Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Recommendation: A long meaty read for those who enjoy character-driven stories and apocalyptic fiction.
Summary: In the uninhabited jungles of Bolivia, American military discovers a virus that would make a person stronger, more long-lived, but sensitive to light and with an appetite for blood. The virus is tested on 12 convicts from the death row and finally on a little girl, named Amy. The "virals" escape into the wild, killing and infecting the world that quickly succumbs to the virus. What follows is the story of the survivors.
Reactions: Every review I've read mentions one fact upfront. This book is heavy. It's heavy in two ways -- one literal -- the tome of almost 800 pages must weight a few pounds at least. It's heavy with suffering and despair and conflict too, though not as grim as it could be given the contents of the book.
The book starts out with introducing a number of characters, all moving along their paths which soon become mingled together leading to the escape of the virals. The narrative is fairly wordy, but it doesn't bore. There is plenty of action alongside with descriptions and characters' backgrounds. The reader has plenty of time to learn all about the characters, the what's and the how's and the why's. The book splits off into 2 parts, the second taking place almost 100 years later where virals have overrun the world and a small colony of surviving humans are living under the lights still powered by wind turbines as long as their batteries hold.
What I did not expect was the lack of conclusion to the book. Only a small part of the story is resolved at the end of it and plenty of questions left unanswered. After finishing the book I learned it was the first book of a planned trilogy. The ending now makes sense, though it's still rather disappointing given the length of the book, I'd have hoped more of a story arc could have been covered.
Overall, it's an enjoyable read with rich characters and heart-wrenching narratives. There are parts of the book where the events feel as somewhat of a stretch, but overall it flows rather well. Yet, I have seen the overly-glowing reviews of the book, calling it the book of the year, but for me it's not. Enjoyable, but it didn't quite cut through the way my previous read The Windup Girl did.
Still, highly recommended to everyone looking for a good read.