The Passage by Justin Cronin. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A truly epic tale, on par with “The Stand,” and it’s hard for me to say that. I avoid a great deal of modern fiction because the swath of mediocrity is wide and terrible. This is an incredible book.
It’s got all the action we expect from genre fic. There are brilliant scenes of action, with heroes battling monsters and cities roiling with unrest. The narrative devices of newspapers and diary entries are utterly perfect- my heart quickened every time I saw one approaching. The pacing and descriptions build a detailed and heartbreaking world, and there is no part of this that is not richly imagined.
It’s also got literary weight to swing. The prose is dense and deep, evocative and textured, real and visceral. The dead are “black and bird-boned,” for example. Rich and fine-tuned sentences roll off the experience, just enough to enhance the story without distracting from it. Masterful, and that is not a word I use lightly.
There are some shallow spots. There are a few characters who are grazed rather than pierced (the mysterious Colonel, for example.) There are relationships sketched rather than fully felt, like Hollis and Sara. Still, the characters who shine take up much of the page, like Auntie and Michael and Elton and Amy and the Man.
Cronin is a genius of exposition; a burlesque tease artist who shows us just enough to get us excited but stops short of the reveal that gives too much away. We glimpse the large truth as through a veil, and it leaves us rampant.
I cannot say enough awe-filled things about this book. I am almost afraid to read the sequel, lest it tarnish this moment.
This is a Great Book.