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Literature: The Passage

"What strange places our lives can carry us to, what dark passages."

A 2010 horror/post-apocalyptic novel by Justin Cronin, the first of a planned trilogy. The Twelve came out in October 2012 and The City of Mirrors is scheduled to come out in 2014.

The novel concerns a secret government experiment with a virus that makes vampires. So far, there have been thirteen subjects: the Twelve, inmates on death row convinced to join the program in exchange for not dying, and Zero, one of the scientists that discovered the virus.

Brad Wolgast is an FBI agent assigned to finding and convincing the death row inmates to join the program - until the last subject he needed to find was Amy Harper Bellafonte, a six year old girl.

Wolgast has no choice. He has to turn her over, but as soon as he does something catastrophic happens. The Twelve escape. The virus gets loose.

Though that story is an epic in itself, it is merely the introduction to a larger conflict set decades later, following a young man named Peter Jaxon trying to make sense of himself and the world Wolgast wrought. Disaster befalls his settlement, prompting a journey that takes him across the former North American continent, searching for the truth behind the virus.

A film adaptation of the novel will be directed by Matt Reeves, who previously directed Let Me In and Cloverfield.

The sequel, titled The Twelve, continues Jaxon's story five years later with flashbacks to the time of the viral outbreak covering the story behind Wolgast's ex-wife Lila and the forebears of important characters in Jaxon's time. The threat of the viral progenitors, twelve death-row inmates and one scientist who underwent experimental treatments, looms larger and Peter Jaxon and Amy race to find a true solution to the world-ravaging virus.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Nobody likes Horace Guilder, 'Director' of the Homeland but most are too scared to do anything about it.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: After the outbreak, the Colorado facility becomes this.
  • Abusive Parents: A few characters have them.
    • Babcock's mother put out cigarettes on him, hurt him physically and taunted him psychologically.
    • Lawrence Grey endured a series of sexually abusive stepfathers and 'uncles'.
    • Tifty Lamont was beaten by his drunken father to the point where bones were broken.
    • Horace Guilder's father was emotionally distant and unloving.
  • Accidental Murder: Amy's mother kills a frat boy by accident.
  • Achilles' Heel: The virals' only weak spot is right above their breastbone. A knife or bullet anywhere else will just inconvenience them.
  • Action Girl: Alicia Donadio, Lore DeVeer and Nina.
  • Action Survivor: Characters who don't die are forced to become this.
  • After the End: Most of the novel. The first part ("The Worst Dream of the World") takes place Just Before the End.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Red-Eyes have all become insane, sadistic and detached from human feelings after so long under the influence of Grey's blood.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Just about everyone in the Colony, due to the mixing of the races over so many years. Very few people are completely one ethnicity anymore.
  • Apocalyptic Log: A few, in the form of Auntie's books, newspaper clipping, and Dr Jonas Lear's e-mail correspondence. For some parts of the book After the End, the POV switches to a diary Sara Fisher is keeping.
  • Apocalypse How: Either a Class 0 or a Class 1. Class 0 if the quarantine was successful, Class 1 if the virus escaped the North American continent. Largely left ambiguous.
  • Anyone Can Die: So far, Cole, Paulson, Sykes, Richards, Doyle, Lear, the Colonel, Arlo, Elton, Mira, Billie, Gus, Caleb, Jude, Vorhees, Babcock, Kittridge, Nelson, Satch Dodd, Ceps, Wilkes, Guilder, Tifty, Wolgast, Martinez and all of the Twelve save for Carter and Zero.
  • Arc Words
    I am Babcock, One of Twelve.
    I was called Fanning.
    They always go home.
    Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
  • Armies Are Evil: Played both ways. The army personnel at the Colorado Compound are a mix of sociopathic monsters and jaded suicidal types, but the Army of the Republic of Texas are mostly reasonable nice guys. There are also many examples of soldiers disobeying orders because they have a moral objection, such as those ordered to bomb civilian sites to stop the virus spreading.
  • The Atoner: Several, most notably Lawrence Grey.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Amy and Wolgast, later Amy and Peter.
  • Because Destiny Says So
  • Big Bad: Overall, Tim Fanning AKA Subject Zero, but there's a seperate Big Bad for The Passage and The Twelve; Giles Babcock and Horace Guilder.
  • Body Horror: The Virals, and Ignacio.
  • Ceiling Cling: A favoured method of the Virals.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them
  • Classical Movie Vampire: The characters sort of poke fun at this when they join in when the Army soldiers have a viewing of the Bela Lugosi Dracula.
