A few years back it seemed I couldn’t turn around without someone talking about The Passage and then The Twelve … books of vampiric horror set in the not-so-distant future by Justin Cronin. Though I was late to the party I did read The Passage (see review here) and enjoyed it. Now, still late a little late, I’ve finally read the second book in the trilogy.
After a man-made viral apocalypse that turned a group of hardened criminals into nearly-unkillable vampires, we scoot ahead a few years to a time when a doctor (Lila) is trying to protect her child from the evils of the world around them, a teenage girl is traveling through a desolate and dangerous land with her brother, and Kittridge – a man who was holding down Denver – find their lives intersecting in the middle of what was once the United States, where a group of people are trying to harness the power of the vampires to achieve immortality for themselves.
Going in to this book I had glanced through The Passage to remind myself of some of the characters, but sadly this was unnecessary. The Twelve takes place decades later and has a different cast of characters and really a whole different tone.
Instead of reading about what leads up to the apocalypse and then the plight of the survivors trying to make sense of a new world order, we have the return of a strong militaristic government and hordes of survivors making an exodus to find safety in the large communities.
While the first book had a large number of characters, I felt I could tell them apart and I was really interested in what they were doing. In this book, there are still a large number of characters but they start to look and sound alike. And I didn’t care about them.
There were moments that were really captivating. When one man voluntarily faced off against a ‘flyer’ (or vampire or whatever you want to call them) and survived to tell the others the secret to having power over them – I was absolutely entranced. It was a nice bit of writing and suspense building and a great ‘human’ bit inside this epic novel where the individual human tended to otherwise get lost.
This feels like Cronin writing a book that didn’t come as easily to him as the first, but because he had a contract he had to produce something. There are so many better books that are epic apocalypse stories that you don’t really need to read this one. But because it follows a real popular book, and the third is now out (sitting in my ARC queue), it’s hard not to want to read this. Just brace yourself for disappointment.
Looking for a good book? The Twelve by Justin Cronin is a classic case of the second book in a series not living up to the energy and excitement of the first. This is a pale follow-up to The Passage.
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author: Justin Cronin
series: The Passage #2
publisher: The Random House Publishing Group
hardcover, 5689 pages