The Dark Future of Justin Cronin’s The Passage

Cover of The PassageI recently finished reading Justin Cronin’s The PassageThis book has garnered quite a bit of attention, and now I can definitely see why. The plot is vampire based, but has the feeling of The Walking Dead, The Strain (also see my previous post), and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Coming in at over 800 pages and covering over a hundred years, this is truly epic vampire fiction. The story starts in modern day United States where scientists are, of course, screwing around and trying to militarize several hardened criminals and one 8-year-old girl. When that doesn’t end particularly well, the story moves ahead to the future where we follow the struggles of Peter Jaxon, a young man who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world and who finds himself on track to possibly save what’s left of the human race. There is action and adventure, romance, horror, and throughout it all excellent character development.

While Cronin takes his time with the storytelling, he does so with purpose. He builds from the character of Amy, a young girl who has pretty much grown up rough, living in motel rooms with her mother. We are then introduced to Wolgast, the FBI agent who has been procuring test subjects for his supervisor and whose loyalty to his job is seriously tested when one of those subjects turns out to be Amy. After we become invested in these characters and what will happen next to them, Cronin takes us far into the future and introduces us to a new cast of characters, those of one of the last human settlements in existence. The success of getting a reader to reinvest in a whole new set of characters midway through the story is one that has to be applauded. The setting and everything changes, but it works and I was again drawn in by Peter Jaxon and his brother Theo, who work the night watch on the wall surrounding the colony; Michael Fisher, a technical whiz who keeps the lights on, and his sister Sarah, a nurse; Hollis Wilson, the classic good guy; Mausami Patel, who also works the night watch on the wall; Caleb Jones, the younger guy in love with old style high top shoes; and, especially, Alicia Donadio, the lone wolf badass.

Cronin knows just how to hit where it hurts with these characters. At several points happiness seems almost within grasp only to be whisked away, or someone commits an act of bravery only to pay the ultimate price. Figuring out who will live through the various adventures is part of the fun, and it’s one of those books where you hate see someone go down. And, at the center of it all is the mystery of Amy, who and what she is, and what part she will end up playing.

Oh, and there are vampires. Creepy, long-living vampires, who have some major psychological skills when it comes to telepathy torture. Fast, lithe vampires, that are smart enough to figure out traps and make plans. Crafty vampires that travel in pods of three and will case out your position for days in advance before attacking with a vengeance. Strong and hard to kill vampires that require expert marksmanship and amazing luck to outlive. Masses and hordes of vampires almost everywhere — hanging under bridges, hiding in abandoned buildings, creeping through the woods at night. Heartbreaking vampires that always, always return — one last time — to where they lived before they were turned.

Finishing this book definitely made me ready to start the sequel, The Twelve. If you are looking for a lovely, scary book to dig into this Halloween season, this should definitely be on your list!

Halloween Favorite: 30 Days of Night

Poster for 30 Days of NightTo celebrate Halloween this year, I thought I would look over some of the major horror genres and pick a few of my favorites to talk about. As far as vampire flicks go, one of my favorites would still have to be 30 Days of NightI think that I actually first came across this as a novelization of the graphic novels, the events of which take place after those in the movie. I think it was the year after I discovered the series that the movie came out. There are just so many good things about this movie as a vampire flick! So, here are a few of the things that I think 30 Days of Night does right:

  • Setting your action in a town that has night for multiple days on end. This means no respite from the vampires, who can just have a heyday out there with no sunlight to ruin their fun.
  • Vampires that toe the line between intelligent foes and monsters. These vamps have fangs and brains, especially their leader, Marlow. However, they are not individuals that you can reason with — their humanity is definitely gone. And yet, while they aren’t human, they are definitely not simply animalistic, either. They kill to eat, but they also take pleasure in the killing of humans. These vamps are definitely monstrous by nature.

Still of head vampire in 30 Days of Night

  •  Josh Harnett as Eben. He plays a really great “everyman” character, and his struggles with estranged wife Stella (played by Melissa George) are pretty realistic and, at times, uncomfortable.
  • The action starts quickly when the stranger arrives in town, and the complications the survivors face combined with the menace of the vampires keeps the film moving at a good pace.
  • Lots of bloody scenes and vampires snagging people. These vampires do not eat delicately.
  • The ending. It’s well done and works as closure for the storyline, as well as providing potential for future installments.

So, if you are looking for a vampire movie for this year’s special night, you may want to check this one out!

And, if you enjoy vampires that aren’t sparkly, you might also want to check out something from the Subspecies franchise.