After months of buzz leading up to Book Expo, where The Passage was dubbed “the book of the show,” Justin Cronin‘s tale of a young girl who holds the power to save humanity from a plague of vampires arrives in stores next week. The media is giving it the full blockbuster treatment, while in most libraries we checked, holds are at about 10:1.

Was it worth the wait? Entertainment Weekly says yes, giving the novel an A-:

The Passage owes a substantial debt to both King’s [The Stand] and Cormac McCarthy’s [The Road], and he is not immune to some of the hoarier tropes of Armageddon fiction… but his bogeymen, the vampiric, blood-
hungry beasts known as ”virals,” are
 magnificently unnerving, and his power to compel readers to the next page seldom flags.

Time magazine’s Lev Grossman is all admiration, calling it a “magnificent beast of a new novel.” He gives Cronin props for combining his skills as a “literary” novelist (his first book, Mary and O’Neil, won the PEN/Hemingway award), his “extraordinary level of verbal craft and psychological insight” with strong pacing. “He lays out the ground rules, sets the initial conditions and then lets the machine run while you, the reader, claw helplessly for an off switch.”

People gives it the lead review, seconds the comparison to The Stand and adds The Andromeda Strain, but gives it only three out of four stars (review not online until next week):

“Unfortunately The Passage doesn’t quite live up to its forerunners. The first 200 pages are spectacular…Then the story jumps forward a century — and loses momentum… [the] books is bogged down by generic set pieces and color-by-numbers action sequences.”

The New York Times tells the backstory on how Cronin conceived the trilogy that begins wtih The Passage, which fetched a reported $3.75 million, and $1.75 for film rights. while USA Today offers snappy soundbites on the author and book, which was also selected by independent booksellers as the #1 Indie Next Pick for June.

The Passage
Justin Cronin
Retail Price: $27.00
Hardcover: 784 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books – (2010-06-08)
ISBN / EAN: 0345504968 / 9780345504968

Other Major Fiction Titles on Sale Next Week

Vampire alert! In addition to The Passage, there are two other novels about the blood-loving breed landing next week. And let’s not forget the androids!

  • Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown Teens) features a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits.
  • Insatiable by Meg Cabot (Morrow) is a contemporary sequel to Dracula from the bestselling author of the Princess Diaries.
  • Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books) is the latest in the Quirk Classics series.

These three Indie Next picks for June are also getting mentions in various summer reading roundups or were featured at BEA:

  • Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central) is the #2 Indie Next pick after The Passage:  “Jackson writes like a woman on fire, hooking you in the very first sentence (‘It was an airport gypsy that told me I had to kill my husband’) and demanding total absorption straight through to the novel’s stunning conclusion,” says the blurb. Jackson was also one of the AAP Librarians Lunch speakers at BEA.
  • A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf) is a collection of layered stories about an aging record exec and his passionate, troubled employee.
  • So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown) is about a floundering filmmaker who, in the course of making a documentary about a self-made millionaire, discovers abilities in himself that draw him to a powerful source of evil. “Koryta’s prose is fluid and masterful, making this a delightfully eerie and mesmerizing read,” according to Indie Next.

And here are some of the usual suspects for  summer reading:

  • The Lion by Nelson DeMille (Grand Central) is a followup to The Lion’s Game and stars John Corey, former NYPD homicide detective and special agent for the Anti-Terrorist Task Force.
  • Death Echo by Elizabeth Lowell (HarperCollins) is the fifth St. Kilda Consulting thriller (after Blue Smoke and Murder). According to PW, “Lowell’s primary focus on espionage rather than on romance is a major change from earlier novels, albeit a pleasing one.”

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