Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Page Count/Review Word Count: 998
Okay, strap yourself in. This review is going to be interesting because of my system in which I match the word count of my reviews to the number of pages that a book has. The Passage has lots of pages and so I need to write a long review, but I really don’t have much to say. It was just a disappointment.
There’s been a lot of hype around this book, particularly on BookTube in the last couple of years or so, and I really don’t understand it. True, I went into it blind and didn’t know too much of it, but I gather that it’s been compared to The Stand by Stephen King, which is one of my favourite books. Yeah, no. Comparing this to The Stand is like comparing one of my doodles to a Picasso painting.
True, it does have the whole post-apocalyptic survival thing going for it, but then it also takes the whole “chosen one” trope and just amps it up until it’s downright ridiculous. It also has vampires, or at least something a little like them, but that just made it feel like Cronin was stealing ‘Salem’s Lot from Stephen King as well. And while the vampires here aren’t sparkly, I’d rather read all of the Twilight books than have to re-read The Passage. Although I’d prefer to do neither if it’s all the same to you.
One of the big problems with The Passage was that the characters were uninteresting. It’s not even that they were unlikeable, they just weren’t much of anything. It was the literary equivalent of eating lettuce, but when there’s almost 1,000 pages you want something a little more substantial. And I’m saying that as a vegan.
I buddy read this with a couple of friends from BookTube, and none of us enjoyed it. I found it such a slog that when I got about halfway through, I switched it out with The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins to make it my bedtime book. I figured it might help me to fall asleep, and I was right. It ended up taking me the best part of a month to finish.
One of the main problems that the three of us had with it is that it could’ve been an okay book if it had been better edited. I can’t imagine why they let it go out at this length unless they were planning on using the length itself as a marketing ploy, and I’m pretty sure from reading this that you could get the entire trilogy into a shorter book than The Passage and it would work well.
There are just prolonged periods of nothingness and sub-stories that just don’t add anything to it. Part of this might be because I didn’t give a damn about the characters, but I’m pretty sure at least some of it is down to the way that it’s written. It reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert in a way, because there’s a long slog in the middle of Dune where nothing much happens. Unfortunately for Cronin, Dune was still a good book, whereas The Passage fell flat.
I also had a problem with the actual writing. There are times when I’ll read a book that I didn’t much like but where I’ll still be able to respect the author’s writing style. For example, I didn’t like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but I did at least like some of the individual sentences. Here, though, it just feels a little sloppy, another fault that could have been fixed with tighter editing.
So it all comes down to the fact that it’s just longer than it needs to be and not particularly well written. A book like this shouldn’t bore the reader, especially given the concept. Cronin somehow took a great idea and made it as exciting as watching a children’s television show. And like the salad that it reminds me of, it’s just bland, tasteless, and I think the leaves might have gone off a little bit, too.
Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who loved the book. Thinking about it, though, I’ve never come across any. I’ve seen lots of people who were excited about reading it, but I don’t think I ever saw any reviews from them. Perhaps they had a similar experience to me. For our part, all three of us in the buddy read said that we would have DNFd it if we weren’t reading it with other people, and that doesn’t bode well.
And can we talk about how weird it is that the book was being sold brand new for £2.99 because Waterstones apparently loved it? It also came with reading group discussion prompts, which I’ve always hated. It seems a little pretentious to me, and our little reading group only had one question when we finished it. “Why did we read this?”
So if you’re thinking about reading this book, I’d probably suggest skipping it and reading something else. It comes with a little list of suggested further reading at the end of it, which understandably includes The Stand. The Passage is a pretender, a wannabe, and while I applaud Cronin on taking a shot at it, I think he missed the target. I can’t imagine ever wanting to read the rest of this trilogy, although I’m not saying I’d never read Cronin again. I just wouldn’t waste my time on something with 1,000 pages that should have been shortened to 350.
The biggest crime for me is the waste of the idea. It has every right to be a great book, it just isn’t. It’s a shame that someone else didn’t get their hands on it – or even just a really good editor. Congratulations if you read this far. We finished it.