Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Twelve Review

The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel
In July of 2010, Justin Cronin's The Passage was the bit hit of the summer. I didn't read it until October of that year. I had just recently gotten my first kindle and had spent five glorious days reading The Hunger Games trilogy. The Passage was a huge book and as I'd recently been diagnosed with tendinitis in my hand, the kindle was becoming my new best friend when it came to avoiding heavy hardcover books. At the time this came out, I was so over the whole vampire craze. Twilight, in my eyes, was for lovesick teenagers and was also really badly written and while I liked to watch True Blood, I tried the first book in the series and found it silly. I wasn't sure about reading  The Passage because it got a lot of comparisons to Stephen King novels, which are a little too gross for me, but the reviews were so good that I went for it.

I spent about five days alternately enthralled, scared, exhilarated and finally totally obsessed. This was the perfect book. The premise is that in our near distant future, a man named Dr. Lear (who I believe is mourning the loss of his wife), becomes obsessed with extending our lives. He travels to South America with a team after hearing about cancer patients who went to this place and emerged healed. Lear's theory was that people in Biblical times lived very long lives because they had enlarged thymus glands. Lear's story is primarily told in emails to a friend. It becomes clear that the trip turned disastrous and one of the soldiers, Fanning (the trip was sponsored by the US government) was infected with a virus. And the virus does something to him, something that makes the US Department of Special Weapons very intrigued. To make a very long story short, The Passage initially follows Brad Wolgast, a divorced FBI agent responsible for bringing death row patients to a secure facility in Colorado where presumably they are being used somehow by Lear and his group. The main characters in the first third of the book are Wolgast, a nun named Sister Lacey, a death row prisoner named Anthony Carter (who breaks my heart) and a little girl named Amy.

Wolgast is ordered to bring a final test subject to Colorado, the little girl named Amy, which he is of course reluctant to do. I don't remember exactly why she was picked but the plan was to give her a different version of the serum given to the original Twelve, who had turned into what we would think of as vampires - violent, batlike, super strong and fast, vulnerable to sunlight, etc. The thought with Amy is that since she still has an immature immune system, the serum will grow with her and not change her completely.

Anyway, of course all hell breaks loose. The Twelve and Patient Zero (Fanning) telepathically corrupt their guards and escape, creating an absolute bloodbath that rapidly spreads across the country. Amy and Wolgast escape and hide out in the mountains for a bit while humanity is rapidly destroyed.

The narrative breaks into the diary of a woman recalling that she was put on a train in Philadelphia as a girl and sent to California to be safe. CA had seceded from the rest of the US in an attempt to quarantine themselves and FEMA had established a protected area called First Colony, which was surrounded by bright lights and high walls. There some of the children grew up. The story then shifts to almost 100 years after the events in Colorado where the First Colony still exists, although some residents learn that their electricity is running out. A small group of them sets out to see if there are more people still alive and if they can save their own home.

Amy, the little girl from the beginning is still alive, and has barely aged. She walks safely among the virals, as the infected people are called, as she technically is one of them. She has a strange connection to the infected but also wants to help the team and have them help her figure out why she is ageless but also why she lacks the mindless hunger of the other virals. The world is a scary, scary place as the colonist travel throughout different parts of the mid-west. I don't want to spoil anything else, but let's just say that The Passage is one of my favorite books of all time. It is such an engrossing story, which came about because the author's daughter asked him to write a story about a girl who saved the world and he also wanted to combine a lot of genres. There's horror, sci fi, mystery, religion and lots of other elements thrown into this novel. I was completely obsessed. I also listened endlessly to Guster's Easy Wonderful album during this time and every time I hear it now, I'm taken back to how I felt when I was reading The Passage.

So on Tuesday, the sequel called The Twelve came out. I had been dying to read it, especially because The Passage ended on a major cliffhanger. I was really happy that the release coincided with my two weeks off work after surgery. The Twelve picks up about five years after the events of the first book, but after only a couple chapters, it shifts back to the world right after all hell broke loose. There are a few characters who were either mentioned briefly or were very minor in The Passage who emerge as important protagonists in this section of the novel. I really liked how it switched back to that time to see how other survivors made it. These new(ish) characters also set up the action nicely of this book, so I think it was an important shift. One of the reviewers below didn't agree with me, but that's ok.

Eventually, after a brief chapter that takes place about 20 or so years before the events in the first book (76 AV - after viral, I think - maybe), the action shifts back to the characters from The Passage: Peter, Michael, Amy, Greer, Alicia and a few others are point of view characters. The action goes back and forth from Texas to Iowa mostly. Again, Cronin does an impressive job of slowly building the tension to some very climatic scenes. I was kept on my toes throughout the many twists and turns in the book as everyone, despite being separated, eventually made their way to the same place for the final showdown... where some seriously crazy stuff went down.

The Twelve was less scary than The Passage. The characters were still well developed and realistic, although there were some secondary characters from the previous book that I had to go back and look up. I opened my version of the first book a few times and searched for names to remind myself who these people were. A reread might have been beneficial but I didn't really have time to do that. Cronin does a neat little recap at the start but he doesn't mention all the characters. Despite the lack of chills that I had from the first book, this was still incredibly entertaining and advanced the plot forward without feeling like a crappy second book in a trilogy that serves only to get the characters to the places they need to be in the third book. There was not a major cliffhanger. The ending was much more absolute and really lovely, but it did set up for the third book, City of Mirrors (is it 2014 yet?) nicely.

I was left with a few questions, which are very spoilery, so I am going to post them below the links to the book. Be warned, I am definitely going to spoil major elements of the plot so please do not read my questions if you plan to read this series. However, if you have read the book and have any answers for me, please comment! 

My final thoughts are oh man, I so loved this book. It was truly an excellent read and well worth the time it takes to read a longer novel.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes and Noble.


My lingering questions:
1. At the end, Wolgast's spirit was in Anthony Carter's viral body? Or was that viral just Wolgast? I was a little confused.
2. What the hell is going on with Amy and Alicia?  How can Peter and Amy ever realize their love if she is a viral? Why can she zoom off in a ray of light or whatever like she did at the end?
3. Is Anthony Carter's viral self still around? Is he stuck in limbo forever (somewhat happily) mowing the lawn and drinking iced tea?

I was really happy that Sara was still alive and that she got to reunite with Kate and Hollis. I loved seeing the connections between people of various generations - Kittridge and April to Alisha, Tifty to his daughter at the end, etc. I loved (and cried) when Amy took Brad to heaven, a place where there is a house in twilight and the people you love (Lila and Eva) are waiting for you. Such good, good stuff. I can't wait for book 3! 


  1. Dorothy,

    I recently finished The Passage. It took me about 3 weeks to get through. I was not as enthralled as you were. So I don't think I'll reach for the sequel.

  2. Hey, I finished reading The Twelve today and agree it is a brilliant second book in the trilogy, however, I am also confused about Wolgast! I can't really remember the passage but I thought he died of oldage. In this one it seemed in the sstadium as if he were one of the twelve there to help Carter and Amy?

    I think Carters viral self is still there but he's in a kind of limbo state maybe? Also, why was Amy's stomach hurting? Was it because she was turning adult?