Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin ★★★★

The PassageMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am really torn on what to rate this book. On one hand, I really, really liked it, and was engrossed in the story, and could identify with the characters and loved the "feel" of the story, but on the other hand, I feel like there was just something more that was missing, some line that would pull it together and make it great.

I was sucked in from the start, and having now finished it, I can definitely see why there are comparisons made between "The Passage" and Stephen King's novel "The Stand". It also brought to mind Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" as well as the "Resident Evil" franchise. But this was different too, and stood on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, but then became something else entirely. I loved what it became, but I just wish that there was more of it, that things were explained and fleshed out a little more fully. I'm ok with there being a bit of mystery - obviously we can't know everything, and there was enough explained along the way so that we don't feel completely in the dark, but I just wanted more of an understanding of the world that Cronin created here.

I loved the realistic feel of the story, and loved the different methods of narration that Cronin used throughout. It shifted around, but each section was enhanced by the way it was relayed to us more than hindered by the change from straight omniscient 3rd person narration. In fact, the narration was just about perfect - it moved the story along, provided details and back story where necessary, and generally went unnoticed until it shifted to a different style. I actually found myself flipping back to a previous section a few times because the story just seemed to flow so effortlessly that I hadn't even noticed HOW.

Two things mainly bothered me about this story. Ok three. The first one I mentioned before - I wanted more.

The second thing that bothered me was the luck that popped up just a little too often and made it seem as though Cronin was adding a little deus ex machina in here, but just wasn't committed about it. In places, it seemed like there was an undertone in the story of "Yeah, God might be moving things along a bit... but then again, he might not. Who knows?" Religion played a role in the story, a kind of largely subtle one. It was there, but it was understated and could be picked up by those who have a mind to do so, or accepted and moved past for those who are more skeptical. I accepted it in the story for what it was, and so the wishy-washy aspect of the possible "hand of God" slightly annoyed me. You can't have it both ways: Either there IS a God who is taking an active role in the story, or there is not.

The final thing that bothered me was the ending. It was very ambiguous. I am OK with an ending that leaves things open and lets the reader decide for themselves what happened, but this one tried for that, and didn't pull it off well. The reader understands where the story will need to go, and is able to go there on their own. So that part's fine, but there is a last little segment tacked on to the end that sets up this expectation and then just cuts it off, like an amputated limb, and THAT is what was disappointing. The abruptness of the end and the sudden evaporation of the expectation that he'd set up so carefully. It just seemed unnecessary to me, after everything.

Anyway, overall, I really did like this story. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and that is always a plus, but the things that bothered me wouldn't allow me to give this 5 stars, despite how much I really enjoyed the rest of it.

{Edit: Since writing this review, I have since found out that this book is only part 1 of a proposed trilogy, so I will get the more that I wanted, and the ending obviously was left unresolved in order to be picked up in book 2. So, this information definitely changes how I feel about the book - for the better - but still the 2nd point that I felt bothered me stands, and is why I will leave this as a 4 star rather than a 5 star review.}

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I have heard only good things about this book and I really like your thoughts on it, so I guess I really should put it on my wishlist.