It has been a while since I’ve encountered a horror novel of
and scope, but Justin Cronin’s hefty tome “The Passage” seems poised to announce itself as the latest true “horror epic.” It’s about time too! Ambitious and thought-provoking, but filled with propulsive action and bloodshed, “The Passage” is the thinking person’s genre thrill ride. This massive book starts in the near future with a pretty unique combination of vampiric lore meshed with science gone awry. But Cronin, while nailing these explosive first chapters, has much more
up his sleeve. The expansive (and sometimes it seems the story will never end) plot resets several times until we have followed the confrontations to their inevitable conclusion many generations later.
The comparisons to Stephen King’s “The Stand” seem apt and, I believe, will be widespread. And in case anyone has a passing interest on where I fall on “The Stand,” I think it’s the best book of its type that I’ve ever read. Although the books are quite different in plotting and structure, thematically they share much. From the veritable destruction of the world as we know it, to the efforts to rebuild some semblance of a new world order, to the ultimate confrontation between good an evil replete with the requisite supernatural underpinnings–both books challenge ordinary citizens to rise to extraordinary levels to champion the human cause. In the right hands, these apocalyptic epics can be unforgettable–and I’ll just say that Cronin’s hands are quite capable.
Don’t misunderstand the King reference, however, “The Passage” stands as its own unique portrait of a ravaged future. It’s just that there are so few horror novels that set out to accomplish so much in storytelling. Cronin’s novel is gutsy, challenging and filled with high level drama of the first order. It’s not breezy or light entertainment, however. It’s a serious reading commitment for those looking for their gore mixed with a lot of substance. A real change-of-pace and a welcome new addition to the ranks of horror lore, “The Passage” has earned the title of “epic.”