As a matter of principle I approve of the recent glut of books featuring vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, and things that go bump in the night. I like my horror villains like I like my coffee: dark, and needing to be cut with a knife.
But there is one persistent logical fallacy among the recent crop of novels, something like this:
“If I, the bland but pretty human girl, show compassion and tenderness to the tortured and lonely vampire, he will find redemption through the healing power of love.”
This is incorrect. If you show compassion and tenderness to the tortured and lonely vampire, he will exsanguinate you.
If you are a fan of the new breed of sensitive sparkly bad guys—if you like the thought of vegetarian vampires, for crying out loud—I just hope you’re satisfied, making Bram Stoker roll in his grave like that.
If you like old-school monsters, with vampires who are soulless, damned, bloodthirsty, and violent, I’d like to direct you to The Passage, which is not Justin Cronin’s debut but may as well be, since nobody’s ever heard of his first books. Apparently they were incredibly well-written and incredibly boring. His daughter challenged him to write something exciting, and Cronin responded with this 766-page beast. Books of this length (37 hours of narration on the audio version!) tend to plod, but The Passage races from one apocalyptic event to the next. Every time I got to the end of a chapter I wanted to know what happened next—and when I reached the end of the book itself, I desperately wanted to know what happened next. Guess I’ll get my answer in 2012, when the second book of the trilogy comes out.
In a near-future America, Dr. Jonas Lear has nothing but good intentions for the virus he’s developing. He thinks he’s found a way to prolong the human lifespan for a very, very long time. The US Army is supporting the doctor’s research, because the virus’s side effects give the subjects desirable qualities such as superhuman strength and near indestructibility; their only weaknesses are light, fire, or chest wounds. Unfortunately the virus also gives the subjects a hunger for violence and a thirst for blood. One security lapse is all it takes for twelve lab-created vampires to break free. Mostly they kill their prey, but every tenth victim becomes a vampire. A full-blown apocalypse is in the works.
But what’s a good apocalypse without some devastating aftermath? Take a look at the walled compound in California, where a group of 90 people struggle to survive in primitive conditions in the wake of the vampire cataclysm. Possibly the last remnants of the human race, they face threats not only from vampires but from injuries and radiation. Rigorous security measures and artificial light protect them from the vamps—but the batteries maintaining the lights are powered by decaying technology. It’s only a matter of time before the lights go out and the vampires come in.
It’s curtains for the human species, unless somebody does something soon. Peter Jaxon has never imagined himself leaving the security of the sanctuary, but all that changes with the arrival of Amy, who miraculously appears from the wilderness. A petite, mute teenage girl, she’s an unlikely savior—but she alone holds the key to defeating the vampires.
Cronin populates his novel with extremely realistic characters and gripping events. His prose is tight and the science is minimal; advanced degrees in biochemistry are not necessary to enjoy the story. The Passage deserves all the media hype and publicity it’s been getting. Go read it, and banish thoughts of tragically misunderstood vampires from your head.
Check the WRL catalog for The Passage