Review: “The Twelve,” Justin Cronin

Pros: Such an intricate world
Rating: 5 out of 5

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel picks up five years after the end of The Passage, in 97 A.V. Amy, Alicia, and Peter, among others, are living in Texas. Then the narrative drops back to year zero, where we find out what happened to Grey and Lila, and we’re introduced to Horace Guilder, a government bureaucrat who has very personal reasons for wanting the virus to work. We meet two of Alicia’s ancestors, and then we hop to 79 A.V. to witness a pivotal historical moment and some background for what’s going on in 97 A.V. Finally we settle back into 97 A.V., where Amy seems to make contact with Wolgast, who sends her after Carter, the one of the Twelve who’s most reluctant about being what he is. Meanwhile, it turns out Sara and some others believed dead are alive and living in “The Homeland,” a despotic compound in Iowa run by a mysterious Director and his red-eyed henchmen. They seem to have some sort of “arrangement” with the virals, who not only leave them alone but sometimes seem to work for the Director’s people, particularly a mysterious–and very crazy–woman.

Some of the seesawing back and forth between time periods in the beginning gets a little confusing, but once we settle into 97 A.V. it all coalesces and makes sense again. There’s a lot going on, but I never felt like anything in here got overly random or unnecessarily complex. Various groupings of the characters come together, reassemble, part, and come together again. Alicia, now a type of viral similar to Amy, gets sent on some dangerous assignments by the Expeditionary. Peter ends up guarding Michael’s caravan, which encounters the mysterious cloaked woman and her ‘pet’ virals. Amy and Greer–now her familiar–set out on their own to find Carter, while Amy goes through a transformation.

I’m glad that thanks to Lacey’s story in the first book, it’s been established that the hand of God directing events is a very real and likely possibility in here. It helps to keep the coincidences from getting out of hand. If that ‘guiding hand’ philosophy hadn’t been established, I wouldn’t have been able to suspend disbelief for the number of people who get mysteriously reunited. I am a little mystified by the author’s treatment of pregnancy and motherhood as a kind of magical thing. Women seem to just ‘know’ what gender their unborn child is, and one person immediately recognizes her child, who was taken from her at birth, after nearly five years.

In between major sections there’s a panel that includes notes as to what year it is. If you’re reading the Kindle edition, you may find that these are rendered extremely small on the page. I had to take off my glasses and squint to figure it out. Make sure you don’t miss these things, or you’ll get very confused.

Amy seems much more human in this book, which I appreciate. She was too much of an enigma at first, which made sense after 92 years of solitude but didn’t work for me so well in year zero, when she was a somewhat-normal girl. Now she’s had five years of interacting with other people, and it shows.

I’m providing a content warning for rape. Martínez’s defining dream/memory is of a rape, and one character is captured by bad guys and subjected to some terrible abuses.

It’s nice that we get some closure on what happened to Wolgast, although how it happened is a bit of a mystery. Homeland is a bit more of a stereotypical post-apocalyptic society in some ways, but more interesting in that it’s had nearly 100 years to grow into what it is. That helps to give it a bit more depth.

I’m very much looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy!

Sorry, we made vampires; it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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