Raja's Comments on Passage

Here are some comments I wrote shortly after finishing the book (well before discussing it):

I have a great deal of uncertainty about how to rate this book. What are my criteria for rating? Is this book SF? In a certain sense I'd feel more comfortable classifying it as "religious fiction"--but only if 20th century literary analysis is a religion! Should I praise the author for making 780 pages fly by like 78, or condemn the author for taking 780 pages to achieve something that could perhaps have been done in 78? Depending on the answers to these questions, the rating could be 7, 8, or 9.

Things the book does well: It's a real page-turner. The "screwball style" didn't annoy me so much (maybe I'm just getting used to it) though if Willis ever does a concentration camp screwball story, I don't want to read it. The Idea that the main character sees the Titanic as a metaphor for death, since actually seeing death would be too much. The idea that NDEs are like the process of the Titanic sinking, with frantic attempts to message anyone and everyone. The way the confusing and unstable pathways in the hospital are a metaphor for the brain. Some of the characters--Maisie, her English teacher Mr Briarley--are vivid and extremely well-drawn.

Things the book does less well: The penultimate chapter is an extremely happy ending that verges on over-the-top. The actual ending tones it down, but at a high cost in murkiness. Or I could make a case for ending on page 725--with the book collapsing in a failure to communicate--a near-perfect metaphor for the purely materialistic view of death. Another oddity: Many characters have homonymous names--if you heard them in real life, you'd have no idea how to spell them.