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I really enjoyed The Passage. I thought it unique, original and very well written so, with that in mind, I had high hopes for the sequel. Unfortunately these were not fulfilled!
The story, this time around, goes back to the early days of the infection again - looking at the story of Lawrence Grey whom we were first introduced to in The Passage and several other survivors of the plague who each deal with what is happening in their own ways.
Grey encounters Lila Kyle, the ex-wife of Brad Wolgast who played an important role in the first book, and forms a friendly relationship with the woman who is obviously deluded and not coping well with society's fall. But what is left of the government is tracking Grey and his movements and it is not long before his past catches up with him...
The story then begins skipping forward several years until we eventually reach a point sometime after events in the first book. The story then proceeds to recount the story of the the survivors from The Passage and link events from this point up with the flashbacks featured previously in this installment.
At last, finally, the story reaches some kind of eventual conclusion but, for me, the end result just feels a bit unsatisfying and inconclusive. Without giving anything away I was left feeling as though although this was a fairly good read for 3/4 of the book, the final third just left me a little cold. After such an impressive first novel, this has kind of left me unsure whether I really want to continue with the last part in the trilogy - due out sometime next year.
Cronin is a very good writer who expertly catches the imagination and pulls you into his world but, reading this, you can't help wondering if maybe he has over-reached himself with the enormity of this vampire-infested world he has created. How this series is going to end, I am not entirely sure and that is enough to keep my interest piqued but I only hope that the third and final book can help recapture some of the magic from the first book as this second volume reads, by the end, as a bit of a damp squib.
And that is a shame.
My recommendation - borrow this from the library or if you must buy it, don't pay full price. It is good but no more than averagely good at best and certainly no match for the level of greatness achieved by The Passage!
This is a review of the 2012 book "The Twelve" by Justin Cronin which is described as the epic sequel to The Passage which I have reviewed previously. I was really looking forward to this book's release and eagerly bought the hardback book from Amazon as I just couldn't wait to swap it or find it in a charity shop.
A bit about
I would like to say that The Twelve follows on from where The Passage left but actually, I can't as it actually goes back in time to previous times before The Passage and paints a more thorough picture of what this dystopian world looks like. I need to say early on in this review that this book is a vampire book but it really isn't like all the current trend on vampires and werewolves in that this is more about a viral illness that makes its victims hang like bats and want to drink the blood of humans (and animals).
The Twelve, known individually by their surnames, represents the original twelve who are deliberately infected with the virus as part of a government experiment to track and identify a cure. The Twelve are carefully selected from a group of convicts with various crimes and misdemeanours under their belts. In other words, they are people who will not be missed from humanity and may help save the human race in the long run by being guinea pigs of the virus. In charge of the twelve is 'Zero' the original infected man, Tim Fanning who became infected on a scientific expedition to Bolivia in 20XX. All this is revealed in the first book (The Passage) but a certain level of understanding needs to be established before attempting the second book.
In this next book, we first go back to the first few days of infection to meet some of the main characters. Those who are infected gain the fountain of youth (although they can still be killed) and become younger and more handsome versions of their former selves. A colony of humans are attacked in a field during an unexpected eclipse (when the infected can come out in darkness) and only a few survive. Their journey is tracked and we come to a point of meeting the characters that are still around from book one.
The book jumps around a lot from the experiment of the twelve (20XX) to year zero; 79 After Virus AV (the field); to 97 AV. Once you get your head around this it is easier to follow but there are a lot of characters to keep up with and some are almost written off as dead but make a miraculous recovery or reappearance with an explanation that keeps the suspense high.
Lila Kyle is a character who really drew my attention. A doctor by trade, she is pregnant and confused during the first few days of the virus infecting the masses and somehow manages to survive just by staying inside. Her connection to book one is that her first husband is Wolgast who rescues the child Amy in book one. She mixes up Brad (Wolgast) with her current (dead) husband David and is luckily rescued by Lawrence Grey, one of the janitors at the experimental project who finds her in the local hardware store picking paint for the nursery, still in a confused state. Lila has a mysterious calming power over the virals that makes her very valuable to the new regime and Grey has a rare blood type that can sustain the infected 'redeye' managers who run the Homeland colony in the year 97AV (after virus).
This book did not disappoint in volume with 564 pages. I think when you are subscribed to a second book you really need this level of content or you feel a bit ripped off. I did struggle with placing a few of the characters but as it wasn't that long since I read The Passage, it all came back to me quite easily. It is also worth noting that there is a list of characters right at the end of the book to help with placing context. It would be wrong to put this at the front of the book I think as it would give away some of the content before you get to read it.
I liked that there were new characters in the book as it would have been hard to create so much drama around the original remaining cast. That they were still there and trying to beat the vampires was great for continuity though.
There is a fair amount of gore, violence and weapons in this book which may not suit every reader but for me it helped create an air of danger and the imagination of how to beat the infected was always there being pushed to another level.
I found the chapters dedicated to the time in 'The Homeland' a camp with 70,000 humans being controlled and worked beyond reason and fed very little particularly chilling. Any disobedience was punished harshly and could lead to being taken to the basement which meant being bled to death and marrow extracted to feed the red eyes.
I must admit I found it a bit confusing that some of the characters are full blown infected vampires and tied to a particular one of the twelve, whilst others seemed partially infected and able to control their urges. I wasn't sure about how this worked and felt quite confused at times as to which camp the middle ones were in. This may be due to the amount of times I had to put the book down to attend to life and mummy duties instead of reading it all in one big delicious lock in which I would have liked to have done but was not, and will not now ever be possible!
I paid £10 on Amazon for the hard back version of this book but it is available now in paperback for a bit cheaper. The book was quite heavy to hold up, especially when tired so paperback may be easier to handle, I guess it depends what you prefer - electronic is probably even better (but I don't have one of those new fangled Kindles or equivalents)!
I loved this book, probably just as much as the first book and felt the length of it helped to build a massive picture. I note that the film rights (from book one) have been purchased by Fox so look forward to hearing more on this in the near future. A recommended read but make sure you read The Passage first!