Looks like this year is off to a good start bookwise, at least. I have been meaning to read The Passage for a few months now, but kept choosing other novels instead. It's not that I have anything against book series, because it can be nice to revisit old characters but it also gets old having to wait for the next part to come out, and I just didn't want to add yet another one to my list. I think it may also be partially due to the fact that I was a bit disappointed with the last vampire trilogy I started, The Strain Trilogy (enjoyed the first book, but the second one seemed rather unnecessary; I haven't even read the final one yet).
It's a rather large novel, and Cronin spends a decent amount of time setting the scene and introducing the characters, the most important being the six year old girl, Amy. After her mother leaves her at a convent, a secret government program decides that she would be the perfect candidate to add to their experiments with a virus that prolongs human life and turns its victims into blood thirsty monsters. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is tasked to pick up the girl with no last name and no footprint, since the assumption is that no one will miss this girl. Of course, that doesn't quite pan out and transporting her to the testing site in Colorado doesn't go as smoothly as planned. Additionally, Wolgast develops a protective and paternal attachment to the girl, and feels guilty about involving her though he is unable to save her from the experiment. As in most novels, the military's plan go awfully awry, and soon the government-created vampires, all violent former death row inmates, are free to spread destruction across the United States. As Wolgast and Amy leave in the midst of the outbreak, the scientist behind the program implies that he used Amy as a key or potential savior of humanity to counteract the disaster he foresaw resulting from the NOAH Project. Instead of describing the destruction and widespread panic, Cronin chooses to follow Amy and Wolgast as they escape together to the wilderness, and then flashes forward 92 years to a small community of survivors in California, descended from a train of children from Philadelphia before its fall.
I enjoyed reading about the individuals in the Colony, but was also anxious to get back to Amy's story. The Colony is experiencing a strange time of upheaval when Amy arrives at its gates, and while many fear her and what she may represent, a few of the younger crowd of the Colony believe she raises important questions, leading to a good old fashioned quest story. The Colony is isolated and has had no communications with the outside, so as the group embarks on their journey through vampire infested lands, they have little idea what has happened to the rest of the United States, or even there are even any other survivors.
There is much more to it than that, but I tried to avoid anything too spoilery that can't already be guessed from the cover or the Amazon description. I actually enjoyed all the detail that Cronin went into, and how he developed his various characters and their relationships. The book cover compares the novel to The Stand, and certainly the "government experiment goes wrong and is released to the general public" premise is rather reminiscent of The Stand. In fact, a few characters in the Colony begin to have dreams and hear voices, influencing their decisions, which I feel like I have seen in several other vampire novels before, but also specifically King novels. However, since The Stand is one of King's best novels, it isn't exactly an insult to be compared to him. Honestly, I didn't even really notice it too much while I was reading the novel because I was too wrapped up in the story, but I can see it in retrospect, especially since both authors have such large casts of characters, managing to make even some characters that would normally be harshly judged somewhat sympathetic. While I have been burned before on series, recommending them after reading the first novel, only to discover that the follow ups couldn't compare, I am far enough into the second novel at this point to feel safe recommending this one to other readers.