The Passage Audio Book Review

September 2, 2010

The Passage, a post apocalyptic vampire novel with slightly over 700 pages or 36 plus hours on audio book is a big commitment. Is it worth the time? Definitely, sure there are parts where you wish it was done differently but any story line which is this long and then planned to be the first part of a trilogy will have gaps in it.

The storyline. Think of a cross between Stephen King’s “The Stand”, Cormac McCarthy’s “ The Road” and all the recent vampire horror stories and you have the basic ingredients. Mix in plenty of allusions to early Christianity (12 disciples, wandering in the desert) and combine the trip of the Mayflower with a new Colony and first families and you begin to see how this develops.

There have been many comparisons to Stephen King’s “The Stand” and they certainly have similarities. The Passage has more depth in the characters and the action sequences are better. However in my view “The Stand” describes the geography a lot better , you can imagine yourself walking through the towns and cities. Also, despite the terrifying idea of the “Virals” described within “The Passage” I do think that “The Stand” has a greater sense of evil.

Criticisms? Sure. Parts of the plot do slow down and there are characters that are developed and then just seem to drop out. There are subplots which cry out for more content but are let go. There are also parts of the plot where it is so obviously done with a film in mind. But overall it is a good story and one which will stay with you.

The audio book.  With 36 hours and 52 minutes this must have been a huge project. So how does it work out? I would say 4 stars and not 5. Well done but a few tricks missed.

First up the criticism.

The early part is read with a very doom laden voice. Sure that’s what the book is about but you end up wanting to just say “oh for God’s sake brighten up”.  Fortunately he does change as the book progresses and by the end you will have forgotten about the early part.

With a book this long it would have helped to have music to separate the sections very much as was done in the  recording of “The Strain”. It would have added immeasurably to the atmosphere.

The book makes use of different typesets to illustrate where the content comes from. Official reports, emails and so on all are obvious when reading the printed page. Less so when read aloud but this is a small point.

Someway into the recording a new reader, Abbey Craden, is introduced and what a difference it makes. Not to play down the work done by Scott Brick but this really does help to flesh out the character of Sarah. How much better if this had been used for some of the other characters?

Now the good news.

An audio book really does highlight any flat parts of a novel. You really can’t skim a few pages until it gets better and although there were a few rather slow parts this isn’t a reading where you would want to skip or skim.

The way Justin Cronin uses both names and abbreviations works better when read aloud. Listening to it makes it obvious who is being referred to.

Gripping? Oh yes. I took this audio book whist on holiday and when struck low with an eye infection spent two days listening almost continuously. It is that good.

Reviewed by Mike Holly. He lives and works in the North of England and has a passion for writing about Northumberland and its history.

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