Random House, 2012, 568 pages
The end of the world was only the beginning.
In his internationally best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with...
In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as "Last Stand in Denver", has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned - and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation...unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.
Holy crap, it does not seem like that long ago that I read The Passage, a highly-touted book that was praised by no less than Stephen King when it came out. I read it, liked it, awaited the sequel, and now the whole trilogy has been out for years and I am just getting to book two almost nine years later.
I guess I liked it but wasn't that eager to find out what happens next.
Justin Cronin does in The Twelve pretty much what he did in The Passage, which is write an entertaining if unexceptional page-turner that reads like a passable homage to The Stand.
The Twelve are the twelve original "Virals" who became the master-vamps of the vampire apocalypse. It's a hundred years later, our little girl Amy from the first book is still alive and still in the body of a preteen, and America is no more. (As in book one, there is almost no mention of the world outside North America, other than speculation by the survivors that the rest of the world has been blockading the continent for generations to contain the vampire epidemic.) The survivors have gathered into colonies that try to scrabble together some remnants of industry while protecting themselves from the viral hordes, but the Big Bad that arises in this book is an infected immortal megalomaniac who creates a dystopian, North Korea-like slave state. He's a very satisfying villain in that he's pathetic, evil, consumed with self-hatred for good reason, and by the time he gets his come-uppance you are so looking forward to it. But being originally such a pitiful loser (an entire chapter is spent on his pre-apocalypse history, which consists of becoming hopelessly infatuated with a call girl and then smothering his dying father), he's a lot more Kim Jong-Un than Randall Flagg.
There's a large cast of heroes, with some backstory on them (some of them were born before the apocalypse, some not), and then a web of plotlines that eventually lead to a revolution against the dystopian society set up by the immortal schmuck and a plot to wipe out the Twelve for once and for all. The climax is a little over the top, with some obligatory PC deaths and then a lot of "talking to dead people in my head" afterlife scenes that were half Stephen King, half Harry Potter.
I liked it, and will try to get to the final book in the trilogy some time in the next nine years.
Also by Justin Cronin: My review of The Passage.
My complete list of book reviews.