The Passage by Justin Cronin
I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dark Shadows on TV when I was a kid, Anne’s Rice’s rock’n’roll vampires, and I even discussed what team I would join in the ‘tween Twilight Saga. I also devour vampire novels with “punny” titles such as Undead and Unappreciated by Mary-Janice Davidson, but I put The Passage on request at the library because of an article I read in Time Magazine that stated that vampires are scary again, and I do love a character that bites.
Justin Cronin is an aficionado of vampire lore. Even Stephen King has given Cronin a thumb’s up—The Passage does play homage to The Stand. His vampires--Dracs or Virals as Cronin calls them--make clicking noises like Nosferatu’s creepy nails; they mesmerize and herd the humans in encampments like cattle to be able to feed on them yet they are tragic in that they do keep a touch of humanity in them as they always come “home” after they have been turned.
The Passage touches all the fears of the present: a pandemic, government conspiracy, genocide, war, the gulf coast is destroyed to keep the virals from spreading, and the United States is no longer a superpower. The first part of the book explains how the government and a “mad” scientist trying to create super soldiers let the virus loose on the world. Of course, the experiment goes wrong as they are using 12 inmates on death row—the worst of humanity-- as subjects so what they create is horrifying.
Fast forward 100 years, and the chronicle of what happens continues in Cronin’s fast-paced plot. This book is a hefty but mesmerizing 766 pages and part of a planned trilogy. Humanity needs monsters to conquer as we face our fears. We also need our heroes. One child, Amy, who is infected but survives the transformation to be long-lived and to have supernatural and mystical powers, and a few groups of humans that have survived keep hope alive.
If you're intrigued, be sure to watch this interview with Justin Cronin.