Edition 7: Book Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
Back in the South, we rejoin the adventurers from The Passage (reviewed by SQ Mag previously), who have joined the last remaining militarised encampment of survivors. Justin Cronin’s The Twelve begins by rejoining the vanquishers of Babcock, one of the most vicious of the twelve vampires (infected) created by a secret U.S. government agency.
We begin back with the main players of the last book. Amy, the only survivor of those treated at the government facility who still maintains her humanity, has found work at an orphanage. She pays special attention to Caleb, son of colonists Theo and Mausami. Peter and Alicia have become part of the Expeditionary, a military arm of adventurers and hunters of the infected. Alicia travels mostly alone, afraid of how the virus taken from Amy’s blood will end up changing her. Some of the characters have fled the tragedy of The Roswell Massacre (mentioned at the close of The Passage); Hollis took his anguish and went underground to run with smugglers and thugs, while Michael sought the solitude of the rigs to reinvent himself. But it turns out Sarah is not dead, but instead is in a hidden concentration camp, and has lost the child she was carrying.
The book then leaps into the past, and stories of prominent characters of The Passage emerge. It features the incident that brought Colonel Vorhees to the Expeditionary, a character central to the success of the main adventurers. It ties back in the story of Lila, who was the love of Wolgast’s life, and the inspiration for protecting Amy. She meets and comes to rely on Grey, a familiar groomed by Zero, first and most powerful of the infected. We meet a group of survivors from Denver, who end up caught in a web of desperation and deceit hatched by the military.
Back in the present, the stories begin to intertwine. There has been a systematic plan, an abduction of survivors, leading back to the very beginning of the outbreak. The pieces and major players begin to emerge in the third part of the book.
Justin Cronin has really put a lot of thought into the interconnectedness of this novel. The history of the time of the outbreak and in the time of the colonists a century later has been carefully planned. Puzzling pieces are falling into place with this book, and answering lingering questions from the first novel. Exploring the histories gives the minor but more interesting characters real depth. I really enjoyed giving these characters more attention.
The relationship between Amy and the Twelve is also a fascinating study, and when Anthony Carter and Wolgast make reappearances, I was actually glad. The characters of these two are so dear, it is easy to forget that they are part of the evil that has swept the country of most forms of life. Invoking complex feelings about the virals is where Cronin has excelled. Keeping the virals perceivably as human shows a compassion for them, and an understanding that these nuances are part of life.
However, the jumping back and forth to the present and the past really broke up the quest element, which was a compelling element of the first novel. It also distracted from some of the lovely relationship exploration in the novels. I also don’t believe this novel will be an easy read if you do not have the background of the first novel to work from.
Cronin really has a masterful way with a story, and I did in fact get into most parts. Working the paranormal into a post-apocalyptic, action book is not an easy task and I think so far, Cronin has got it right. This really appeals to me, both on the level of interesting by incorporating those themes and quite astute human observations, in the interactions and relationships of the characters. The prose in these books, aside from a few cliché fight descriptions here and there, is enjoyable and flows well. The Twelve is definitely recommended to wider speculative fiction fans, as the depth and intricacy of the plot is backed up by realistic characters and situations. I will look forward to reading The City of Mirrors in 2014.
If interested, the official website for the trilogy can be found at http://enterthepassage.com/
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Publisher: Ballantyne Books, 2012
Sophie is a scientist, aspiring writer, sci-fi and fantasy nerd. She is an editor with IFWG Publishing and has been Editor In Chief of SQ Mag and SQ Magazine, the previous incarnation. She also contributes book and film reviews. She is currently living in Vancouver, Canada.
You can find her in a few different places: @Smoph on Twitter, Sophie Yorkston – writer on Facebook, and at her blogs: Smoph’s Musings and Smoph Writes.