Oct 30, 2012

Move over, Edward Cullen—there’s a new undead in town

Next book in hit vampire trilogy The Passage is worth sinking your teeth into

Kristal Spreadborough

The Twelve is the second book in Justin Cronin’s compelling trilogy about a pseudo-vampire apocalypse, brought about by the volatile combination of ambition and stupidity on the part of several rogue scientists. Following The Passage (2010), The Twelve begins in the aftermath of the second uprising of the virals, or vampires. The storyline takes several chapters to settle in, but it’s worth the effort. What sets Cronin’s work apart from other novels in this genre is his realism: there are believable resolutions to different situations. Familiar characters die; such portrayal makes the story much more engaging.

The prologue opens with a brief recap of the virals’ rise, and introduces Amy, the leading lady chosen by God to save the earth. As one might expect in a story about good and evil, Cronin vividly illustrates the conflict between God and the Devil. Thankfully, this dimension does not overpower the storyline. From then on, Cronin enlists average Joes to wage the second war on the ghouls. From his scenes of harvesting in the communal corn fields with the constant threat of being “taken-up” (converted) by a rogue viral, to those of working in the oil refineries on the Texas coastline, Cronin creates a world we could believe ourselves a part of. The most intriguing aspect of the book is the introduction of a mysterious cloaked woman who, though sharing human features, is working with the virals to destroy the remnants of mankind. Alicia, who was infected with the virus at the end of The Passage, rendering her viral-human hybrid, also blurs the line between her human allegiances and her newfound viral blood. Just when readers relax, the tables turn, and, in Cronin’s words, “you’re running for the hard-box.”

As an English professor at Rice University, it is little wonder that Justin Cronin knows how to craft a trilogy with the power to stay. His home in Houston, Texas, provides the real-life setting that inspired the small southern towns of his novel. The remote settings in the book add to the sense of isolation that mark the characters’ plight, and help Cronin to focus on developing each character’s story with no extraneous detail.

The Twelve’s best feature is its breadth of story. Jolting the reader between characters and plot lines, Cronin teases readers with open-ended stories so that one is never completely sure of who lives, who dies, and who goes viral. That said, when Cronin focuses on one character at a time for several hundred pages, the book can become mundane and tedious. These sections lack the pizzazz we have come to expect from him—it’s a good four pages of action packed, into fifteen chapters.

Although the story assumes an end-of-days tint, don’t let all this talk of the humanity’s demise deter you from picking up Cronin’s latest. It’s actually an optimistic story:

“Everything that deals with ‘the end of the world—is actually a creation story,” says Cronin in an interview with The Independent. “Otherwise, it’s completely nihilistic and nobody would read it.”

At some 1500 pages already invested in this trilogy, this is a creation story not to be breezed through. So pace yourselves. But remember: when in doubt, run.

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