Vampires? Post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy? Ambitious sagas? I love all of them, so as far as Justin Cronin goes I was always there for the taking. You can imagine my delight when The Passage turned out to be brilliant. Gripping, scary and heart breaking, it was like the best of The Walking Dead and The Stand rolled into one. And I don’t say that lightly. So when I found out that The Passage was the first in a trilogy I was super excited. The Twelve is the second.
Plot-wise, The Twelve sort of picks up where The Passage left off. The Twelve of the title are the original vampires, infected as part of the sinister Project Noah. In the course of the book, we jump back to the start of the outbreak and get to know Lawrence Grey, one of the janitors from the Project Noah site, as well as the great grandparents of a major character from The Passage. Next it’s seventy five years later, and the events of the Massacre of the Field unfold. Before, after and during all of this, the majority of the story is taken up with the surviving characters from The Passage, five years after the events at its climax. These include the seemingly immortal girl Amy, Michael Jaxon and Alicia, who are part of a well-organised high-functioning chain of human settlements across Texas. We learn the fates of some old friends from the end of The Passage, and it’s established that Michael and Alicia are still committed to the hunt for the remaining eleven ‘master’ vampires. While times are tough, vamps are thin on the ground, and the humans are getting by. That is, until a sinister and dangerous dictatorship run by the semi-vampiric starts to spread its influence.
So, while this is part two of three, it’s not a straight sequel. Going back to the beginning is a bold move, and one that works well. The jumps in time, while not completely disastrous, are a little clunky. And the ‘connections’ between well-loved characters from The Passage and new ones introduced in this book are sentimental and ill-advised. But as we learnt in The Passage, Cronin isn’t afraid to kill off sympathetic characters, nor show us the less appealing side of their personalities. Amy’s development from mysterious uncommunicative child, to active participant in the battle against the twelve, of which she is surely one, is fascinating.
I can’t wait for the final installment, I have a feeling it might crop up in CBR6.
One last thing. For the record, I’m NOT a Twilight fan. I like good fiction, and that goes for vampire fiction too. Just for the record.
I can’t wait for book #3. Cronin is such a talented writer and his characters are outstanding. Ridley Scott bought the movie rights to the books before The Passage was even released. I think it might work better as a TV show like Lost, but I’d be pumped for a movie too!