I have finally finished THE PASSAGE.
Well, sort of.
First, a little background. THE PASSAGE is an almost-800 page book by Justin Cronin, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. He is no schlock; he's a literary writer who is acclaimed. But he decided to go off the reservation a little and write a vampire book, which is much more commercial. He also got a commercial rate: Random House paid him $3.75 million for a trilogy and Ridley Scott paid him $1.75 million for the film rights. Justin Cronin is sitting on easy street, something a literary writer usually doesn't do.
Because of all that, this book, which came out June 8, had big buzz. For months. I think I first read about the book six months ago, and in the week before the book came out, the New York Times wrote at least two stories about it and Cronin.
So I put the book on hold at my local library. I couldn't help myself. I was curious. I wanted to know what a $3.75 million vampire book would offer me as a reader.
I got it on Friday, and while there was one hold ahead of me, I wonder if that other person actually read the whole book or did what I did.
I skipped 250 pages in the middle of the book.
Honestly, for the first 250 pages, I couldn't put the book down. It was compelling. Cronin clearly can write, and his use of language made up for the fact that this was a book about vampires. In the future. A dystopian community. Two of the biggest cliches you can find these days, especially in Young Adult fiction. But the characters were fascinating, their backstories carefully revealed, the plot curiously riveting.
And then, suddenly, on page 249, the book became something completely different. New characters, new setting, in a different future time than previously. I read about 20 to 25 pages about new characters, but the writing became very dense to me, and because I was missing those other characters, I couldn't get into it.
I put the book down for a day.
When I picked it back up last night, I fast forwarded 200 pages. I started again about page 550. There were the characters I didn't spend any time getting to know earlier, but it didn't matter at all. Suddenly I did know them, and a character from the beginning was back, and then what happened in the beginning started to come full circle.
I finished the book and felt it was a fair and satisfying ending. Although I doubt I will pursue any of the rest of the trilogy. This book could've easily been a trilogy in itself. The length felt self indulgent, and the fact that I didn't have to read 200 pages in the middle of it violated one of Elmore Leonard's rules of writing:
Leave out all the hooptedoodle, or, all the stuff no one reads.
Are you like me? Will you read a book just to see what all the buzz is about?