Forbidden Planet’s Richard Bruton reviews The Whale House, part two, saying:
“…this, ladies and gents, is a superb read. In fact it may be one of the best things Cheverton’s ever written… And it’s absolutely Doherty’s best work thus far.
“Throughout the issue the tension builds and builds, and even though there’s little out and out menacing here, it’s again all down to storytelling, perfectly done. I don’t think I’ve ever been this breathless at the end of a comic where essentially the protagonist has dinner and meets a strange family before.”
Also, the MOMBcast comic podcast features reviews of both The Whale House, part two and West: Autumn Dusk in their most recent show.
Our thank to both reviewers for their time and kind words.
I’m currently drawing three pages for Rol Hirst’s Too Much Sex & Violence 3; for this issue I have vampire DJ Gary Gore and his so-far unseen sister Julia, whom I get to design. Here’s my version of Gary, based on the sterling visual creations of Kelvin Green (issue 1) and Ryan Taylor (issue 2). Rol has really made the rotating teams of artists per issue work for TMS&V, and it’s very exciting to add to the whole, especially as everyone is so gracious about the little visual differences each artist brings to the characters.
- Andrew Cheverton.
Arriving on a sea of hype, The Passage has a lot to live up to. That it fails may be more to do with its own hyperbole, as well as being written by a ‘mainstream’ writer who fails to understand the necessities of genre writing.
Firstly; yes, comparisons with King’s The Stand are inevitable. They form the crux of, essentially, the same book. It’s unlikely that Cronin - even being a non-genre author - will be unaware of King’s apocalyptic masterpiece, so running the parallels quite so closely as this looks sloppy.
The other well know problem with The Passage is that awkward 100-year jump about a third of the way through. It’s about as clumsy and momentum-destroying a piece of writing as I’ve ever read. Cronin constructs a masterful beginning to his tale - full of excellent character observation and empathy - and then throws it away over the course of a few pages. The extended cast of the future section is overcrowded and flat - too many introduced for little or no reason - and the verisimilitude is wonky also - even a century into the future (with working lights and CD players), but we’re expected to swallow that characters find movies magical? Cronin picks and chooses what elements of the passed technological world he wants his survivors to have, leaving them with the equipment they need for the story, but not the equipment they would realistically have in such a situation. It’s an amateur error, and one typical of an author used to writing in the real world, but without the experience to realistically construct one in the fantasy genre. Cronin is also quite embarrassingly bad at inventing a future slang (for one thing, in a closed community, there’d be no need for it; but having so many words unexplained and given little context simply makes the narrative confusing). It’s galling to have the mainstream look down on horror and SF, when books like this show that their level of craft and invention puts every mainstream author to shame.
Also contentious is the ending. As the first book in a trilogy (although nothing on the cover blurb prepares the reader for this), the ending inevitably has unexplained elements. Yet Cronin feels the need to rush through explanations, set up new plot threads out of nowhere, and then commit the cardinal sin of bringing back characters the reader thought were dead (and whose deaths formed much of the emotional depth of the book).
Beyond these faults, Cronin manages to salvage something. Although his attempts at horror and science fiction world-building are amateur and out-of-date, his writing is usually excellent, and the characters that forms the actual backbone of The Passage are, eventually, sympathetic and well drawn. Whether I’ll remember them by the time the second volume is published, however, is debatable.