Sunday, June 13, 2010

Passage [Book Review]

Several years ago, I read Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book and thought it was stupendous, so I recently picked up another of her novels, Passage. This one has an intriguing premise: a researcher into near-death experiences believes that there is some sort of pattern involved in what people see, so she decides to start simulating the experiences through chemical hallucinogens. (in other words, the plot is a bit like Flatliners, but she is not actually dying each time). The first hundred or so pages are as exciting as anything I have read in recent memory, but then it begins to drag--there is a lot of repetition (a character who always tells war stories, difficulty in figuring out how to maneuver through a maze-like hospital, etc.), insufficient characterization for the main protagonist (she does not seem to have much of a personality apart from an obsession with NDEs), and an annoying back-and-forth about whether what she is seeing is real. At almost 800 pages, I think a good editor could have solved a lot of these problems and delivered a slimmer, most powerful book. There are some great ideas here, but they are not expressed in a great way.

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