Passage (Cronin)

The Passage (The Passage Trilogy, 1)
Justin Cronin, 2010
Random House
800 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345504975#

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl—and risks everything to save her.

As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

The Passage was named one of the 10 Best Novels of the Year by Time and Library Journal. It was named one the Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, Esquire, U.S. News & World Report, NPR's On Point, BookPage, and the St. Louis Post. (From the publisher.)

This is the first book of a planned trilogy. The Twelve, published in 2012, is the second installment.

Author Bio
Raised—in New England, USA
Education—B.A., Harvard University; M.A., Iowa Writers'
Awards—PEN/Hemingway Award; Stephan Crane Prize
   Whiting Writer's Award
Currently—lives in Houston, Texas

Justin Cronin (born 1962) is an American author. He has written four novels: Mary and O'Neil and The Summer Guest, as well as The Passage and The Twelve as part of a trilogy. He has won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Stephen Crane Prize, and the Whiting Writer's Award.

Born and raised in New England, Cronin is a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He taught creative writing and was the "Author in-residence" at La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA from 1992 to 2005. He lives with his wife and children in Houston, Texas where he is a professor of English at Rice University.

In July 2007, Variety reported that the screen rights to Cronin's trilogy was purchased by Fox 2000. The first book of the series, The Passage, was released in June 2010. The second book, The Twelve, came out in 2012. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
While it relies at times on convention, The Passage is astutely plotted and imaginative enough to satisfy the most bloodthirsty reader.... Cronin leaps back and forth in time, sprinkling his narrative with diaries, ­e-mail messages, maps, newspaper articles and legal documents. Sustaining such a long book is a tough endeavor, and every so often his prose slackens into inert phrases.... For the most part, though, he artfully unspools his plot's complexities, and seemingly superfluous details come to connect in remarkable ways.
Mike Peed - New York Times

A postapocalyptic vampire trilogy, which Stephen King has hailed as a captivating epic.... A potential commercial blockbuster by an award-winning literary novelist.
Wall Street Journal

By the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night. It's a macabre pleasure to see what a really talented novelist can do with these old Transylvanian tropes.... Cronin has stripped away the lurid religious trappings of the vampire myth and gone with a contemporary biomedical framework. Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King's The Stand and Salem's Lot in that lab at Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon's Swan Song, "Battlestar Galactica" and even Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
Ron Charles - The Washington Post

A literary richness that rivals Stephen King's The Stand.

Addictive, terrifying, and deeply satisfying. Not only is this one of the year's best thrillers; it's one of the best of the past decade—maybe one of the best ever.
Men's Journal

Magnificently unnerving.... A The Stand-meets-The Road journey. A-
Entertainment Weekly

Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies. When a secret project to create a super-soldier backfires, a virus leads to a plague of vampiric revenants that wipes out most of the population. One of the few bands of survivors is the Colony, a FEMA-established island of safety bunkered behind massive banks of lights that repel the “virals,” or “dracs”—but a small group realizes that the aging technological defenses will soon fail. When members of the Colony find a young girl, Amy, living outside their enclave, they realize that Amy shares the virals’ agelessness, but not the virals’ mindless hunger, and they embark on a search to find answers to her condition. PEN/Hemingway Award-winner Cronin (The Summer Guest) uses a number of tropes that may be overly familiar to genre fans, but he manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style. The first of a proposed trilogy, it’s already under development by director Ripley Scott and the subject of much publicity buzz .
Publishers Weekly

The first entry in a new trilogy, the book is set in a bleak, postapocalyptic America at a time when the world is overrun by vampire-like humans infected by a virus. Divided into two huge parts—pre- and postoutbreak—the tale is equally gripping and frightening and the characters are very well developed. —Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
Library Journal

[An] apocalyptic epic.... Expect a lot of interest in this title.

Literary author Cronin (Mary and O'Neil, 2001, etc.) turns in an apocalyptic thriller in the spirit of Stephen King or Michael Crichton. You know times are weird when swarms of Bolivian bats swoop from the skies and kill humans-or, as one eyewitness reports of an unfortunate GI, off fighting the good fight against the drug lords, "they actually lifted him off his feet before they bored through him like hot knives through butter.".... The young girl as heroine and role model is a nice touch. Otherwise a pretty ordinary production, with little that hasn't been seen before.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Passage:

1. The book opens in the very near future, only several years from now. Is Cronin's portrait of 2018 believable? Does the state of society resemble anything that we might reasonably foresee occurring?

2. Does the military make the right choice in undertaking Noah? When so much of society is under constant threat of violence, is there a moral imperative to do whatever is scientifically possible to save the country from collapse?

3. Why does the military choose the name Project Noah? Talk about the irony behind the name—especially its Biblical reference to the destruction of a flawed race.

4. How far should society let science proceed in its research to alter biology? At what point do we say "no" to the human desire for ever greater knowledge?

5. Inmates on death row are offered a life sentence if they agree to participate in the government's experimental drug program. Is it moral to enroll murderers and rapists in medical research studies?

6. The Passage contains different types of writing, including diary entries, emails, maps, news articles, and academic papers. Why would the author use this technique to tell his story? How do faux documents contribute to the reading experience of the novel?

7. Discuss any or all of the characters in the first part of the book: Amy Bellefonte, Sister Lacey, Brad Wogast, and Carter, or any others. What are they like as individuals? Whom do you find most sympathetic?

8. Did you find it difficult to adjust to the end of Part I and the beginning of Part II? Did you enjoy the second part as much as the first? Some readers said it feels as if they are two separate novels. Others felt they blended well. What do you think?

9. Talk about the way in which the survivors of the colony understand the past—their own history and that of the world that has been lost.

10. What do you think of Peter Jaxson? Is he a satisfactory or disappointing hero? What about the other members of the colony?

11. What does the expression "all eyes" mean?

12. Amy wanders for years alone, and having no use for speech she loses the ability to talk. Can you imagine yourself in Amy's situation, unable to utter the most basic means of communication that all of us take for granted?

13. Members of the colony sometimes question the desire to continue in what appears to be a hopeless situation? What good is perseverance if it ends in futility? They also ask questions pertaining to God and destiny. What are your thoughts on these big issues? How would you answer those questions if you were a member of the colony?

14. Why does Cronin take readers inside the minds of the virals? Talk about the mental emotional processes they undergo—telepathy, memory or connections to one another. How are they like humans...and how do they differ?

15. What about the ending? Is it satisfying, with loose strings tied up? Or does it feel manipulative, purposely left open to make room for the sequel?

16. Will you read the second installment of the trilogy?

17. If you've read other vampire, horror, techno-thriller, or post-apocalyptic works, how does Cronin's compare? Do you see any any similarities? Consider Stephen King's works...or those of Michael Crichton, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Collins, Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin...and any others that come to mind.

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