"Mary, did you enjoy this because it was good? Or did you enjoy it because it was written well?"
Such was the case with Justin Cronin's The Passage. Did I like this book? Well. Yes and no. At times. Sort of. I guess.
This book has its really excellent moments, but it has some not so excellent moments too & that makes assessing the work as a whole difficult to say the least.
It's honestly hard to even summarize neatly what you will find if you choose to pick up this title. There are many things happening all at once; constant switches in points of view, character histories, and the current plot line all jockeying for your attention. The best way to describe it is a story about a web of interconnected people and how they all interact with each other while they deal with the end of the world.
Another important thing to note is that this book could easily have been split into two books. In fact, if you read the blurb it does an excellent job of encompassing the first half of this book, which in my opinion is spectacular.
Cronin begins on an incredibly strong note with a character that immediately grabbed my attention & kept me engaged on an emotional & intellectual level. I remained fully locked into the story for almost all of the first half, and had it been a separate book on its own I probably would have rated it a 4-4.5 stars at the very least.
There is massive jump in the timeline right smack dab in the middle of this 766 page (or 37.5 hours on audio) book & while sometimes that technique works, in this case I consider it a negative.
The story fast forwards a hundred years into the future & that my friends is where I lost my groove almost completely.
Once I reached this leap, I set the book down for what? Maybe 2 weeks? Which is quite a long time for me & my normal reading speed.
The characters I cared about were no longer at the forefront of the story, the aspects that kept my attention were replaced with a much less intriguing set of circumstances, and I had to seriously consider whether or not I wanted to continue.
That's not to say that the last half of this book turned out to be dreadful. It definitely is not. But the abrupt gear change & the feeling that I was tricked into reading the first two books in this series instead of just the first was something I couldn't shake.
Where the first part of the book felt very careful & intentional with how it introduced each character to the situation, the second part haphazardly tossed a new cast of characters at me whose faces were hardly developed in my mind before we were off on the next adventure.
I never formed any sort of bond with anyone from the second half of the story & while certain parts of the narrative held my attention more than others, this lack of connection absolutely affected my ability to care about what was going on.
The switching perspectives in the first half were brilliantly timed & once the threads were woven together I could see a beautiful & terrible picture. This technique applied to the second half felt careless & without the precision I had come to expect from the previous chapters.
Even the writing style, which was pleasingly descriptive & tonally appropriate suffered from the lack of adequate characterization. Where before I had been actively focused in on the details, I came to find them tedious & exhausting by the end of the story.
At this point, I'm not sure that I want to continue with The Passage series. While there's no denying Cronin has the ability to write deeply engaging characters & spin a distinctive tale out of a trope we've seen many times before, I'm not sure I can fully trust him to keep the focus of the story relevant across two more books equally as massive as this one is.
Only time will tell!