  • Creepy Child: Amy, for a short while.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: The Virals' fingers grow and extend into long, thin claws.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Many characters end up being ripped apart by Virals.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Mausami's baby is named after Caleb.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The book has numerous POV characters, but the ones who gain initial focus are Brad Wolgast and Lacey the nun in The Passage, and Lawrence Grey and Lila in The Twelve. All of them are major supporting characters, but Peter Jaxon and Amy are the ones who the story revolve around and have the most significant page-time. Interestingly, in both books, Peter is the last character to be introduced, but arguably the main protagonist.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several characters, most notably Michael, Lore, Nelson and Richards.
  • Defector from Decadence
  • Divided States of America: During the initial cataclysm, both California and Texas break off from the Union, causing minor civil wars. The latter survives so well that 100 years later it is beginning to perform sweep-and-clear operations.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Colony where Peter was born.
  • Doorstopper
  • Driven to Suicide / Psychic-Assisted Suicide: How Babcock wipes out so much of the Colony.
  • Dying as Yourself: Many characters adopt this attitude in the event they're infected, such as Corporal Muncey.
  • Emergency Transformation: Alicia and later, Amy.
  • The Epic: A huge amount of viewpoint characters cover the story from all sides across decades and spanning the entire continent.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: When Lacey first meets Peter, she thought he'd be taller.
  • Evil Former Friend: Richards and Skykes discuss this in relation to Fanning and Lear.
  • Evil Is Petty: Many of the Homeland characters.
  • Fighting from the Inside: When Theo is imprisoned at Haven he does his best to resist Babcock's dream.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampires
  • From Bad to Worse: The US of 2018 is already a World Half Empty due to a terrorist massacre in the Mall of America and the reaction to it, showing definite fascist tendencies. Then the virus hits.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Who'd have thought that giving convicted murderers superhuman powers would be a bad idea?
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sister Lacey sets off a small nuclear bomb to kill Babcock and herself. Grey and Lila later do this to stop Guilder.
  • Hive Mind: Each of the Twelve controls all the vampires he created or that those vampires created.
  • The Horde
  • Horror Hunger: Virals.
  • Hospital Hottie: Sara Fisher.
  • How We Got Here: Chapter 19 starts with Peter on the wall and then jumps back in time for several chapters.
  • Icon of Rebellion: SERGIO LIVES.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Project NOAH.
  • Kill It with Fire: A method of destroying Virals.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Long Lived: In the beginning of the book, Amy is six years old. Almost a hundred years later, they characters say that she looks fourteen. The first lines of the book call her "The Girl who Lived A Thousand Years."
  • Meaningful Name: Jude (Judas) of the Haven colony works to provide the viral Babcock four cows and two fellow humans to be eaten each month, effectively betraying the human race to ensure his own survival.
  • Mercy Kill
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Virals have mouths filled with needle-like teeth. The Twelve seem to lose their teeth and grow more with some frequency.
  • Mysterious Protector
  • Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Part of the transformation to Viral causes the genitals to...'smooth out' or otherwise become useless. This even happens to Guilder and the Red Eyes.
  • More Than Mind Control: Fanning and Babcock's long and subtle process of influencing the minds of humans, involving showing the victims their own memories.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's mentioned that Jenna Bush is Governor of Texas.
  • Not Quite Dead: Jude.
  • Not Using the Z Word: Played with. In the beginning, "vampire" is used to deride the project with the virus. After the virus is let loose, people come up with various names for them - virals, smokes, jumpers - but they all admit that they are vampires.
    • The point is underlined when, in the future, most viral hunters and soldiers refer to Dracula as an excellent introduction to the basics of defense against jumpers because the weaknesses detailed happen to be surprisingly accurate. Presumably, in the universe of the books, the story of Dracula was influenced by ancient reports of infected virals.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They have a mental link with each other and with the Twelve. Each of the Twelve may control a large portion of the vampires they created - Babcock controlled the Many and when he died, Amy helped them to die too. They are very tough due to the virus changing their skin into a "protein-based exoskeleton" that is stronger than Kevlar.
  • Police State: The 'present-day' USA has adopted increasingly fascist, Big Brother policies.
