It’s not often that I choose to read books more than once. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) and The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger) are three of my favourite books of all time. I am a sucker for classic literature, presumably given my academic pursuits and natural adoration of English Literature from being a very young age and each of these books are dog eared and beaten, in some cases there are pages slightly torn and weathered from constant, perpetual use. Modern literature doesn’t grab me in the same way and although I’ve read books more than once it hasn’t been because they’ve gripped me and made me feel the same way the aforementioned have, it’s because they’ve been simple and easy, frothy and lighthearted enough to allow me to while away the day sipping tea, wrapped in a blanket – they soothe the mind, rather than challenge it or excite it. However, The Passage by Justin Cronin contradicts my sensibilities somewhat, in the sense that it too is dog eared, weathered and remains the only modern book that I have ever read more than nine times. This current read through, actually, makes it my tenth. Suffice it to say The Passage is the greatest novel written within my entire lifetime and I don’t use those words lightly.
The novel was handed to me not too long after its original release in 2010 and the person who loaned me the novel said that it was the greatest thing they’d ever read and urged me to start reading immediately. When someone tells me things like this, I usually roll my eyes at the sheer melodrama and shove the book somewhere in my increasing ‘to be read’ pile and get around to it when I can be bothered, but, for some reason, I decided to read this one straight away. At the time, most of my reading was done on the commute to and from work/university, so it was slipped into my bag and I decided it would be read on my next hour long journey… After reading the first page, I was hooked: It was one of those novels that instantly held my attention and filled my sensibilities regarding literature with intense promise. This is going to be good, I remember thinking and it soon became the book that I would spend my evenings reading until my eyes became heavy with sleep and I awoke, book still in hand the next day. In short, it was my favourite book.
The Passage is a post-apocalyptic-cum-vampire novel that, in my opinion, entirely reinvents the concepts behind a traditional vampire novel. The usual clichés writers use in abundance when writing their version of a vampire story are gone; there are no shimmering romantic heroes, or melodramatic teenagd hormones running rampant throughout the pages of Cronin’s epic. Instead, The Passage takes on an almost clinically scientific approach, giving the original concepts behind the vampire novel an intensely realistic re-imagination, making it far more thrilling and far scarier than the routes writers usually take when tackling the traditional vampire concepts; this is not your run of the mill Transylvanian vampire novel, this is something else entirely. Something better.
I think part of the reason behind why I love this novel so much is that it cannot truly be explained without giving away the entire plot and to give away the entire plot without reading the novel really doesn’t to dthe novel justice. Without reading the simplistic, yet entirely intricate language and imperative detail would be disastrous; this novel needs to be experienced first-hand, word for word. Cronin uses his blatant expertise to create a concept that is, essentially, so brilliantly basic that it stands out as one of the most important novels I’ve ever read; it’s like, everything you’ve wanted to read before, but better in every sense of the word. His characters are written so perfectly, that you feel you could reach into the pages of the novel, take them out and they’d be just as amazing as you’d imagined. It’s a novel of almost cinematic brilliance, which makes no sense until you’ve actually read the novel.
Admittedly, if I didn’t know that this was going to be a trilogy, I may have felt disappointed; a lot of things were left unanswered and had I not read The Twelve and be highly anticipating the third and final novel, I would have felt cheated and the magic, so to speak, of the novel would have dissipated somewhat. It would not have been the first time that I’d read a novel with so much promise, only to be left bitterly disappointed and sad by the end. However, if you go into the novel knowing that it’s the first of an epic trilogy, then your mind is put at ease and you can enjoy the not knowing with the promise that eventually all of your assumptions and hopes for the novel’s conclusion be answered, or at least reinvented in a far better manner than you could do yourself.
In short, I found the novel awe-inspiring and absolutely astounding. I am reading it for the tenth time, but each time it feels like the first. Only better. I really to urge you to read it.