The Friday Report: Midsummer’s night read
July 23, 2010
Here it is, midsummer.
It’s that point on the calendar where you are forced to face the mirror and ask yourself, have I already read the summer blockbuster? Have I already finished my Great Summer Read? If you’re unsure, I’ll offer a suggestion for Justin Cronin’s, The Passage, upon a couple of conditions: first is that it would best if you were a Stephen King fan and secondly it would be better yet if you did not read it lying on your back. At 766 pages, if you dropped it, you could be pinned until help arrived.
If you liked King’s, The Stand, then you need to set up camp at your local library to grab a copy of Justin Cronin’s book. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Stephen King fan, just download it to your pink Kindle.
It starts with a horrible army-caused catastrophe so profound as to restart the world clock. Why, why, is it always the Army?
In their search for the lean, mean, fighting machine, they stumbled across some Bolivian bats that carried a virus that killed most everybody, except for a few that turned into 7-foot tall, lightning-quick crocodiles on steroids.
So, over the next few years, Army scientists plucked a gene here, plucked a gene there, plucked a gene everywhere until they created a self-replicating virus that turns its victims into the ultimate killing machine.
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A dozen death-row inmates are injected with the virus in lieu of death by injection. Nasty as they were before, the virus makes them much, much more so. And, as you may well have guessed, they all escape, creating no less a disaster than the end of the world. As we know it.
After fifty years or so, there’s doggoned few humans left, isolated in tiny colonies, living hand to mouth in mere survival mode. They’re tough, they’re resilient, but they also don’t go out at night.
Time has been divided into BV and AV, Before Virus and After Virus. The virus in question is not like a bad staph infection, no. In just a few hours, a bite or scratch turns a human into a head-munching monster that can devour a cow as an appetizer.
Cronin is very sparse throughout his 776 pages in using the word “vampire” and then only in a slang sense. On the other hand, he invents the word “virals” that are quite like vampires but with a whole bunch of vampire and zombie conventions packed into a very difficult-to-kill monster.
Like vampires, they go for the neck and suck all the blood. Virals get around with mighty, prodigious leaps, but fortunately for the few remaining humans, they cannot clear a 45-foot fence. Too bad if your subdivision had covenants against them.
Garlic attracts them, crosses don’t phase them and nearly the only way to stop them is a stake through the heart. Well, a stake, or a bullet, or an arrow, or a spear, or a rocket-propelled grenade and in this book, often all of the above.
Oh, yeah, flamethrowers. Flamethrowers work great. Until then, they keep on going like the Energizer Bunny never could.
Parallels to The Stand abound and comparisons are inevitable I guess I won’t know for sure if The Passage is my Summer’s Great Read for a few more months. I do know it’ll be hard to beat.