By Justin Cronin
Loaned to me by the same neighbor, I will admit I was a bit wary of another vampire book. But, she told me that several of the readers in her family had enjoyed The Passage even though science fiction isn't usually their cup of tea. Ok, I was game. It's a book, I like to read, and there isn't much I won't crack the cover on.
The vampires of The Passage are called virals, and it all starts with a US Army Special Weapons research project. Death row inmates are injected with a virus strain from deep in the jungle that makes them into a super-human creature. When they attack humans, their prey either dies or, in approximately one out of ten cases, transforms into a viral. I'm sure you can see where this is going. The virals escape their secret test facility and make their way into the world, the virus spreading rapidly despite quarantine zones and military action. Some of the age-old vampire fighting tactics still hold, like shooting them through the heart, garlic, and light.
Fast forward nearly 100 years, and the story centers on a group of survivors at a compound in California. They have fended off the virals for decades and created their own pocket of society, not knowing if there are any other humans left. They live in a world the blends colonial practices of farming and weaponry with the leftovers of modern times, patching together a light system with electricity off the deteriorating grid to keep the virals away at night. As their batteries begin to fail, the virals strengthen, and a strange young girl shows up at the compound, the tight-knit community begins to self-destruct. A small group sets off from the compound to try to solve the mystery of the virals and discover what has become of the rest of the world.
Did it get a little far-fetched? Of course it did; it's science fiction. But that might have been what kept me interested: it was so far off the beaten path of story-telling that I was constantly surprised by how the story unfolded. The characters were believable, even if they existed in a world outside the scope of my imagination. The pace of the book was just right, not rushing through parts nor getting bogged down in details so it kept me turning pages.
Are you intrigued? I was. And guess what? In the new standard of vampire stories, there will be a sequel! (Apparently, all vampire stories need to be long and in multiple parts because vampires never die. Never.) I liked this well enough that I will probably read the next one, which is due out in October. You might say I've been infected.