Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fiction Review: The Twelve

I finally found time to read The Twelve, Justin Cronin’s sequel to the critically acclaimed and popular The Passage, as a part of my Big Book Summer Challenge. I was saving this hefty novel for summer, when I knew I’d have more time to read, but I wish I had read it sooner after finishing The Passage. I enjoyed The Twelve and never had trouble finishing it, but it’s a complicated and sometimes confusing novel. It was, however, well worth the effort to find out what happened next in this unique post-apocalyptic trilogy.

This second novel fills in more details of the action in The Passage and also follows some of its characters further, beyond the point where the first novel left off. In The Passage (don’t worry – no spoilers here!), a secret government project to create an indestructible soldier goes awry when the virus they were experimenting with is unleashed on the public. The first half of that first novel deals with the events surrounding the virus’ release, and the rest of the book focuses on a small surviving colony of people 90 years later.

The Twelve goes back to the time when the virus was first let loose and the events immediately following. The author focuses on a number of different characters – some familiar from the first book and others new to the reader – with varying viewpoints and roles. At the same time, the novel also continues the story where the first book ended, 90-some years after the virus (A.V.), and it also looks back in time to certain critical events that occurred earlier and affected the future.

So, perhaps you can begin to understand how confusing this novel is at times! It jumps around among dozens of different characters’ viewpoints and also skips from one time to another. So, you might be reading about the ex-wife of the main FBI agent (Wolgast) during the time of the viral release…and then all of a sudden you are reading about a new character 79 years A.V…then jumping to a character from the first book in 97 A.V. I often found myself starting a new chapter and just saying, “Whaaat??”

However, Cronin is an excellent writer, as anyone who read The Passage can attest, and the disparate strings of the story do eventually come together. For me, the initial confusion was worth the pay-off, as the story builds to a startling and action-packed climax (though some questions still remain – hopefully to be answered in Book 3!). I was never tempted to set the book aside, and the suspense kept me reading and (patiently) waiting for things to come together.

I highly recommend that anyone who isn’t reading The Twelve immediately after The Passage remind themselves of the characters and plot-points first. I found a couple of thorough plot summaries of The Passage online (just search for “plot synopsis the passage”), and reading those helped…somewhat. There are still some characters in this novel that were only vaguely mentioned in the first book. I also discovered – after finishing the novel – a list of characters in the back of the book! I wish I’d known that was there before I read it.

Overall, as with The Passage, Cronin has created a fascinating and compelling story about an unthinkable kind of apocalypse and the future world that it creates. This trilogy is a unique combination of post-apocalyptic fiction, thriller, and paranormal fiction, and the story pulls you in and keeps you reading. Although The Twelve is complex and sometimes confusing, it is a gripping sequel for fans of The Passage. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store in the final book!

564 pages, Ballantine Books


1 comment:

  1. I still need to read The Passage, but I have this one as well. Thanks for the review Sue. Hope you are doing well.