  • Posthumous Character: Mark Cole, who only appears in email correspondence and flashbacks.
  • Public Execution: Guilder has a fondness for doing this to his enemies. Amy uses this to her advantage.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Homeland is a dictatorship heavy with propaganda.
  • The Quisling: The Haven and the Homeland are filled with both.
  • Rapid Aging: How Guilder and the rest of the Homeland's Red Eyes die following the death of Lawrence Grey, the "source" of their immortality.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Every character who's taken some of the virus.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Lear.
  • Scavenger World
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Twelve Virals, at first.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Theo and Mausami name their child Caleb.
  • Spider-Sense: The Twelve can sense each other. Babcock also seems a little concerned when he begins to sense Amy coming.
  • Stepford Smiler: There's certainly something 'off' about the residents of Haven.
  • Super Human Trafficking: The U.S. government experiments on human test subjects and plans to use the result as a weapon against its enemies.
  • Survival Horror
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: For every one Viral you see, there are usually two you don't.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Jude, who gets shot in the face, survives and then gets two clips emptied into him before finally expiring.
  • Time Skip: The narrative of both books begins Twenty Minutes into the Future, before skipping forward nearly a hundred years. There's also a time skip of a few years between the books.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Many characters have to. The ones that don't, die. Special mention to Michael, who goes from a skinny, pale tech guy to a tanned, muscular, sex-havin' 'oiler' and Genius Bruiser.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The Haven. Later, Voorhees recalls a similar settlement.
  • Tracking Chip: Amy and the Twelve Virals have these.
  • Traintop Battle: Most of it takes place in the train, but there are still some segments on top.
  • True Companions: The First Colony Apostles.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: The book begins in 2018.
  • Unusual Euphemism: 'Took the trip' for suicide, and 'taken up' for infected.
  • Vampire Apocalypse: We see part of it during "The Year of Zero" and during Auntie's journals.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Amy and later Lacey and Alicia are infected with the "final" stage of the virus, which means they have no bloodlust.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: The Virals under Babcock's control tend to do this.
  • The Virus: A literal virus, too.
  • Used Future: Comes with the post-apocalyptic world the characters live in.
  • The War on Terror: A terrorist attack on the Mall of America results in the United States adopting a number of fascist tendencies, including military checkpoints at state borders and an expanded form of the Patriot Act.
  • Weakened by the Light: Most vampires can't stand sunlight, though some can tolerate it (both Amy and Alicia later can travel during the day).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Many of the characters involved with Project Noah, such as Lear and Sykes. Lear is still grieving for his dead wife and wants to stop death and Sykes wants to improve the military to protect his country. They both gradually realize they're being used by the higher-ups for more sinister purposes and there won't be a happy ending.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Peter and Alicia, Hollis and Sara who do.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: There's several in such a bleak setting with superpower-granting viruses spilling here and there.
    • Lawrence Grey is a paedophile who gains incredible powers and ends up indirectly allowing the Homeland to exist by keeping Guilder alive. He was also mercilessly abused by a variety of father figures after his real father killed himself. Grey found the body. He's also kept a prisoner for almost 100 years, immobile and frequently humiliated.
    • Horace Guilder, the Big Bad of The Twelve, had an emotionally abusive father and was loved by nobody, while slowly dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease.
    • Giles Babcock, the Viral who kills millions was horribly abused by his mother and sentenced to death despite clearly being too insane to be deemed responsible for his own actions.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Guilder and the Virals. The Virals at least have an excuse, due to their Horror Hunger and the fact that most of them are mindless beasts. Guilder and his men are just murderous bastards.
  • A World Half Full: Due to the whole vampire virus thing that went on for a bit.
  • You Have Failed Me: Guilder tends to do this to his subordinates.
  • Zerg Rush: How the Virals tend to attack, particularly during the initial outbreak.

OriuagorHorror LiteraturePavlovs Dogs
Out of the DarkVampire FictionPeeps
PartialsLiterature of the 2010sPassage to November

alternative title(s): The Passage
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