I remember clearly the first time that I saw the book for sale and the black and white face of the young girl on the front cover. Intrigued I browsed the book and on seeing it was about vampires (well, okay, he calls them "virals") put it back.
However, it never really left my memory, and when the opportunity came to download the audio book, well, I took it. Strangely, shortly after this point I had a bad eye infection and was consigned to immobility for a couple of days. So a great opportunity to listen and remember this unabridged recording is 36 hours long.
The theme is similar to Stephen King's The Stand as well as Swan Song from Robert McCammon. However, don't be fooled into thinking that they are the same.
So what is the book like?
Long, very long and in parts it does seem to droop a little. However, this is only a minor point, and I guess difficult to avoid.
The early chapters were read in a very droll and depressed voice. This made it quite hard to listen to, but I stuck with it. After a while I am not sure if I just got used to it or the reading improved.
One thing which quickly became apparent is that the author has a knack of introducing good characters, setting you up for a great story line — and then the plots are sidelined. Very frustrating, but I suspect that some of the promising ones will be developed in the follow up book.
I love books about the country, road trips, tales of the countryside with the writing being so good that you can imagine yourself walking the same roads. The Stand does this brilliantly. The Passage, well, just seems to pass through the countryside. Cronin might well be able to write a good page turner, but there is precious little real description of the world outside the immediate discussions.
The first third of the book leads up to the virus being released. There is tension, fear, and it builds well. You think that you know where the story is going, but don't make this mistake, you just can't make assumptions here. It seems as if Cronin is building up the young girl, Amy, into a character similar to the one used in Swan Song or indeed Firestarter (Stephen King, again). But this isn't to be.