Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Book: The Twelve
Author: Justin Cronin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release date: October 16, 2012
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: The Passage #2
 
Summary from Goodreads:

At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

I know what you’re thinking. Why would I review the sequel to a book I didn’t like all that much?

Well, the ending to The Passage was exciting enough that I felt The Twelve was worth a try. I wasn’t going to spend money on it, but I’d put a hold on the ebook at the library and see what happened. If it didn’t hook me in the first 50 pages, then I could just accept that this wasn’t the series for me and go on my merry way.

So I put it on hold, and when the hold came through, I started reading.

And it completely hooked me.

THIS was the book I wanted to read when I was promised literary-style vampires. THIS was the book I wanted to read when I was promised post-apocalyptic viral mayhem. THIS was 100 times better than The Passage.

Though we are, frustratingly, introduced to even MORE new characters in this book, at least these characters didn’t stumble around incoherently through 50 pages of backstory for each one of them. We also get to spend the majority of the book with characters we know from the first book, and they get to do way more interesting things. I’m still not a huge fan of the author’s stylistic choices, but the narrative switches bothered me much less in this book.

Justin Cronin is juggling a large timeline (100 years or so), multiple locations separated by hundreds of miles, and an enormous cast of characters. While I found the scope to be somewhat disjointed in book one, here some of the puzzle pieces start to fall into place. He has certainly earned my trust that all of my investment in his world will pay off.

In this book, we slide one generation back in time to see some important lead-ins to the current action, and we also get to see a new side of Year Zero. This time around we actually experience the viral outbreak and its immediate consequences on the population. I absolutely loved seeing the government side of the story and how they tried to balance their resources in the face of a society-ending plague. How would they try to quarantine large sections of the country? Who would they sacrifice for the greater good? What would happen to the world economy and foreign relations? These are the kinds of questions I enjoy exploring in post-apocalyptic fiction, and Cronin finally delivers.

The mysteries and objectives facing the characters were thrilling. I was swept up in the story, and found myself trusting Cronin to lead us to where we needed to be. My familiarity with the main characters put me at ease while reading, but the new challenges they faced had me on edge. Life is bleak in this world, and just when you think you know where things are going they take a right turn into a new surprise. It’s very much an enjoyable ride.

Action-packed mayhem, deepening plot mysteries, and strong characters make this a book well worth a read. If you can slog your way through the first book, The Twelve will reward you in spades. I will absolutely be reading the final book when it releases next year, and it can’t get here soon enough.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

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8 thoughts on “Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

  1. I can’t help but laugh as I read your review — because I felt totally the opposite. I loved The Passage, although it was a bit long winded. But I read 40% of The Twelve, and was still being introduced to characters and back stories. Nothing happened. Anyway I did not finish it.. I still enjoyed your review. I think it’s helpful to read differing opinions and one of the great joys I get out of book blogs.

    • That’s hilarious! One of my favorite things about books (and art in general) is their subjectivity. Mood seems to influence me a lot when I read. The Passage may not have been as bad as I thought, but for the fact that I was growing increasingly irritated with it. 🙂

  2. Wow, I’m surprised to see someone loved this more than The Passage because from the reviews I’ve read so far, people seem to like this one a bit less. But this is much more exciting. Not that I’ve read the series yet, but I would like to and have been meaning to, so I definitely want to hear that the sequel is better. But I don’t want to hear that this one also has a bazillion characters and narratives. Hate that. Nicely reviewed!

    • It’s funny, Aylee. I wrote this up and then started reading reviews and saw the same thing – everyone thought this one was way more boring! I stand by my feelings that book one was just too long and boring in the middle sections, but the beginning and end are great. Maybe for some people that makes up for it? This one just had more elements that I personally find more interesting, like the government conspiracies and internment camps.

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