Literary Criticism and Significance
The Passage was one of the most well-received novels of 2010, and it has been dubbed by many the “thriller of 2010.” Cronin received popular and critical acclaim for The Passage, a work that melds several genres, including horror, a post-apocalyptic setting, and the western. Although the plot of The Passage is quite suspenseful, Cronin relies on detailed descriptions of character motivation, setting, and action to tell his story.
Many commentators took the time to compare The Passage to other post-apocalyptic novels. It is often compared to Stephen King’s The Stand, and King himself praised the novel for its imaginative story telling. For many commentators, The Passage is a traditional vampire novel that returns vampires to the realm of horror, as opposed to the popular young adult romance, Twilight. Perhaps for this reason, Cronin takes the time to allude to Bram Stoker’s famous vampire novel, Dracula. The Passage was also compared to Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Road, the story of a man and his son trying to survive in a world where people have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Both The Road and The Passage consider how people can hold on to hope in a ravaged and violent world.
Perhaps it is because of this action and violence that many critics have categorized The Passage as a thriller rather than a horror novel. Many readers have praised Cronin’s ability to use action and character to keep readers turning the pages in this long novel. Cronin’s relentless pacing fortunately does not come at the cost of his character development. In fact, contrary to what we might expect from a thriller, Janet Maslin of The New York Times described The Passage as “elaborate and digressive” for its in-depth description of minor characters like Anthony Carter.
The premise of The Passage stands out in Cronin’s body of work. Cronin’s previous two novels are considered mainstream literature as opposed to speculative fiction. Although The Passage is Cronin’s first venture into the realm of the fantastic, his previous novels both discuss the roles of hope and redemption. To date, The Passage remains Cronin’s most commercially successful novel.
The Passage employs a cliffhanger ending, and Cronin has reported that he intends to expand the story into a trilogy. The novel also stands a good chance of being adapted for film; acclaimed director Ridley Scott has reportedly purchased the rights to do so.