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The Passage

by

The Passage Cover

ISBN13: 9780345528179
ISBN10: 0345528174
All Product Details

 

 

Excerpt

Wolgast had been to the Compound only once, the previous summer, to meet with Colonel Sykes.  Not a job interview, exactly; it had been made clear to Wolgast that the assignment was his if he wanted it.  A pair of soldiers drove him in a van with blacked out windows, but Wolgast could tell they were taking him west from Denver, into the mountains.   The drive took six hours, and by the time they pulled into the Compound, he’d actually managed to fall asleep.  He stepped from the van into the bright sunshine of a summer afternoon.  He stretched and looked around.   From the topography, he’d have guessed he was somewhere around Telluride.  It could have been further north.  The air felt thin and clean in his lungs; he felt the dull throb of a high-altitude headache at the top of his skull. 

He was met in the parking lot by a civilian, a compact man dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt rolled at the sleeves, a pair of old-fashioned aviators perched on his wide, faintly bulbous nose.  This was Richards.  

“Hope the ride wasn’t too bad,” Richards said as they shook hands.   Up close Wolgast saw that Richards’ cheeks were pockmarked with old acne scars.  “We’re pretty high up here.  If you’re not used to it, you’ll want to take it easy.”

Richards escorted Wolgast across the parking area to a building he called the Chalet, which was exactly what it sounded like: a large Tudor structure, three stories tall, with the exposed timbers of an old-fashioned sportsman’s lodge.  The mountains had once been full of these places, Wolgast knew, hulking relics from an era before time-share condos and modern resorts.  The building faced an open lawn, and beyond, at a hundred yards or so, a cluster of more workaday structures: cinderblock barracks, a half-dozen military inflatables, a low-slung building that resembled a roadside motel.  Military vehicles, Humvees and smaller jeeps and five ton trucks, were moving up and down the drive; in the center of the lawn, a group of men with broad chests and trim haircuts, naked to the waist, were sunning themselves on lawn chairs.  

Stepping into the Chalet, Wolgast had the disorienting sensation of peeking behind a movie set; the place had been gutted to the studs, its original architecture replaced by the neutral textures of a modern office building: gray carpeting, institutional lighting, acoustic tile drop ceilings.  He might have been in a dentist’s office, or the high-rise off the freeway where he met his accountant once a year to do his taxes.  They stopped at the front desk, where Richards asked him to turn over his handheld and his weapon, which he passed to the guard, a kid in cammos, who tagged them. There was an elevator, but Richards walked past it and led Wolgast down a narrow hallway to a heavy metal door that opened on a flight of stairs.  They ascended to the second floor, and made their way down another non-descript hallway to Sykes’ office. 

Sykes rose from behind his desk as they entered: a tall, well-built man in uniform, his chest spangled with the various bars and little bits of color that Wolgast had never understood.  His office was neat as a pin, its arrangement of objects, right down to the framed photos on his desk, giving the impression of having been placed for maximum efficiency.   Resting in the center of the desk was a single manila folder, fat with folded paper.  Wolgast knew it was almost certainly his personnel file, or some version of it.  

They shook hands and Sykes offered him coffee, which Wolgast accepted.  He wasn’t drowsy but the caffeine, he knew, would help the headache.  

“Sorry about the bullshit with the van,” Sykes said, and waved him to a chair.  “That’s just how we do things.”

A soldier brought in the coffee, a plastic carafe and two china cups on a tray.  Richards remained standing behind Sykes’ desk, his back to the broad windows that looked out on the woodlands that ringed the Compound.  Sykes explained what he wanted Wolgast to do.  It was all quite straight forward, he said, and by now Wolgast knew the basics.  The Army needed between ten and twenty death-row inmates to serve in the third-stage trials of an experimental drug therapy, codenamed Project Noah.   In exchange for their consent, these men would have their sentences commuted to life without parole.  It would be Wolgast’s job to obtain the signatures of these men, nothing more.  Everything had been legally vetted, but because the project was a matter of national security, all of these men would be declared legally dead.  Thereafter, they would spend the rest of their lives in the care of the federal penal system, a white-collar prison camp, under assumed identities.  The men would be chosen based upon a number of factors, but all would be men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five with no living first-degree relatives.  Wolgast would report directly to Sykes; he’d have no other contact, though he’d remain, technically, in the employment of the Bureau.  

“Do I have to pick them?”  Wolgast asked.

Sykes shook his head.  “That’s our job.  You’ll get your orders from me.  All you have to do is get their consent.  Once they’re signed on, the Army will take it from there.  They’ll be moved to the nearest federal lock-up, then we’ll transport them here.”

Wolgast thought a moment.   “Colonel, I have to ask--“

“What we’re doing?”  He seemed, at that moment, to permit himself an almost human-looking smile.

Wolgast nodded.  “I understand I can’t be very specific.  But I’m going to be asking them to sign over their whole lives.  I have to tell them something.”

Sykes exchanged a look with Richards, who shrugged.  “I’ll leave you now,” Richards said, and nodded at Wolgast.  “Agent.” 

