The book starts out in the not too distant future, there is no definite date given, but I think it is around 2016. The world is different than it is now, but not unrecognizably so. The story ends in 1003 AV. After Viral. (but my mind read it as After Vampire)
The Passage starts with two FBI agents sent to prisons around the country to pluck twelve inmates off of death row for a government run medical experiment called Project NOAH. Doyle & Wolgast have convinced the final subject to join the project when they were commanded to gather one more subject. A civilian. A six year old civilian by the name of Amy. Amy had just been abandoned at a convent and would be perfect for the experiment. Only, on the journey back to Colorado, Wolgast is becoming attatched to Amy and fears what exactly the government wants her for. Well this medical experiment is to inject these subjects with a virus that causes them to live eternally and feed off of blood, creating the ultimate military weapon.
When it all blows up and The Twelve escape, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Wolgast escapes with Amy to an old abandoned summer camp. City by city, millions of Americans are either killed or turned by the Virus.
Fast forward 100 years to a colony in California. The colony has survived by the fortress they have built and the lights that shine to keep them safe at night. Life inside the walls are all they know. They have glimpses of history, of the Time Before, but their lives exist to ward off the Virals. Until Amy finds her way to them. A handful of the colonists set off on a pilgrimage with Amy in hopes of finding the answers to questions that have been plaguing their Colony for nearly a hundred years.
I do not think that I did Justin Cronin justice in my synopsis. The Passage is so much more than "just another vampire" story. To compare it to the Vampire Lit that is saturating the market would be grossly inaccurate. I have seen The Passage compared to Stephen King's The Stand. Or even Michael Crichton's medical thrillers. It is an epic novel, make no mistake about that. Even though Justin Cronin's imagination permeates throughout the story, there is enough element of reality intertwined that the story will scare the crap out of you. I slept with the hall light on last night, just because my heart was racing as I forced myself to put the book down.
At the heart of this novel is the plight of human survival. The characters are real and their struggle to survive is real. Your heart races, your blood pounds, and you feel as if you are there with them as they fight the Virals. The size of The Passage is massive. 836 pages is a lot of book, but the story carries you along at a rapid pace. If you decide to take on the challenge of The Passage, you will not be disappointed.