Justin Cronin’s chunky vampire novel is a satisfying read. It has earned comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand and it is similar in scope and tone, particularly the first segment set in near present-day featuring the likeable and morally conflicted Agent Wolgast. The last segment feels more like the Dark Tower, though, populated as it is with desperate, miserable characters eeking out an existence in a bleak desert in a community whose defining feature is the floodlights used to keep the vampires away. This is not your typical vampire novel, however. The vampires are called “virals”–victims of a long-life virus who are transformed from humans into creatures with incredible strength who fly and eat anything meaty. My only complaint is Amy, a little girl at the beginning and a much older girl by the end. She may be the lynchpin of this proposed trilogy but she is mostly mute, very flat, almost anonymous, and seemingly irrelevant other than as an object to move the plot forward. Otherwise, The Passage is a big, bold, energetic book filled with characters whose lives really mattered to me as the slow-building middle became a thrill-ride rollercoaster sliding toward the climax.