The Passage: a tale of two novels

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage
Author:Justin Cronin
Year published: 2010
Genre: Post-apocalypse (near/far), thriller/horror.
Threat: Vampires.
Two words: Long term.






Justin Cronin’s dabble with the apocalypse has met with wide critical celebration, as he blended numerous genres: starting out as a thriller, it progresses to some sort of action horror when transported to its post-apocalyptic adventure resting place. Wedging together the ever-popular theme of genetically modified vampires (thanks, I Am Legend) with wasteland survivors and a prodigal child with superpowers, it’s a recipe for epic adventure. And you’d think it a very impressive thing for an author to pull off. But does he?

What’s The Passage all about?

In modern America, FBI agents round up death-row convicts for secret military experiments essentially creating vampires. Meanwhile a child is abandoned by her mother and left to some nuns. Naturally, the two seemingly unrelated plots come to a head. When the child, Amy, is seen to be somehow related to the experiments, the FBI agents relent and things start to go wrong.

Jump forward 90 years and civilisation as we know it gone, along with all the characters we’d come to follow. Communities now live in fear of the escaped experimental monsters and their minions, defending themselves with UV lights. This happy existence is shaken when Amy re-emerges. And so begins a new journey, as the survivors set out on a trek across the American wasteland to put an end to the vampiric chaos.

What’s special about The Passage?

The Passage is a sprawling epic, spanning near a century of apocalyptic history, with a blend of horror, thriller and post-apocalyptic survivor elements. Its presented in a variety of mediums, with newspaper clippings and diary entries joining the regular straight narrative. And it has a massive host of characters spread across the action-packed plot. It’s nothing less than ambitious, and if you feel you can stick with it for over 900 pages then it’s for you.

Personally it didn’t work for me. The shift from early thriller to distant post-apocalypse was too abrupt and left too little from the original tale to care about. It didn’t bridge smoothly, and the new setting, 90 years later, was disappointingly unengaging, the characters dull, the action unsatisfying. It has reached massive critical acclaim though, so it’s clearly got something going for it…I’m just not too sure what that is, myself…


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