by Justin Cronin
The Passage is the literary equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster: all bluster and special effects, no substance. Justin Cronin’s vampire saga is a pretentious, derivative, colossal waste of time. Did I mention that I hated this book? Actually, The Passage is worse than a shallow film like, say Avatar, because Cronin’s tripe is littered with self-important religious allusions, quotations from Shakespeare — and it takes longer than two hours to finish.
So what, exactly, are my problems with this book? Start with the characters, with whom the reader has to spend way too much time. These are cardboard people. Two of the main characters, Peter and Michael, are virtually indistinguishable. One of them is handy with engines and computers; other than that, I could rarely tell them apart. Cronin’s political correctness is gag-inducing – all of his female characters are saintly or indestructible. In fact, one of them actually turns into a superhero. Conversely, the males are all either deeply flawed or ineffectual. Spending hundreds of pages with these people is worse than becoming undead.
What’s worse is the novel’s plot. Even in the fantasy genre, an author must set ground rules and then follow them. Cronin’s vampires are sometimes omnipotent, sometimes not, depending on what his plot calls for. Heroes are routinely killed off and then miraculously resurrected. This kind of cheating goes on ad nauseam.
Was there anything I liked about The Passage? The attack scenes are not bad. Cronin stages some tense, nasty battles between his dullard protagonists and the “smokes.” But those scenes are too few to overcome all the tedious exposition that surrounds them. The Passage is a Stephen King wannabe and should be burned at the stake.
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