The Passage by Justin Cronin – Book Review

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Around the year 2015 or 2020, the United States government begins a new experiment, one aimed to ensure the pax Americana for many years to come. Instead of going through the expense and time of training soldiers just to have them die or be injured in the field, the military was hoping to find a way to modify soldiers to give them incredibly long lives and make them incredibly difficult to kill and injure. The secret seems to be in a virus discovered in the jungles of Bolivia. Of course, soldiers can’t just be injected with an unknown vaccine, so an arrangement is made to allow 12 Death Row inmates to keep their lives if they agree to be part of Project NOAH. Evidently nobody realized that a virus that causes immortality + convicted murderers = not good.

This background, along with the introduction of Amy and the first few years after BAD THINGS HAPPEN, comprise about the first 200 pages of the book. The next 560 pages take place about 100 years after the initial BAD THINGS, and are centered on a small enclave of survivors in what used to be California. I think this fact, that it takes 200 pages to get to the majority of the main characters, is a large part of the reason that “The Passage” lacked the necessary immediacy to be a great apocalyptic thriller.

That’s right, I said it was lacking and, therefore, not great. Minority opinion alert!

I know everyone loved this, but I just didn’t. I liked it, don’t get me wrong. The prose was competent at the worst and really quite lovely in some places. The idea of the story that Cronin created was also quite interesting. Mostly, the book was just way. too. long. Nearly 800 pages for the first book in a trilogy, I think it should have been 200-300 pages shorter. There were 450 pages in the middle during which nothing really grabbed me, and that’s not good. The excessive time it took me to be introduced to the main characters and the fairly uninteresting nature of the early part of their story kept me from really ever caring about them and, thus, detracted from the immediacy and fear that a book like this needs.

I might have been a little more tolerant of the book had a throwaway line early in the book about Jenna Bush being the governor of Texas been excluded. That sort of thing really annoys me, it is just trying much too hard to be clever and it seems very unsophisticated storytelling to me.

Overall a very interesting concept, but the execution left something to be desired – namely a strong editor. I will likely read the next two books in the series, but there’s no way I will be buying them in hardcover – I’ll wait for paperback or a copy from the library – and, honestly , I don’t think that you need to buy this one in hardcover either. If you don’t want to be left out of the discussion about it this summer, get on the library waitlist now.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from a friend.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Genesis by Bernard Beckett – Book Review

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

I picked up this book because it was making the rounds with some of my blogging friends, but they were all very mysterious about it! And with good reason, really. It is such a short book with so much packed into it, that I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to write a plot description without giving everything away, so I’m going to let you read the publisher’s description of this one, although only the first half of it, because I think the second half gives away too much:

Set on a remote island in a post-apocalyptic, plague-ridden world, this electrifying novel is destined to become a modern classic.

Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s now facing three Examiners, and her grueling all-day Examination has just begun. If she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society.

But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And that the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be.

I’ve got to say, at the beginning of Genesis I had no idea whatsoever what was going on. Zero, zip, nada. In a good way, though. I felt that Beckett plopped me down in the middle of a very real situation and led me through the discovery of what exactly was happening in this world. I loved that journey of discovery through Anax’s examination. What lost me a bit was the ending.  This is a mild spoiler, but there is a bit of a twist ending and, honestly, I figured out what most of it was going to be a little more than half way through the book, which left me feeling sort of disappointed at the end.

I think this is a very good and interesting book overall that raises some really interesting questions. It would be a really great book club book, because there are so many questions raised by this book. Recommended.

Buy this book from:

Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan – Book Review

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

“The Dead-Tossed Waves” is the follow-up to “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” which I reviewed in September of 2009.

Gabry has spent her life with her mother, Mary, at the lighthouse in Vista where they are in charge of disposing of the Mudo – the things that Mary calls the Unconsecrated – that wash up on the beach. Despite the fact that her world is filled with Mudo (zombies) that want to infect all of humanity, Gabry has a pretty good life; she has family, friends, and perhaps the affection of the boy she likes. Until she agrees to cross the Barrier with a group of friends, and everything changes. Now Gabry must figure out who she really is and what she really wants.

Yay! “The Dead-Tossed Waves” made me so happy! I liked “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” okay. I mean, I appreciated the writing and the basics of the world that Ryan created, but I really wasn’t a huge fan of Mary – I thought she was sort of distant and didn’t ever really get a good feel for her – and I thought that far too many questions about the world went unanswered. Part of that was the design of the storyline, but, honestly, it really bugged me. I like knowing what the rules and history of a world are, even if I don’t find out until the end of the book, not ever finding out is not really an acceptable thing in a book for me. And yet, the not knowing is what drew to me pick up “The Dead-Tossed Waves” even though I wasn’t crazy about “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” because I had to hope that perhaps some of the questions from the first book were answered.

And they were! Yay! There is a little more that I hope she explores in the next book, but even if this is all that I get I am content. I also have to say, that I found Gabry a much more interesting and likeable character than Mary, perhaps because she was so much more vulnerable. She also developed more as a character than Mary did in “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.” Ryan’s writing is, as ever, quite good, and I was ever so pleased to see more of this post-apocalyptic world she has created. Bring on book three!

Recommended/high recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book received from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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