I very much enjoyed The Passage books. I’ve never read anything quite like them. When I heard they were making a TV series, I wondered how they’d do it. I still have some questions about that, but I generally like what they’ve done so far.
This post contains spoilers through episode 6 of the TV show. I tried not to give away anything major from the books that you don’t already know if you watched those 6 episodes, but if you want to read the books knowing absolutely nothing, you better stop reading now, because I will have some minor spoilers.
I read the books about a year ago. Now, watching the TV show, it’s making a few things clear that I didn’t understand when I read the first part of the first book. If you’re enjoying the show and you didn’t read the books, I’d urge you to do so at some point. I think they will complement each other, to a certain extent, so each will fill in details the other didn’t make clear, no matter which order you consume them in.
But it’s a trade-off. The first book, especially, was an unfolding mystery. As you kept reading, you kept asking what exactly is happening here? I loved that part of it, trying to understand what was happening. You had several aspects of it:
- What the Project Noah folks were up to, exactly. And this changes as things go along — it starts as a search for a cure for disease or the fountain of youth, immortality, and then the military seeks to use it as a weapon.
- What was going on with the test subjects. Looking back, it’s clear the virals were aware and maybe even planning stuff, but as I was reading, I really wasn’t sure what they were capable of or if they really were planning anything. At first it seemed like they were very similar to zombies. Stronger and very nocturnal, but I didn’t realize how much they were still able to think and plan and communicate until, I think, the 2nd book. As I’m watching the TV show, I see how they’re making the dreams and telepathy part much more clear than it was in the first book.
- There was something different about Amy. Not just that she was younger than the other subjects, but the incident at the zoo was never explained. They deleted the zoo scene from the TV show and I’d really like to find out why they made that choice. It was probably for cost — animals and trainers are very expensive (that’s why the dire wolves are not seen much in Game of Thrones compared to their presence in the books). But on the TV show, they seem to have dropped the whole idea that Amy was special even before she was injected with the virus.
So, in the TV show, they’re giving us more insight into who these virals are much earlier than in the books. Fanning was “Zero” in the first book. I don’t think we got his backstory until book 3. We have a trade-off. We miss the slow build-up, the gradual unfurling of the mystery. But we get a more linear story, one that’s probably more accessible to the wider TV audience. I watched a review on YouTube where the reviewer criticized the choice to drop the long slow reveal, but I’m not sure they could have made it work for a weekly TV show.
Good changes vs. the books
- Cluing us in to the content of the virals’ telepathic communications
- Not starting by showing us Amy with her mother. The focus is on Amy’s relationship with Brad, and starting with the mother dilutes that. I think we’re going to see Amy’s mom in a flashback, though, if the previews are to be believed.
Bad changes vs. the books
- Brad being present when Amy is injected — in the books, he was brought in after she was injected; he wasn’t standing right there allowing them to inject her. I think they could have written the TV show that way.
- When in time this happens. In the books, it’s clear that this is not the present, but the near future (yes, the books were written a few years ago; the first one came out in 2010). But some significant things are mentioned that shows us that the books are not meant to be happening in current day but a near future:
- The US is at war, seemingly on many fronts.
- Many terror attacks have taken place on US soil — a bombing at a gas depot, a subway attack.
- Another devastating hurricane a few years after Katrina pretty much wiped out New Orleans.
As a result of the things listed above,
- There are government checkpoints on Interstate highways all over the US (most especially bridges).
- Gas prices are — I’m guessing maybe $7-8 per gallon. They mention it would cost $200 to fill the tank of a Chevy Tahoe.
- The whole oil industry is under federal protection.
This gives us a setting where the government and the military has a tremendous amount of leeway compared to current situations in the US, which explains how they can get away with a lot of the stuff that happens. Project Noah is still secret, but its existence is more easily believed and an Asian bird flu is not needed as an excuse to find a child test subject.
Changes where the jury is still out
- Lila’s story arc
- Lacey’s story arc
- Making Babcock a woman
- Making Sykes a woman
- Learning things about the virals. In the first 6 episodes, we learned 3 important things about the virals:
- You can kill them if you shoot them right in the heart
- Any virals who are virals because they were bitten by one of the original Project Noah subjects will all die when that original subject is killed (we learned this in episode 6, but in the books we didn’t know it until book 2).
If you watch The Walking Dead, you know that there was a time period early on when they didn’t know how to kill the walkers. Since the virals are a result of a science experiment, I guess it makes sense that they know things like that about them, but it’s a change from the book and I’m interested to know how it will affect the overall plot.
Another thing that seems to have changed from the books is Lear’s wife’s disease. In the book she had cancer and died before the Bolivia trip. While her illness served as motivation to pursue this possible cure for all diseases, it wouldn’t have saved Liz in the books. She existed only in flashbacks. Now that she’s apparently been infected, I think it will be interesting to see how that changes the plot. I have a theory but I’m not ready to share yet.
Another change I thought was interesting was the scene in the cave in Bolivia. In the book, there were some emails that gave some information and left out other details, so you were never sure what happened there except that Fanning was indeed infected. People were bitten, many people died, there was some hint that the locals knew there was something dangerous in that spot. Fanning was the only one to survive. There was no specific mention of a couple-hundred-year-old man, though there was an implication that some locals were infected. This change to showing this crazy man in the cave gives you a brief hint at what’s to come and gives the haters another plot point to pick apart, asking why they didn’t just capture this man instead of killing him. And, of course, the answer is that Fanning is meant to be the big bad, so the plot isn’t served by keeping a nameless man from Bolivia alive.
If you haven’t read the books, you need to realize that some serious stuff is about to happen, I’m talking biblical proportions, real wrath-of-God type stuff. What do I mean by biblical? Much more serious than dogs and cats living together. This books series has been compared to The Walking Dead and Stephen King’s The Stand for a really good reason. Amy hints at it in episode 1, in a voice-over, and Lacey gives a prophecy about it a couple of episodes later. They’re trying to warn you so you’re just a little bit prepared. The events of this story effect way more than millions of registered voters; really the entire world will never be the same.