Sometimes, all you need is a great cover. When I first saw the cover to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, I knew I was going to read it. That monochrome girl staring out at me with too much knowledge in her eyes – it reminded me of U2’s Boy, which disturbed me in the same way.
And the book doesn’t disappoint, not least because its central character, Amy, the girl staring with half-dead eyes from the cover, is such a tragic, epic and awful creation. Cronin’s apocalyptic tale of a planet-wide infection of vampire-like “virals” is told the only way you can tell a story like that – through the eyes of a half-dozen individuals, one of whom is Amy.
Comparisons with Stephen King’s The Stand are obvious and banal but true nonetheless, not least because it is self-sacrifice and hardship which saves humans in both stories. Surely someone somewhere has written a university thesis on the Puritan experience of hardship and how that manifests itself in modern American tales of horror, where hard work, resourcefulness, loyalty and sacrifice are the tools to keep boogeymen at bay.
And never trust the Army, OK? That always ends in trouble.