When Richards had left, Sykes leaned back in his chair.  “I’m not a biochemist, agent.  You’ll have to be satisfied with the layman’s version.  Here’s the background, at least the part I can tell you. About ten years ago, the CDC got a call from a doctor in La Paz.  He had four patients, all Americans, who had come down with what looked like Hantavirus – high fever, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, hypoxemia.  The four of them had been part of an eco-tour, deep in the jungle.  They claimed that they were part of a group of fourteen but had gotten separated from the others and had been wandering in the jungle for weeks.  It was sheer luck that they’d stumbled onto a remote trading post run by a bunch of Franciscan friars, who arranged their transport to La Paz.  Now, Hanta isn’t the common cold, but it’s not exactly rare, either, so none of this would have been more than a blip on the CDC’s radar if not for one thing.  All of them were terminal cancer patients.  The tour was organized by an organization called ‘Last Wish.’  You’ve heard of them?”

Wolgast nodded.  “I thought they just took people skydiving, things like that.”

 “That’s what I thought, too.  But apparently not.  Of the four, one had an inoperable brain tumor, two had acute lymphocytic leukemia, and the fourth had ovarian cancer.  And every single one of them became well.  Not just the Hanta, or whatever it was.  No cancer.  Not a trace.”

Wolgast felt lost.   “I don’t get it.”

Sykes sipped his coffee.  “Well, neither did anyone at the CDC.   But something had happened, some interaction between their immune systems and something, most likely viral, that they’d been exposed to in the jungle.  Something they ate?  The water they drank?   No one could figure it out.  They couldn’t even say exactly where they’d been.”  He leaned forward over his desk.  “Do you know what the thymus gland is?”

Wolgast shook his head.

Sykes pointed at his chest, just above the breastbone.  “Little thing in here, between the sternum and the trachea, about the size of an acorn.  In most people, it’s atrophied completely by puberty, and you could go your whole life not knowing you had one, unless it was diseased.  Nobody really knows what it does, or at least they didn’t, until they ran scans on these four patients.  The thymus had somehow turned itself back on.  More than back on: it had enlarged to three times its usual size.  It looked like a malignancy but it wasn’t.  And their immune systems had gone into overdrive.  A hugely accelerated rate of cellular regeneration.  And there were other benefits.  Remember these were cancer patients, all over fifty.  It was like they were teenagers again.  Smell, hearing, vision, skin tone, lung volume, physical strength and endurance, even sexual function.  One of the men actually grew back a full head of hair.”

“A virus did this?’

Sykes nodded.  “Like I said, this is the layman’s version.  But I’ve got people downstairs who think that’s exactly what happened.  Some of them have degrees in subjects I can’t even spell.  They talk to me like I’m a child, and they’re not wrong.”

“What happened to them?  The four patients.”

Sykes leaned back in his chair, his face darkening a little.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 11 comments:

Amy Sawatzky, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Amy Sawatzky)
I borrowed this from the library because I'd read both raves and 'meh' reviews and was a little wary of 'another vampire' book but I was truly wowwed - this was a smart, fascinating read that kept getting better despite its length.
Now I can't wait long enough for the library's copy of "The Twelve" to find out what happens next so I'm finally buying copies for myself. Of the three main acts, the 2nd act in First Settlement lagged a bit by the end though it did set up character backgrounds well. A well-imagined world, far closer to sci-fi than fantasy, with believable and varied characters. For anyone who enjoyed "World War Z" for its' socio-political-economical surmising, this is sure to be loved.
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Erin Kendrick, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Erin Kendrick)
This book feels epic. It almost feels like 3 books in one: before the outbreak, during the outbreak, after the outbreak. It is horrifying in it's accuracy of how something like this would actually happen and creates a very good image of the individual people that would be effected and how groups of people could cope to deal with a new world.
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Sam Shank, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Sam Shank)
A real page-turner.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345528179
Author:
Cronin, Justin
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Subject:
Thrillers
Subject:
Popular Fiction-Suspense
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Publication Date:
20120731
Binding:
MASS MARKET
Language:
English
Pages:
912
Dimensions:
6.87 x 4.18 x 1.59 in 0.96 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Popular Fiction
Fiction and Poetry » Horror » General
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Epic

The Passage Used Mass Market
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$7.99 In Stock
Product details 912 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345528179 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Enthralling....You will find yourself captivated."
"Review" by , "Magnificently unnerving...The Stand meets The Road."
"Review" by , "Great entertainment...[a] big, engrossing read."
"Review" by , "Mythic storytelling."
"Review" by , "[A] magnificent beast of a new novel...a story about human beings trying to generate new hope in a world from which all hope has long since been burnt....What makes The Passage special is the extraordinary level of verbal craft and psychological insight....Cronin has taken his literary gifts, and he weaponized them."
"Review" by , "Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King's The Stand and Salem's Lot in that lab at Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon's Swan Song, Battlestar Galactica and even Cormac McCarthy's The Road."
"Review" by , "A wild, headlong, sweeping extravaganza of a novel, The Passage is the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a bona-fide thriller that is sharply written, deeply humane, ablaze with big ideas, and absolutely impossible to put down."
"Review" by , "Addictive, terrifying, and deeply satisfying. Not only is this one of the year's best thrillers; it's one of the best of the past decade — maybe one of the best ever."
"Review" by , "A blockbuster...astutely plotted and imaginative"
"Review" by , "Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin's engrossingly horrific account of a postapocalyptic American overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies...manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style."
"Review" by , "Literary author Cronin turns in an apocalyptic thriller in the spirit of Stephen King or Michael Crichton....The young girl as heroine and role model is a nice touch."
"Review" by , "[An] apocalyptic epic....Expect a lot of interest in this title."
"Synopsis" by , Named one of the ten best novels of the year by Time and Library Journal — and one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post • Esquire • U.S. News & World Report • NPR/On Point • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • BookPage

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy — abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape — but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

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