Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Reads: "The Passage" by Justin Cronin

When will the Army learn not to mess with strands of DNA from Undocumented Diseases from Far Away Places?

Never, I suppose. Not so long as there are Zombie Apocalypse Epics to write. Here, the US Army is up to no good, using death-row inmates as guinea pigs for some top secret project with requisite top secret mountain bunkers, scientists, agents and goons. It's the Near Future with requisite acts of terror on US soil, a shaken economy and people working to create super-soldiers who heal overnight. All goes just fine, until a 6 year old girl, somehow and inexplicably, is chosen to receive a cocktail that will make her immortal. And then, of course, the world ends.

This is just the first few hundred pages in this door stopper of a novel. The next "act" is set further in the future, as a whole new cast unravels the folly of these mad men while dealing with the horror of unkillable undead and a failing world. And, "The Passage" would be another wholly forgettable end-of-world book, especially with the unnecessary exposition and incessant filler that renders whole chapters tedious and boring, were it not for how the author wove a very interesting bit of magic into the story that really keeps the story afloat. It's right in the opening and is sprinkled sparingly through the pages and it adds a sense of purpose to this bloated novel. The first third of this tome, however, is enthralling and impossible to put down, but still, the book has no business being over 700 pages(!) long.

Especially not when you get to the end and this damn thing doesn't end. Apparently, it's a trilogy now and I couldn't help be upset when I got to there. It stops on a weak cliffhanger that gives no reason to read the forthcoming books - ending with a look into a time well into the future, it renders whatever is yet to be written unnecessary - because right here, in the end is the proof of their eventual success.

A decent read, it is engrossing and really makes one wonder about the fragility of the day-to-day lives we lead. With some heavy editing, this could be a truly spectacular, thrilling book, but it too often reaches for the mediocre.

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