The Passage - Justin Cronin
In the near future, a secret branch of the United States military attempts to create super soldiers by engineering a rare virus found in the jungles of Bolivia. The virus transforms its hosts into vampire-like monsters; the test subjects become blood thirsty, super strong, and have an aversion to sunlight. As the program has the not so brilliant idea of using death row inmates as test subjects, naturally the creatures mount an escape. The seemingly unstoppable monsters spread across the continent, spreading the virus and causing mass destruction.

The Passage be divided into two distinct sections. The first part of the novel takes place in a near future United States, following an FBI agent as he recruits test subjects for the experiments, and a nun in Memphis who finds herself caring for a mysterious young girl. Following the violent escape of the “vampires,” the novel moves ahead almost 100 years later to a post-apocalyptic United States, which has been ravaged by the spread of the virus. The latter sections of the novel follow a small group of people residing in a walled off settlement as they struggle to survive.

Linking the two stories is Amy, an enigmatic young girl used as a final test subject in the experiments. Amy receives a refined form of the virus that yields the desired effect; the virus makes her nearly immortal without transforming her into a monster. As Amy comes across the survivors’ colony, some of the residents realize she may be key to stopping the monsters once and for all.

The characters, although not particularly memorable, are very well-developed. Even side characters have clear motivations and come across as believable people. The “vampires” are also truly terrifying; these are not brooding and romantic but actual monsters seemingly stripped of all humanity.

At 766 pages, The Passage is enormous but extremely addictive. I found myself eagerly flying through page after page packed with small print. The story ends on a cliffhanger, and I am definitely eager to find out what happens next.

A review copy was provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.