The Passage is a novel by Justin Cronin, published in 2010 by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. The Passage debuted at #3 on the New York Times hardcover fiction best seller list, and remained on the list 7 additional weeks. It is the first novel of a planned trilogy; the second book The Twelve was released in 2012, with the third book The City of Mirrors due to be released in 2014.
The Passage begins in the near future and details an apocalyptic and, later, post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by vampire-like beings who are infected by a highly contagious virus. What begins as a project to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by an unnamed species of bat in South America eventually becomes the virus that transforms the world. The novel is broken into 11 parts of varying lengths. The story itself is broken into two sections: The first and shorter section covers the origins of the virus and its outbreak, while the second is set 93 years after the infections, primarily following a colony of survivors living in California.
he U.S. government is conducting a top secret experiment referred to as “Project Noah,” which involves acquiring and transporting death row inmates to a secret military compound in Colorado for the purposes of modifying them into super-soldiers for the U.S. Army. These genetic experiments originate from patient zero Fanning – one of two surviving members of an expedition investigating a Bolivian bat-carried virus. The virus, while eventually causing hemorrhagic fever and death in initial subjects, is being refined to accentuate its other properties – boosting of the immune system, enhanced strength and agility.
The FBI agents responsible for recruiting the prisoners are ordered to collect 6 year old Amy Bellafonte from a convent, and, although conflicted, deliver her to Dr. Lear, the head of the project. At Noah she is exposed to a refined version of the serum administered to “The Twelve”—the original inmates. Lear theorizes that as Amy’s immune system has not had chance to mature it will form a symbiosis with the virus and live with her sympathetically, instead of the violent forms it has taken with the other twelve.
Of the inmates, the first and last recruited are depicted as being different from the others: Babcock, the original test subject, is stronger and appears to have developed psychic abilities, occasionally influencing his guards and cleaners; and Carter is in fact innocent, but was convicted of first-degree murder nonetheless.
Despite living reasonably comfortably in the mountain site, Wolgast eventually succumbs to radiation sickness when a nuclear device is detonated relatively nearby – he assumes that the government is attempting to sterilize infected areas of the country – and Amy is left to fend for herself.
The novel shifts forward in time approximately 93 years (with occasional reference retrospectively 1,000 years in the future), and the narrative is taken up around a self-sufficient and isolationist colony established by the military (specifically FEMA) not long after the initial outbreak. The colony is in slow decline, although only one character (a technician called Michael) seems to recognize this; he is trying to establish clandestine contact with the outside world to obtain spares for their failing equipment – specifically their batteries which power the high-wattage lights which protect the colony from the virals, who in traditional vampiric style are highly light-sensitive.