Not two weeks ago I had friends strongly recommend Justin Cronin’s trilogy that begins with the Passage. They were both unable to put his books down and suggested I give them a try. Two days ago I discovered that Cronin Himself would be in town, talking about his novels and signing some books. I thought this might be a great opportunity to be able to get a sense of his writing before I dove in myself. Due to his clear popularity I was put on the waitlist but was lucky enough to be able to attend. Being my first time attending this type of event I wasn’t sure what to expect. I turned up, brand new copy of the Passage in hand, ready to see what the night had to offer. What follows are a collection of my thoughts from the night…
- There is free food and wine here!? (Wine was delicious.)
- This book is about zombies and vampires? Didn’t pick that.
- The diversity of the audience strikes me. There are men and women, young and old, clearly from a variety of walks of life. Possibly my favourite moment is when the adorable little old lady, who is sitting in the front row, has her mobile phone ring and is so shocked because no one EVER calls her and she doesn’t really even know how to use it. I had, what most people would label the typical “Australian bogan” wearing his authentic sneans, sit down beside me because I was on my own and his friend was running late. You could easily make your assumptions about him on the street but he was absolutely lovely to chat to and I came away with some great book recommendations.
- Justin Cronin has an incredibly smooth American accent that is definitely easy on the ears.
- I love the way Cronin talks about his characters. They are complete people to him – he couldn’t write about them if they weren’t. Each has their own back story, some you discover during his three novels, some there just wasn’t room for and one in particular he will not share for his own reasons (my intrigue is high). These he calls “the stones around their necks”, that unspoken event/experience we all have that defines us, that we carry with us each day and that we only reveal to those closest to us. This is where I am convinced I’m going to enjoy these books. I’m a big characters person and he is a writer who puts a lot into developing holistic characters.
- The strongest characters in his novels are women. Men are more so the baggage carriers (his words, not mine).
- He writes his villains with a side of empathy and his heroes with smudges of dirt. Multi-dimensional characters are so interesting and the fact that he prides himself on creating villains you feel sympathy for and heroes that are less than perfect excites me. This is real life, no one person is perfect and no one person is wholly bad. I look forward to discovering these characters for myself.
- His first two novels were set in your typical daily life – way away from the post-apocalyptic world he writes of in these novels. These first novels deal with life, the good, the bad and everything in between. In fact, when he was presenting the manuscript to publishers he did so under a pseudonym to avoid any prejudices, good or bad, that were associated with his name and the types of novels he had written previously. He even chose a purposely gender neutral name to let the person reading it decide if he was male or female.
- The post-apocalyptic setting was influenced by growing up during the Cold War. With nuclear weapons on both sides of the war this sort of future was not just afar away idea, it was a distinct possibility that we could do this to ourselves (and to be honest, still could).
- There are a lot of other people here fan-girling and getting so excited talking with his, having their photos taken and getting their books signed. I almost feel like I’m missing out by not having read the books already. Then I remember that I now get to experience his books with a unique understanding of how he writes and why he writes that way. My interest is piqued and now I can’t wait to dive in. I also managed to avoid any spoilers, bonus win!
Have you read any of Justin Cronin’s novels? What are your thoughts on them? If you haven’t, does this type of post arouse your interest? Would love to hear what you think!