The Passage by Justin Cronin (audiobook)

The Passage - Scott Brick, Justin Cronin

Listening Length: 29 CDs that's roughly 36 hrs & 52 mins (argh!!)
Version: Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Narrated by: Scott Brick (mostly), Adenrele Ojo & Abby Craden (read small passages)

I borrowed the audiobook version from my library after seeing it on all sorts of “best of/must read/best book eva!” lists. I swear I saw this title repeated so many times in various feeds that the damn thing had been imprinted on my brain and I requested it mindlessly from the library. What I didn't realize though was how long it was until my request came in. Even my librarian commented on the girth of the thing and complained in front of several other patrons that “I always request the big ones”. Well, that was embarrassing. And it’s not even true most of the time.

Sheesh, is everyone socially awkward or do I attract this sort of comment?

Anyway, where does one even begin with such a tome of a book? It is painfully long and spans nearly a century and features a cast of plenty that made my head spin. It starts out well enough and focuses on the tumultuous early life of a young child named Amy. I really felt for Amy and just as I was getting to know her the book switches gears and outlines a program to develop a race of super humans. Experimental injections are performed on twelve death row inmates and eventually Amy . . . Things go awry (surprise, surprise) and the world as we know it ends when a virus that turns humans into bloodthirsty beasts changes the landscape forever more.

Then the book fast forwards, oh almost a hundred years or so, and follows a group of survivors trying to make the best of their world which is still overrun with “virals”. The First Colony, as they call themselves, live their lives during the day, some of them tucking themselves safely away at night while others keep a lookout for active virals. The virals can’t abide sunlight and lights keep them away. But the batteries that allow the lights to function are starting to fail . . . This section of the book pretty much bored the hell out of me. It goes on for hundreds of pages, without too much of anything exciting or engaging happening. We get glimpses into the characters but never truly get to know any of them that well. Too many of these people all blend into one, especially the men who (in this audio version at least) all came across as very similar. They sound similar and there was nothing distinctive about their personalities to help me tell them apart. A few of the women (Sara, Mousami, Elisha) fare a little better. Also, way too many of these First Colony people spend their time lamenting about the fact that they are married to someone but longing for love from another, Um what? Why the heck, in a world where you could be eaten by a viral at any moment, wouldn't you express your feelings to the one you adore and find a little happiness? It didn't make sense and now that I’m finished with the book it still doesn't make sense. I guess people are idiots in the future too. The other thing that didn't make sense was the segregation of the children who are kept oblivious of the dangers of the world and live separately from their families. These people were like sheep, just mindlessly going along with the flow. Why no parents ever stood up and demand change was really unbelievable to me. Wouldn't most parents want to spend every available moment with their child instead of sequestering them with a Teacher until they’re eight years old? I just didn't get it and it made me care a lot less about all of them.

This review is getting as long as the book so I’ll try wrapping it up. The last third does pick up the pace and is actually worth reading. Amy plays a large role in the story. Things all gel together and the big picture is super interesting but the getting there? Not so much. The book is mostly humorless and read in an intensely serious tone by narrator Scott Brick. He does a decent job with the material but at times I completely tuned out without realizing it and had to rewind entire chapters at a time. Now I realize this isn't supposed to be a laugh-fest but a little humor to lighten things up here and there, or even one sarcastic character, would've gone a long way to make the story go down easier for me. And it’s all about me, isn't it? I like darkness but this book is too long to be so somber. I realized things were indeed dire when I smiled after a dog viewed a puddle of vomit as an unexpected present. Yeah, I was looking for humor wherever I could get it.

I spent nearly two weeks listening to this on audio and I’m relieved it’s over. It drained me but not emotionally which is a shame. It was a chore to get through most of it and I probably won’t seek out the next one but don’t quote me on that . . .