The Passage by: Justin Cronin

Tyler Woolley


Justin Cronin’s The Passage is primarily a post-apocalyptic vampire novel that explores themes of mortality, hope, faith, and the future. Cronin incorporates multiple genres in this novel, including horror, western, and especially thriller elements. Although the plot of The Passage spans centuries, it follows the story of a little girl named Amy and her attempts to save the world from an apocalyptic outbreak of vampires.

Professor Jonas Lear of Harvard University thinks that he has found the cure for dying. Deep in the jungles of Bolivia, Lear and his U.S. army–funded research group set out to find a cure, but instead all but a few die from a mysterious virus. However, the military is able to retrieve a sample of the virus. The experiments are code-named “Project Noah,” a reference to the Biblical Noah who is said to have lived over 900 years. Initial test subjects die soon after exposure, but scientists in a Colorado military facility refine the virus until they are ready to begin human testing.

Federal Agent Brad Wolgast’s job is to recruit death-row inmates to be human test subjects in exchange for life sentences. Wolgast is divorced and is a grieving parent, his daughter Eva having died in her infancy. Wolgast is a fantastic recruiter and has never been turned down. After successfully recruiting convicted murderer Anthony Carter to be a test subject, Wolgast receives his next assignment: pick up six-year-old Amy NLN (No Last Name) and bring her to Colorado for testing.

Amy’s full name is Amy Harper Bellafonte. Amy’s mother had turned to prostitution to provide and care for Amy. However, when a trick goes wrong, she murdered a frat boy to save herself from gang rape. Hoping to provide a better life for Amy, her mother left her in the care of Sister Lacey Antoinette Kudoto. Lacey is described as a mystical nun who survived gang rape and violence in Sierra Leone before coming to America. Lacey forms an immediate connection with Amy and even takes her out to a zoo, where she discovers that many of the animals have a mysterious bond with her charge.

Wolgast and his partner interrupt Lacey and Amy at the zoo, and they abduct Amy in front of a large crowd of people. To the public, it looks like a criminal kidnapping and the police set out to find Amy and her kidnappers. Although they are federal agents, technically carrying out the will of the American military, both Wolgast and his military handler, Richards, know that if word of their abduction were to leak, their operation would be jeopardized. During their run from the law, Wolgast, like Lacey, forms a strong bond with Amy and decides to try to save her from Project Noah. He turns himself in to a small-town deputy sheriff. However, Richards intercepts Wolgast, murders the sheriff, and takes Wolgast and Amy to Colorado via helicopter, where Amy is injected with the virus.

When Amy arrives, thirteen patients have been infected with the virus. Although each of the figures has seemingly become immortal, there are other side effects. As one guard reflects, they are basically vampires. These vampires glow and hang from the ceiling like bats, and some have telepathic powers. Armed with impervious skin and razor-sharp teeth, they feast on blood. Their only weakness is found just below the breastbone, where a gland lies that is required to control the virus. The vampires also seem to be affected by light. Of the thirteen vampires, the most powerful one is known as Zero.

Richards’ facility contains highly dangerous test subjects, and although it has state-of-he-art security, cracks have begun to show. Some guards are shirking their duties and many of the soldiers on duty have been having strange dreams. Even Sister Lacey shows up to save Amy.