The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Death-row prisoners with nightmare pasts and no future.
Until they were selected for a secret experiment.
To create something more than human.
Now they are the future and humanity’s worst nightmare has begun.
The epic sequel to
It’s been two years since I read The Passage, but if you’ve read my review then you know how much I loved it. I’m sure I’m not alone here in saying that I’ve been waiting eagerly ever since for a sequel, and now that time has finally arrived! With The Passage coming in at a whopping 1008 pages, and it being so long since I read it, I have to admit I struggled to remember everything that happened with its huge cast of characters, and I’m sure many of you are the same! But do not fret as Cronin has helpfully provided an excellent and carefully crafted summary at the beginning of The Twelve, highlighting all the main events that previously happened. Although it would no doubt be helpful to re-read The Passage, most of us just don’t have that much time on our hands, and Cronin definitely allows you to jump straight into The Twelve without a single worry….almost.
So what did I make of it, after a two-year agonising wait? To be frank, I was bitterly disappointed and I don’t mind admitting it. I’ve read countless positive reviews since I’ve finished it, and I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve read a different book to everyone else. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind?Maybe it’s a case of the middle-book-of-a-trilogy syndrome? Or maybe my memory has warped everything I remember The Passage being? Maybe my reading tastes have changed so much in two years that if I re-read The Passage now, I wouldn’t even like it so much. I literally have no idea, but I will explain why The Twelve just didn’t work for me…
First of all, I loved the characters of The Passage so much; Peter, Alicia, Sarah, Hollis, Michael etc… and I felt as though I had been on this huge epic journey with them and I couldn’t wait to get back on it. Sadly, this really wasn’t the case. After a few pages of Peter and Alicia in the year 97 AV, you go straight back to Year Zero with a host of new characters. Now, maybe it’s my expectations getting in the way here, but I became really annoyed with these new characters and I didn’t hold much interest them for many hundreds of pages, because all I wanted to do was go back to the characters I’d grown to love. And it is literally hundreds of pages before you ever get back to them. What makes this even more frustrating is that once you do re-join them, the new characters that you do end up having a vested interest in – because who wouldn’t after 400 pages? – drop out of the story all together, making it all feel rather pointless. The novel’s strongest moments for me were definitely with Peter and Alicia; my two most favoured characters from the first book, but it feels like you have to work really hard to ever get there, and even then they are few and far between.
Now, my second major gripe with this book is; where the hell are all the virals?! The menacing, terrifying blood-sucking virals that you came to loathe and fear in The Passage barely seem to exist within The Twelve. There is something of a military feel to this book that overtakes everything else. It’s more about the different compounds that exist across the country and the way people are choosing to run them. In short, everything almost feels a little too ‘safe’. The virals don’t present as much of a threat as before, as people are slowly learning how to fight and kill them, and how to use them to their own advantage. In short, The Twelve definitely lacks the horror that The Passage held so well, and this has a big part to play in why I am so disappointed with it.
Now it’s not all bad, The Twelve does throw up some interesting scenarios and ideas that are obviously going to develop more in the third part of the trilogy, for instance there are a new group of women who are firmly in control of the virals and use them to kill anyone who gets in their way. They are so far, a very enigmatic group and not much is revealed, but I look forward to finding out more. Though, I have to say it does bare similar resemblance to some characters in the new season of The Walking Dead, if any of you watch it I’m sure you know what I mean. In fact, there were quite a few instances where I was reminded of the show.
Of course, perhaps the most intriguing character of The Passage, and really the focal point for the whole trilogy, is Amy. She plays much less of a role in The Twelve until the very end, which again I found disappointing. She was such a fascinating character in the first book that I couldn’t wait to see her develop, but most of her scenes became repetitive dream-like scenarios that got a bit tiresome.
So to sum up, The Twelve feels like a very different book to The Passage, and in my opinion, not for the better. Most people who have read The Passage usually say they enjoyed it, apart from the long arduous bit in the middle that needed a major edit! For me, a great deal of The Twelve could have used an edit, and I’m disappointed that it didn’t deliver all the horrors I was expecting. I only hope that with the third part, we can progress with the story and familiar characters, rather than going backwards into old territory. I still have faith in you Mr. Cronin!
If you’ve read The Twelve I’d love to know what you think so please drop me a comment below!
The Twelve is published on the 25th October, by Orion Books. A big thank you goes to the publisher for providing me with an early copy for review.