The Passage by Justin Cronin
A viral, it was said, was a being without a soul. [...] In its blood was a tiny creature, called a virus, that stole the soul away. The virus entered through a bite [...] and once it was inside a person, the soul was gone, leaving the body behind to walk the earth forever; the person they had been was no more. These were the facts of the world, the one truth from which all other truths descended; Peter might just as well have been wondering what made the rain fall; and yet, [...] he thought it. Why would a viral come home if it had no soul? (270)It's hard to know what to make of a 766-page "postapocalyptic vampire fantasy" written by an English professor. The premise of The Passage is intriguing, but its length is daunting.
The Passage is set in the near future (Jenna Bush is Governor of Texas at the beginning of the novel). Scientists working on a secret, government-funded project, create a race of vampires while attempting to develop a cure for aging. When the vampires get loose, they decimate the human population of North America (and possibly the world). Only small outposts of human civilization survive and they must be vigilant because the virals are always hungry and never far away.
The Passage won't be everyone's cup of tea. I suspect it's one of those books that you'll either love or hate. Personally I didn't love The Passage, but I didn't dislike it as much as I thought I would when I first started reading it. While the book is dark and does seem to drag at points, it's hard not to get invested in its story. I kept reading because I really wanted to see where it would go (it was also interesting to see what parts of the vampire mythos Cronin decided to incorporate into his breed of blood suckers). The most problematic thing about The Passage is that it is the first in a series. Readers who aren't aware of that fact will be find the book's ending unsatisfying.
You can read on the first fifteen pages of The Passage on the author's website.