Thursday, December 22, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Passage

Listened 11/15/11 - 12/21/11
2 Stars - Not recommended as an intro to the genre
Audiobook - 29 cd's / approx 36 hours

Readers, you have let me down. Ooh, how you have let me down. The buzz that surrounded this book at BEA10?? The rave reviews from people who claim to still be checking around corners and refusing to walk into darkened garages weeks after having put the book to bed?? What has happened to everyone's taste? Have books like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code left your brains mushy? Have I fallen down the rabbit hole? Am I too demanding of my literature??

Lord only knows how I made it through all 36 hours of this audiobook. I think part of it was the fact that I have an hour and a half roundtrip commute to work four days a week, and I was really sick of listening to morning radio. I think the other part me kept believing that somewhere, somehow, this thing had to get better.

For starters, where was the editor in all of this? In my opinion, Cronin had 3 or 4 books worth of material crammed together unnecessarily into this gigantic doorstopper, and the person who allowed it to see the light of day this way should be forced to edit chapbooks and flash fiction for the rest of their career - if only to prove just how much more powerful brevity can sometimes be.

The prologue itself should have been one book. Between the discovery of the initial virus; Jonas Leer and his obsession with the healing properties and seemingly ageless qualities of the virus; the government's attempt to secretly harness the virus for its own use by testing it on death row inmates; the kidnapping of little Amy from the convent; and the whole kit and caboodle going bad, you had a well rounded and thickly populated story that was also setting the stage for something bigger...bigger than bigger.. something epic. Something that the reader would have to wait for the next book in the series to read about.

Here's how I would have broken this sucker down: (If you haven't read the book, maybe you want to skip this next part until you have. I don't think I am spoiling anything so much as just talking a bunch of nonsense that you most likely won't understand)

Book I - The Amy, Lucy, Wolgast Years. Ending with a bang as Amy ran for the hills while Wolgast lay beneath the tree by the cabin, saying goodbye.....

Book II, to be released a year later, encompassing the Compound Years. The 80 year jump into the future, a world of new characters including Peter, Alicia, and Auntie, "all eyes" and "the sanctuary", and survival against the virals. Ending with the arrival of Amy,  and virals staging their first organized full out attack on the wall...

Book III, released the year after that, bringing with it the chaotic aftermath of the big viral attack and the New Long Ride. Leaving the safety of the Compound to return Amy to the place she came from, searching for an answer, and hoping to find the army. And ending with Lacey in the mountain....

Book IV, The New Thing... the ultimate weapon against the virals...

I get the impression that Cronin had his heart set on writing an epic novel. You know, a novel that successfully spanned 100+ years, that ripped you out of the world you know and spit you out into a world wholly unknown and unknowable, that bridged the gaps between generations of peoples (the time before and the time of the survivors) who never knew each other but were directly impacted by the decisions of one another.

Yet for all he attempted to accomplish, he just managed to frustrate and alienate me. I felt completely disconnected from his characters after the huge jump that took place at the end of the prologue. Here I spent the first 14 discs or so building relationships with Amy and Sister Lacey and Agent Wolgast, only to have them completely taken away from me as I was thrust 80 years into the future and surrounded by a batch of strange new people I wasn't quite prepared to meet yet. And this seemed to happen again and again, awkward transitions from one place and time to another... though none ever as jarring as that initial 80 year leap.

Perhaps Cronin (or his editor) were not fans of those old sci-fi/fantasy novels like The Death Gate Cycle, novels that redefined "epic fantasy" with their intense world-building, character families, and in depth storytelling? In reality, it was one gigantic doorstopper of a novel that was free to roam and grow and tell its story fully and intricately over time... as a series. I can't help but think that The Passage should have done the same. What freedom Cronin could have allowed himself, what time he could have had, to play a little longer within each phase of his destroyed new world. To really dig deeper into the details.

(And before you jump all over me, I do understand that The Passage is the first of a three book series. I'm just saying that he should have broken it out into more parts... because god only knows how much information he crammed into the two upcoming novels....)

As if this wasn't enough, there were parts within the novel itself that didn't translate well into audio. Moments where, had I been the reading the printed book, I could have easily skimmed or skipped all together - such as the part where Amy hears the virals asking one question over and over again in her head. Who Am I? Who am I? WHO am I? Who AM I? WHO AM I? This one question, at one point in the book, must have been repeated for three minutes straight, each time with a variance in the emphasis and tone. I wanted to scream. Truly, I did. Then, towards the end of the book, Amy answers this question by saying aloud each and every one of their names. And there are a lot. Minutes and minutes worth of names being recited. With no end in sight, literally, since I was listening to it and couldn't rightly tell how much longer that nonsense was going to go on. Ahhhhhh!!

And strangely, Justin seems to have a thing with three's. Many times, throughout the entire book, his characters were want to repeat an expression three times in succession.  "Who am I? Who AM ? WHO am I?" was one of them. Of course, now that I am trying to recall examples of what they were, I am drawing a blank (a friend and I were discussing this as one of the downfalls of audio vs. paper.. the inability to flip through an audio when in need of something to reference).

Oh, I could go on and on about all the things I disliked. I didn't really even touch on the narrator and the unattractive voices he gave his females. It was subtle but I detected an insistent whine and nag to them all that was not present in the male voices. Though I must say that whoever they used for the narration of Sarah's journal entries was perfect. I loved her voice. I could listen to her read forever....

Ahhh well, enough bitching and complaining for one post, yes? I'm still sore over the shitty ending.... perhaps it's best if I just let that part go???


  1. I liked this book though I would have cut out a big chunk in the middle. But I can't imagine this as an audiobook!

  2. The questions you raised were really important to the reading community as a whole. I always ask these questions. I encourage all to read and to read what we enjoy, but I feel like I sometimes have very different reading interests and expectations than the reading community at large.

  3. Erica, I know that my tastes tend to veer extremely left-of-center, yet I can't help but wonder sometimes... is it me? Can THAT many people be wrong about a book?!

    Hell, I'm with you, as long as they're reading, right????

  4. Truly one of the worst endings I've encountered in many a year. In fact, right now, I'm having trouble thinking of a worse. It's been almost two years since I subjected myself to this book and I'm still cranky.