||Justin Cronin’s The Passage is a dark morality tale of just how frightening things can become when humanity transgresses the laws of nature.The author of two previous novels, Cronin, in his third book, imagines the catastrophic possibilities of a vampiric bat virus unleashed upon the world. Discovered by the U.S. Military in South America, the virus is transported to a laboratory in the Colorado mountains where it is engineered to create a more invincible soldier. The virus’ potential benefits are profound: it has the power to make human beings immortal and indestructible. Yet, like Prometheus’ theft of fire from the Gods, knowledge and technological advancement are gained at great price: After the introduction of the virus into the human blood pool, it becomes clear that there will be hell to pay. The guinea pigs of the NOAH experiment, twelve men condemned to die on death row, become a superhuman race of vampire-like creatures called Virals. Soon, the population of the earth is either dead or infected, their minds controlled telepathically by the Virals. As most of human civilization has been wiped out by the Virals, the few surviving humans create settlements and live off the land with a fortitude the pilgrims would have admired. Only Amy, an abandoned little girl who becomes a mystical antidote to the creatures’ powers, will be able to save the world.The Passage is no quick read, but a sweeping dystopian epic that will utterly transport one to another world, a place both haunting and horrifying to contemplate. Cronin weaves together multiple story lines that build into a journey spanning one hundred years and nearly 800 pages. While vampire lore lurks in the background--the Virals nick necks in order to infect humans, are immortal and virtually indestructible, and do most of their hunting at night--Cronin is more interested in creating an apocalyptic vision along the lines of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.Taking place in a futuristic America where New Orleans is a military zone, Jenna Bush is the Governor of Texas and citizens are under surveillance, The Passage offers a gruesome and twisted version of reality, a terrifying dream world in which our very worst nightmares come true. Ultimately, like the best fiction, The Passage explores what it means to be human in the face of overwhelming adversity. The thrill comes with the knowledge that Amy and the Virals must face off in a grand battle for the fate of humanity.