As I shoved the sleeves of my abandoned cardigan flush against the bottom of my sealed bedroom door, I realized I may have a problem. What kind of apocalypto-survivor-zombie-vamp-battling heroin barricades herself in the bedroom, ceding control of the living room and kitchen to a flying insect*? We probably shouldn't leave the fate of the world in my hands.
I certainly question how well I would do if forced to survive in the dystopian world Justin Cronin creates in both The Passage and The Twelve. It's a world in which the government of the United States has spun even further out of control, somehow justifying the use of a virus or other biological to turn death row inmates into killing machines. As you would expect, this experiment spins out of control, and these twelve vampiric-like creatures slaughter almost everyone and go off reservation. The combination of their super strength, blood lust, and the rapid spread of contagion leaves only small clusters of survivors spread throughout the U.S. Hope seems to lie with a zealous group brought together by a young girl who doesn't seem to age. We follow this group as they travel cross country, fighting to survive and looking for answers along the way. The Twelve picks up where the first book leaves off and puts several of the main characters on the offensive as they try to take back the world from these monsters.
When friends ask me what I think of the books, my default response has been 'epic', due largely to how much I struggle to describe this world in any kind of a simple, neat package. Rather than focusing on one town or family or even discrete period of time, Cronin knits together multiple family trees over generations, weaving government reports, email and other memos and journal entries along with first person narrative to tell the story of the collapse of the world and its struggling survivors. It's...well, epic, grand, sweeping.
I fell hard for The Passage and found myself getting lost for hours in the web of Cronin's prose. Tears slid down my face with each character he killed, and I wanted to cheer with each of their victories. Cronin creates rich relationships and drops them into a world with the highest of stakes. It's this that drives the story. If you're into savoring a book like I am, this book really allows you to do that. It's long and dense, but not in a way that's off-putting.
I loved The Twelve almost as much for all of the same reasons I fell for The Passage. In the second book, Cronin seems to explore even more of the Biblical-type themes he kicked off in book one.We have the twelve tribes, the prophet and even the young savior who just may have to sacrifice herself to save everyone else. I bought all of this. The parts where my interest began to waver were these mystical interludes where Amy (the savior) seems to hallucinate/speak with dead people on a different plane. I rarely skim or read ahead but couldn't help myself toward the end.
Despite my sometimes lukewarm feelings toward the end of The Twelve, I very much recommend these two books and am looking forward to seeing how Cronin wraps the series up!
*Large enough to make an audible thwapping sound as it hit my ceiling and walls.