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The oracular beard with Jared Conti

By Jared Conti in Arts & Entertainment

March 1, 2012

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“The Passage” by Justin Cronin

Was this a monster of a book! I must admit that I was originally reading this because I’d heard it was hailed as the “in thing” as far as horror genre goes, but I was mistaken when I found out it wasn’t about zombies. Now, it’s not that I’m against the vampire, per se. Strictly speaking, they’re okay as far as hideous antagonists go, but I’m not much of a fan when it comes to the sparkling romantic types. When it comes to the next best thing, I guess Twilight isn’t as hot as we all thought it was.

The novel begins with a fly-by-night salesman making his way into a young waitress’s heart, breaking it, and leaving something behind. Nine months later, she gives birth to a daughter and the life without a husband and father keep the two of them in poverty for most of it. Dear ‘ol Dad shows up again to beat Mom around and the girls soon escape, but not to better conditions.

Meanwhile, there’re two FBI agents scoping out death row inmates to sign their lives away. Through some secret shenanigans, certain inmates are signing their lives away into a clandestine military government agency for “testing”. Turns out they’re testing out a new super-soldier serum made from…vampires?

Before you know it, the daughter meets up with the FBI agents who have had a last-minute change of heart. Not without the world going to hell in a handbasket. Skip ahead about ninety years and the world is a much different place, with very few people left to inhabit.

Cronin excels here with his storytelling: he’s dumped the little girl and the agents, and onto something a little more expansive. Point of view changes swiftly, at an almost dizzying pace. Where you begin isn’t necessarily where you end up, and the movement of characters makes the book excel.  Even if it’s dark out, this is a page-turner you’ll wanna stay up late to finish.

Facial Hair Rating: Does van Helsing wear a beard?  If not, he should grow one just for the occasion.

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