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gobbledonk

Review - 'the Passage' By Justin Cronin

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(I knew joining a board as 'Giles Babcock' was some kind of in-joke, but it wasnt until someone recommended this book that I realised how many sick bastards are out there. The Many, apparently. :evilpumpkin: )

 

The Passage is Justin Cronin's epic vision of the apocalypse, strongly reminiscent of Stephen King's 'The Stand'. It's currently in pre-production with Ridley Scott directing - he reportedly has a screenplay but no word on cast or anything else beyond a vague 2013 release date. It's the first part of a trilogy, with the next installment ('The Twelve') scheduled for release in October, 2012.

 

Unlike the Antichrist's legions in 'The Stand', this time, the enemy is us - more specifically, an infected 'viral' version of humanity (there is a single reference to 'non-human mammalian infection', but all of the attackers were human initially, fwir). Referred to variously as 'vampires', 'smokes', 'dracs' and 'the infected', I'll stick with 'virals' for the remainder of this review. They proceed to decimate everything with a pulse - fish being the sole exception - from the icy wastes of Alaska to the Isthmus of Panama despite attempts by the military to contain the spread of the virus. Too fast for anything beyond a single shot/stab wound to the 'sweet spot', a triangle of roughly 3-inches in the chest area, they are almost 100% lethal at night or in a shaded environment, infecting 1 in every 10 victims and eviscerating the other 9. The UN mines the coast and sinks any ship which attempts to leave the US - as I said, an apocalyptic vision.

 

There are some very familiar elements - the super-secret US Army project which unleashes the whole nightmare on the rest of the world, and the old 'fate of humanity rests with this little girl' chestnut - but Cronin seems more intent on fleshing out each of his human characters than graphically depicting the demise of any single protagonist. There is gore, no question, but he rarely dwells on it. Like King, (and Shakespeare before him) Cronin has a gift for detailing the Achilles Heel of each of his band of intrepid 'goodies' and, just as importantly, the tiniest speck of nobility in several of the creations - human and viral - which seek to destroy said goodies. I thought this was more successful in some instances than others, but it seems to work better with vampires than zombies, even when these vampires dont have any snappy dialog to explain their bloodthirsty ways.

 

The first few chapters are so unremittingly grim that I found myself wondering whether it wasn't an act of mercy for *everyone* concerned when the virals finally break free and start tearing people asunder. The author paints the darkest possible picture of life for the American underclass (Houston just joined Atlanta on my list of places to avoid), but it goes beyond that - everyone involved in the research project seems utterly doomed. Amy was the only character I wanted to see live beyond those first few chapters. There is also a tendency for any post-apocalyptic world to look suspiciously like an episode of 'Xena : Warrior Princess' meets 'Mad Max : Road Warrior' - annoying, but what can you do when crossbows and knives are the only weapons you have left ? A real challenge for Scott's costume department, IMO.

 

If I could sum the book up in a single word, it would be 'relentless'. Once the virals escape, there are very few pages where I wasnt poised on the edge of my seat, even when I had correctly anticipated a given plot development. Some of the action sequences are straight out of one of James Cameron's wet dreams, and the impact of an impending attack never becomes a case of 'here we go again'. As someone said to me after I had made it halfway through the book, 'It never gives up, does it ?', and he was right - I think Cronin has done a magnificent job of maintaining the pace.

 

The plot, thankfully, turned my initial disinterest in the fate of various characters around - 180 degrees - and there is an especially touching scene right at the end of the book that I just didnt see coming. I believe that if Mr Scott can bring the power of that meeting to the screen, most will find it hard to suppress a tear. Given that a screen adaptation will require at least 3 hours of densely scripted action and dialog, I suspect that tears could already be welling up in your eyes well before Amy steps into the forest to embrace her long lost friend. I sincerely hope Scott can pull it off - other than 'The Shining' and 'Misery', most of King's best work has been left on the pages of his novels. Hope springs eternal that this will be one of those rare moments where Hollywood gets it right.

 

Highly Recommended - 9/10

 

(Justin Cronin is a Professor of English at Rice University - fwiw - if only my own lecturers had written something this entertaining. Such is life.)

 

Gobbledonk

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Sorry, I meant to include 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Green Mile' as King novels which were successfully bought to the screen. I also wanted to mention the biblical theme which runs through both 'The Stand' and 'The Passage', although they certainly arent the only writers to drag out the 'cleansed by fire' toolbox. Its interesting that both men live in the New England/Maine region, and both are so adept at bringing the elements into the narrative as very real antagonists - particularly Winter. Again, all part of the challenge faced by Scott and his production team - roll on 2013 !

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Sounds like just the thing to read on the beach while Noi/Lek/Fah tucks in to a plate of somtam talay :hubbahubba:

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Sounds like just the thing to read on the beach while Noi/Lek/Fah tucks in to a plate of somtam talay :hubbahubba:

 

Unless you are a particularly speedy reader. Noi could go home to Isaan, visit her family, and come back before you finished this monster. Its split roughly into 'pre apocalypse' and 'post apocalypse', separated by a hundred years, and the pre-apocalypse section alone is as long as many 'standard' novels. If you have an iPhone/iPad/iTouch, you might be happier with the iBook download.

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Unless you are a particularly speedy reader. Noi could go home to Isaan, visit her family, and come back before you finished this monster. Its split roughly into 'pre apocalypse' and 'post apocalypse', separated by a hundred years, and the pre-apocalypse section alone is as long as many 'standard' novels. If you have an iPhone/iPad/iTouch, you might be happier with the iBook download.

 

True its long at close to 900 pages of tiny print, but once you start reading its hard to stop! :surprised:B)

 

Was sorry to reach the end, now have to wait for the follow on, "12"... :sad:

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True its long at close to 900 pages of tiny print, but once you start reading its hard to stop! :surprised:B)

 

Was sorry to reach the end, now have to wait for the follow on, "12"... :sad:

 

ummm, off topic - we need some good brownfox bar reviews dear sir. preferably before i touch down in november, so lets get crackin, chop chop!!! :)

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True its long at close to 900 pages of tiny print, but once you start reading its hard to stop! :surprised:B)

 

Was sorry to reach the end, now have to wait for the follow on, "12"... :sad:

 

I was a little relieved to reach the end, but he left it wide open for the next instalment. Tailor-made for Hollywood, but I'm guessing that many movie goers will feel a tad aggrieved sitting through a 3-hour ordeal only to realise that its just the beginning. My friend also bitched about the way the narrative skips forward a century from one chapter to another - I hope Scott can do the old 'fast forward' more effectively. Frames showing the headline, cities being overrun and the environmental degradation that would inevitably accompany the abandonment of oil platforms and nuclear power plants.

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