How do I love The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin? Let me count the ways.
It's a vampire story that doesn't try to convince you that vampires are sexy. Because they freaking aren't, okay? From here on out, I don't want to read ANY MORE books in which vampires are depicted as anything other than the scary cannibalistic predatory monsters they are.
The writing is spectacular. Cronin walks flawlessly that impossible line between popular and literary fiction. He's as readable as Stephen King and as technically skilled as Stephen King. Basically, he reminds me a lot of Stephen King.
Each book builds on the plot. I tend to shy away from trilogies, because too often the books after the first installment feel like blatant money grabs by an author trying to capitalize on the success and popularity of their first book, without taking the time to, you know, come up with another story to tell. Cronin structured this as three books for a reason. There genuinely are three parts to this story, and each book builds towards its own climactic ending.
I cared HARD about these characters. Oh my heart. These characters and their relationships with each other! Amy and Wolgast. Carter and Rachel. Alicia and Michael. Amy and Peter. I could go on and on. Apocalyptic books only work if you really want the protagonists to survive against all odds—and I was rooting for them so hard.
The action scenes aren't gratuitous. Nothing makes me glaze over faster than too much detail about who's shooting whom. Nothing makes me ditch a book entirely faster than gratuitous gore and violence. Cronin is remarkably judicious. Of course there has to be some blood and guts—the books are about vampires, after all—but every action scene serves to both advance the plot and develop the characters. It's not like an action movie with all flash and no substance.
The underlying themes are life-affirming. Bad things happen in these books, but it's clear that evil doesn't get the final word. The good people may go down fighting, but if they do, they will do so with honor and valor.
It's about a girl who saves the world. Read the interview with Cronin at the back of the first book and see how he came up with the idea for the series. Guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart.