With The Passage, novelist Justin Cronin has created both a bona fide literary thriller and an epic tale of human endurance in the face of unfathomable horror and loss. The massive book’s enthralling storytelling, vivid prose and essential empathy mark it as an exceptional work that manages to transcend the well-trodden territory of its genre.
The extraordinary hype ― and $3.75 million advance ― should not prevent the “serious” reader from embracing this tale where The Stand meets Night of the Living Dead along The Road. What elevates The Passage above the typical post-apocalyptic zombie/vampire/dystopian future/road trip novel is Cronin’s obvious writerly skills, seamless prose and moving psychological portraits of fully imagined and empathetic characters.
As I turned the final page (after a marathon late night read), I couldn’t help but think of that well used Kafka quote: A book must be the axe to break the frozen sea within us. Cronin has forged that axe with this elegant, if imperfect, novel that manages to rise above the clichés and even inspire some hope through this deeply humane work.