The Twelve - Justin Cronin Cronin's second book in his Passage trilogy eschews much of the poetry and melancholy of the first book; this novel is rather more conventional in style and tone. it is basically a mosaic of events (set in various time periods) that gradually builds to a showdown between a demented fascist and a crowded gallery of bruised & battered heroines & heroes. much like the first book, it includes a novella-sized chunk in its first section that is entirely devoted to events taking place in Year Zero, i.e. The Dawn of the Vampire Apocalypse. no doubt this will also be many readers' favorite part, much like that first section in The Passage. overall i missed the poetry and melancholy of the first book (The Passage is up there with my favorite novels), but The Twelve is still a worthy successor and an excellent novel. a great vampire book, a great post-apocalypse book, a book full of intriguing mysteries and characters who are dynamic, sympathetic, real. i may have lost much of that enchanted feeling i had with its predecessor but i was still fairly spellbound from beginning to end.

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some spoilers may follow, or not, who knows

Likes: Amy's transformations... the chapter "The Field" (a superb little bit that functions almost as a short story)... Alicia... Grey's characterization... Carter & Wolgast... that superb Year Zero section and its very human, fallible, addled, courageous protagonists. more things i liked, later.

Dislikes: Cronin reaches a bit much for poetry a couple times and it felt as if he was trying too hard - this came as a real surprise given the genuine beauty of much of The Passage - i reread the last paragraph of The Familiar and rolled my eyes because it unfortunately is reaching for beauty but was only so many pretty words on the page with little genuine meaning... two major supporting characters dispatched between books with barely a word about them - quite disappointing... an over-reliance on Mythic Titles For Different Characters That Are All Capitalized And Come Across As Obnoxious And Pretentious... and this is a minor and very personal one, but i just have to say it: for a series that really wants to operate on a wide canvas of humanity and so clearly wants to have a Multi-Racial Cast and Strong Independent Women and All Ages and All Types - and i appreciate it, really - why couldn't Cronin have included at least one lesbian or gay character? usually this doesn't bother me, but The Twelve's cast of characters is so completely diverse that the lack really stood out for me.

ok, enough with the critiques. i really liked this one so back to things that i thought were interesting.

Religious Aspects. fascinating! this was more than hinted at in The Passage, but the sequel really lays it out there. the series is a spiritual odyssey, simple as that. God is practically a character in this novel given: the emphasis on coincidence-but-not-really, the afterlife, the biblical prologue, the sense that everyone is coming together for reasons they only barely understand, the mythic layering of certain people like Peter, "Project Noah" and the vampire virus being the New Flood. when rereading The Passage last year, one of the things that stood out for me in that first section was how deeply damaged each of those modern-day characters turned out to be, how the world had really wounded them, how cruel and indifferent the world was in general. time for Next Big Flood i guess because that world was pretty soulless and needed a real reset (unfortunate shades of misanthropic Koontz and his [b:The Taking|16434|The Taking|Dean Koontz|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1166723460s/16434.jpg|944262] - in general, i'm not a fan of the mindset, but Cronin makes it work). and of particular interest to me was the use of Zero/Fanning & The Twelve as a sort of Antichrist & his Twelve Demonic Apostles. Zero even has his own Judas in the gentle non-murderous Carter. fascinating!

A Tale of Two Cities: Kerrville vs The Homeland. loved the difference between these two places. The Homeland was particularly eerie in the distance (same goes for 'The Woman' before it turns out to be Lila - very Dracula's Daughter), before it became 1984 Redux. it was still compelling when i got to know the place, but i did like the prior and very sinister mystery of it. and maybe i am just a typical flaming liberal but i sure do appreciate Cronin's continued denunciation of militarization, and now with The Twelve, his use of fascism disguised as an official policy of Protect Teh Little People. nothing new there, but i still enjoyed it. i'm a progressive sucker, part of the liberal choir, so preach to me Cronin, i'll eat it up. tasty skewers of reactionary villains, yum.

A Defining Moment Will Forever Define You. yes! i agree. or do i? well anyway it is food for thought. Cronin returns to this concept again and again, with everyone - his heroes, his villains, and most literally with his vampires.

Family. folks familiar with how The Passage originated know that it sprung from stories told by Cronin to his daughter (and perhaps an interest in earning buckets of cash). the love of children, the absolute importance of family (a created family or a family linked by blood - both are present here and the former is no less valuable than the latter), the love of a parent for their daughter or son... all remain central. Cronin presents this familiar idea in such a straightforward way; it was constant but i never grew weary of it. his ideas on the topic are lovely.
"In Sara's daughter, this triumphantly alive little person that Sara's body had made, lay the answer to the greatest mystery of all - the mystery of death, and what came after. How obvious it was. Death was nothing, because there was no death. By the simple fact of Kate's existence, Sara was joined to something eternal. To have a child was to receive the gift of true immortality - not time stopped ... but time continuing and everlasting."
just as moving was Amy's final goodbye to Wolgast.

it is hard for me to know who i could recommend this to amongst my Goodreads friends. there are the folks who love genre fiction (as i do) - and books like The Twelve and its predecessor tend to leave them cold. too long, too ostentatious in their use of poetic language, so invested in conveying all of the details of this future world that it often becomes a distinctly tedious experience to them. and then there are the folks who love more 'literary' fiction (as i do) - and action-packed blockbusters, no matter how ambitious or poetic or whatever, are not exactly their go-to books for further understanding the human condition or appreciating the beauty of the written word. it rather saddens me because books like The Passage & The Twelve are full of pleasures that i get from both genre fiction and literary fiction. ah well. guess i'll just have to recommend this to myself. mark, reread this one day! you'll love it!