The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I don't read a lot of bestsellers anymore. I had to, when I was a book section editor, but now I'm surrounded by shelves of books I haven't read and should, or books I've read but don't remember. But when I heard about this novel, it sounded like my kind of book. What that says about me, I leave it to you to surmise.
I can imagine the pitch to the publishers and then to the movie producers: The Hot Zone meets True Blood. And in truth that's what attracted me to it. The idea that vampirism might be a medical condition, even if it's a far-fetched concept, has a lot of appeal to me. If Cronin had stuck more closely to that premise I might have liked the book more, but then it got all muddled up with telepathic communications that don't seem to have much to do with the virus: the whole business of Sister Lacey and her psychic connection with first Amy and then Doyle, for example. I'm willing to admit that a virus might even allow a human being to grow a carapace, to alter its musculature and make it superstrong, maybe even to glow. But the parapsychology is a bit hard to swallow, especially when it's demonstrated by people who aren't even infected.
Still, I'm game for a good yarn, so I stuck with it. And I'll probably be first in line for the sequel, if only because there are so damn many loose ends that I want to see if Cronin ties up. (For example, what about Hastings/Zero, who was infected with the virus in its natural state in Bolivia? Did he become the same kind of Queen Bee that Babcock became? He seems not to have a connection with the Twelve.)
On the whole it's a strong book for what it is: a deft handling of genre conventions, with more than a touch of Tolkien (Peter as Frodo, the virals as orcs). It's more cinematic than literary, but who am I to knock that?
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A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews
"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude