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Thursday, June 10, 2010

"The Passage"

My friend Suzanne sent me a review of the summer blockbuster The Passage by Justin Cronin. I'd heard of it, on NPR of course, but had no real interest in reading it. But Suzanne also sent me this interview with the author (excerpted below) and now I feel quite differently (I almost cried when I read this).

This is the intro to the interview:

In summer, some people like a light, fun summer novel. Others like to read about the world being overtaken by blood-thirsty vampires who savage the planet and threaten to extinguish the whole of civilization. Hey, surf's up. The biggest book of summer so far is Justin Cronin's "The Passage," a massive novel in which a band of people attempt to survive in a small colony surrounded on all sides by vampires. But these are not the sexy, debonair vampires of TV and "Twilight." Justin Cronin's vampires are real monsters, a result of a government experiment gone awry.

. . .

SIMON: Tell us about the role of children then - about the sanctuary in the story.

Prof. CRONIN: Yeah, children are really central to the book. And it was part of my original idea for the story that it was really a book in some ways about what we owe to our children. The vampire narrative is a narrative of immortality. The temptation of immortality is one that essentially the human race takes up in my book. I mean a certain - a group of scientists decide let's, you know, let's tap into the biological ability to be immortal.

This is a kind of deep greed that they commit, because they fail to notice that we are already immortal, because the future we do not personally live to see is the one our children live in. The sanctuary is a protective enclave within this colony of survivors. It sits at the center. Its an old elementary school. It's fortified. It is the last retreat in the event that the Colony is invaded. And all the children in the Colony live there until the age of eight, and they live in a bubble of not knowing.

The world in which they live is one that is so potentially psychologically traumatic that the founders of this society have decided, well, we'll give people eight years not to know the truth. And so the children live there sort of sealed away, not just from other people, but from the knowledge of what the world really is. And one person, who's called Teacher, it's her job when you turn eight to tell you what the truth is, so that you dont hate your parents for it, actually. So she bears the collective trauma of this resentment.

SIMON: You know what I think will strike any parent reading that?

Prof. CRONIN: Tell me.

SIMON: That's what we want for our children anyway, isn't it?

Prof. CRONIN: Yeah. That's right. Yeah. It's interesting that I chose eight, because I didnt realize, you know, I didnt quite realize what I was doing at the time, but that's how old my daughter was when we had this conversation. And the book is full of all kinds of symmetries that have to do with my life as a parent. And, you know, at its heart "The Passage" is really a story about a father and a daughter. And that makes perfect sense because it was the father and a daughter who dreamed the whole thing up to begin with.


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