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The Twelve by Justin Cronin

October 22, 2012


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.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2012 21:05

    I have this book on top of my to-read pile. I fell in love with THE PASSAGE in its first few chapters but remember that love souring towards the middle and I was down-right aggravated at the end that I’d have to read even more pages for resolution. Maybe I should move THE TWELVE to the bottom of my pile?

    • October 22, 2012 22:29

      My personal advice would be if you didn’t love The Passage by the end, you probably won’t like The Twelve as I think it an inferior book… having said that, like I said in my review that are countless positive reviews out there of The Twelve so maybe it was just my expectations not being met that let me down. It’s a tough one! Let me know if and when you read it!

  2. November 13, 2012 16:11

    I agree with your review. I waited two agonizing years to grab this book, and it almost felt like it wasn’t from the same author that gave us The Passage.
    First, like you said, I didn’t care much for the characters from year zero. And I don’t understand what their role was in the overall story, other than pointing out where one of the original characters came from, and even then it is unnecessary.
    Like you said, the original characters almost seem like different ones, and two of them were practically erased completely from the story line without any explanation, details or reason. Maybe they’ll come back on the third book, but if that’s so, it’ll feel like too obvious. We’ll have to wait and see.
    Another thing that you mentioned was the lack of virals. Their role on this book is almost non existent, the struggle of surviving is gone. I felt that Post-Apocaliptic feeling of the first installment gone…
    I’ll read the next book, of course, and I still have faith on Mr. Cronin.

    • November 13, 2012 17:07

      I know it’s sad that we obviously didn’t enjoy it nearly half as much as The Passage..but I have to say it is great to find other people who share my opinion on it. After reading all those positive online reviews, I thought I had gone a little insane in disliking it so much….but it’s definitely good to see I’m not alone here! Thank you for your comment…fingers crossed for book three!!

  3. Neil D Crossland permalink
    November 16, 2012 13:45

    Sorry folks, but I don’t agree. I think what Cronin has done is deliberately avoided writing “The Passage 2” and given us something totally unlike his first book. The only similarities are the actual characters that populate both novels. The first book was all about the colony members and their perspective on what existed outside of their bubble. What The Twelve conveys well is the fact that life did go on elsewhere and there were other survivors having it every bit as difficult as Peter and co. The five year intervening period has seen an amalgamation of these survivors who are trying to go on the offensive. This means -and I do agree with you on this one – that the “mystique” of The Passage has gone. We knew it would and that is why in my opinion Cronin has done what he has with The Twelve. He’s a clever chap. Before I sign off, is it me, or does anyone else still struggle with picturing exactly what a fully fledged viral looks like? Again I would put this down to the brilliance of Cronin. Neil C.

    • November 20, 2012 20:07

      Thanks for your comment Neil! Although I wasn’t a huge fan of The Twelve, it’s nice to see someone else’s opinion that isn’t like my own. I can see what you’re saying, and I welcome the chance to see how life has gone on outside of these characters we got to know so well in the first book, but I still feel that I didn’t connect to anyone as well as I did with Peter etc….and I just couldn’t help but want to continue their story. I’ll be interested to see how book three pans out at any rate. And yes, I suppose I do have trouble picturing the virals….I don’t know why but I almost picture them like the vampires in the ‘I Am Legend’ film….?!

      • Neil D Crossland permalink
        November 24, 2012 14:18

        Hi again. Thanks for the acknowledgement. I recently saw a site that compares books from the same genre by different authors and scores them on different criteria. They had The Passage v The Strain by Guillermo Del Torro. The Passage romped it overall, but where The Strain had the edge was on the actual description and look of the vampires (come on, we all know thats what they are, despite a reluctance to use the word). The reviewer stated that nobody does creatures quite like Del Torro. Don’t know if you’ve seen his movie monsters but the reviewer was spot on. Now if somebody could interest Senor Del Torro in the film adaptation of Cronin’s book?????? Neil C.

      • November 26, 2012 18:42

        Haha that is a genius idea it has to be said! I’ve had The Strain on my shelf since it came out but still haven’t got there yet! But yeah it would be good if Cronin could describe them more…I guess he’s afraid of getting into the cliches of it all…I don’t know!

  4. Justine permalink
    December 8, 2012 00:43

    Hello, I too loved The Passage and was really looking forward to the second book. I was very interested in what you thought as I remembered that you too were a fan of the first novel. I completely agree with your comments and I have actually stopped reading the second novel half way through. I am just not interested in finishing it like I was the first. Life is too short! I agree that there is none of the ‘horror’ of the first book and it is much more focused on military commentary. Never mind. Plenty of other books to get my hands on! Justine

    • December 8, 2012 16:48

      I have to say as much it is disheartening to see others not enjoying it….it is good to see I’m not the only one with this opinion of it! You’re right though, life is too short and I applaud you for putting it down before the end! If only I had that much sense 😛 Nevermind….on to bigger and better books!!

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