book is huge (and heavy). My copy is hardbound, and it has 766 pages! Also let's appreciate the reflective covers. Haha!

Cool, eh? Now on to my review.

A story about loss, tragedy, resilience, and bravery. The Passage centers around a virus outbreak that turned men into 'vampires' or to what they call 'virals'. What started as a scientific and military quest became a battle for survival, a battle for humanity spanning decades.

The beginning of the story is quite slow for me. I felt like the author really took his time in setting the world and introducing the characters, which isn't really a bad thing. But yeah, it kind of dragged my reading experience for a while. I actually set the book down for a few weeks because of the pacing, but fortunately I picked it up again.

Once the chaos began, that's when things started really moving forward. The pace started to speed up a bit with slow narratives in between.

Plot-wise, I find The Passage really interesting. The premise isn't something new but I liked the dynamics of the events and of the characters. There are a lot of things happening, a lot of backgrounds to read about but I liked how everything was weaved together. I don't think there are wasted scenes in this book, as many as they are. Haha! 😁

I also liked the shifting of time frames and POVs that made me more invested in the characters and in the story.

Another thing I liked about The Passage is that there are a lot of commentaries about humanity throughout the book. Calamity, war and brokenness say something about us. It brings a lot of our character as an individual and as a society- some good and some bad.

There's just one plot element that doesn't seem science fiction-y to me. But nonetheless, The Passage has an interesting and insightful plot.

The Passage was a hodgepodge of characters! So if you really want to keep up with who's who, I think it'd be better to take notes. There were times when I asked myself who I was reading about. So yeah, notes. Haha! 😁

Though we have different personalities from different walks of life, there's no particular character that really stood out to me, or that I got attached with. Some may have been more mysterious and intriguing than others but I felt like they're all equal to me. And I did enjoy reading all about them.

I liked the writing style of the author. The Passage is written in a third person omniscient perspective which gave me a wider view of what's happening. The writing style of the author is straight forward and for some parts, thought-provoking. The flow of the scenes is not linear, jumping from different POVs and different time frames. Thus, it made my reading experience more interesting and not boring. It also gave more depth to the plot and characters.

There were technical terms I am completely clueless about (and I did not bother researching them) but I was still able to follow the events and the characters nevertheless.

As I have mentioned, there are a lot happening in the book but surprisingly it did not overwhelm me. Truly, the author is a very good story-teller.


Overall, it was an adventure reading The Passage, that I immediately read the second book. Haha! If you're looking for a good sci-fi, thriller with insights on humanity, I suggest you read The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Born in New England, Justin Cronin is the author of Mary and O'Neil, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize, and The Summer Guest. Having earned his MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop, Cronin is now a professor of English at Rice University and lives with his family in Houston, Texas.