Before she became the Girl from Nowhere–the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years–she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.
What it’s about: Our fascination with vampires never seems to abate. Ten years ago, I was watching Buffy stake them on TV. Now I watch Sookie Stackhouse make out with them on True Blood. I think vampires are our most enduring monsters because they embody both what we most desire and what we most fear. They are superhuman and immortal — but they have lost their souls.
The vampires in The Passage do not walk around in leather jackets making wisecracks. They are monsters, pure and simple — monsters with a tiny glimmer of humanity trapped deep inside. They glow in the dark, have mouths full of sword-like teeth, leap out of the darkness and are possessed by an overwhelming desire to rip your head off. The original 12 were created by giving an experimental virus to death-row inmates in an attempt by the military to create a super-soldier. They escaped — along with Patient Zero, the first person to contract the virus and survive — and brought about the total collapse of the United States within a year. Only a few people survived in isolated compounds. And then there was number 13, a 6-year-old girl named Amy who received the final version of the virus, which turned her into something that was not quite vampire and not quite human. A savior, perhaps?
Fast-forward almost 100 years, to the California mountains, where the descendants of a small group of children evacuees are holding on. The only thing keeping them from annihilation is a cordon of bright lights surrounding their enclosure. These people have never seen the stars. And their batteries are failing. At just that moment, Amy re-enters the story and sets in motion a chain of events that culminates in a small group leaving the Colony on a quest for something — they’re not sure what — but they hope it will save them all.
Why I liked it: The Passage has it all. There are long sections that are so suspenseful I literally could not put the book down. Some scenes, such as the original vampires’ escape and the evacuation of a train of children from a burning city, are the most harrowing stuff I’ve read in years. Other sections are downright poetic. And Cronin really makes the reader care about his characters, in nail-biting fashion, since they are up against overwhelming odds.
The Passage is supposed to be the first part of a trilogy, which I usually don’t read because trilogies require too much commitment. While The Passage could stand alone — there is no cliffhanger ending — enough questions are left open that I would like to learn the answers to. So I guess I’m in with Cronin and his small band of vampire hunters for the long haul. That’s okay — I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far, and I look forward to more.
You might like it if: You like long, epic books about good and evil like The Stand. Or you’re ready for a different kind of vampire.