Back when Heather and I chose the highly recommended end of the world saga The Passage for our book club in early 2013, it was a no brainer to eventually read the follow up, The Twelve. Now that I’ve gotten through it, I’m not sure which took longer: getting around to starting the sequel, or actually reading the thing.
Following the cliffhanger of an ending to book one, the safe assumption was that Justin Cronin would pick up right where he left off, giving us answers to what the heck happened to the characters who seemed to be leading towards a safe conclusion before chaos erupted. But you know what they say about assumptions: they make an ass out of Cronin. Instead of getting right back into the thick of it and expanding on where the journey of The Passage ended, Cronin forces us to indulge his desire to tell more stories from the early days of the breakout, spending the first half of the book in a lightweight World War Z type structure of introducing new character after new character as the vampire plague came to be. Darn it Cronin! I cared about all those people from book one! You know, what’s her face who gained powers, and that guy who was our lead protagonist, and the unaging little girl! (I said I cared, not that my memory for detail did).
Fine… I guess I will settle into these new characters since they don’t seem to be going anywhere…
As much as I wanted to hold onto my bitterness towards this switch up thrown at us, I did eventually find myself investing in these new lives as they did the best they could within the new rules of the apocalypse. I’d accepted Bernard Kittridge as the new hero, I was fully invested in the surprising relationship between Lila Kyle and Lawrence Grey. I wanted to ride on that school bus with Danny forever! And then, with a snap of the finger, they’re gone.
Not again! What happens to the school bus full of survivors? How do April and Alicia connect seeing as they have the same last name? Guess it’s time to employ my imagination because Cronin isn’t going to tell. Instead he’s going to rip these characters away, just like he did with those from The Passage. This is Cronin’s story, and at some point he must have realized this subplot really didn’t have anything pertinent to add to where he wanted to take the novel. Just like that, the story up to now is dropped. Again. Cronin does what he wants!
At around 40% the novel hits restart as if all the chapters came before didn’t happen. What!? How dare he make me feel for a sexual predator and then take him away for no reason! We’re finally back with the old characters, but the thing is, I just don’t care anymore. Cronin took too long, and my interest waned as the book starts fresh.
To put it simply, The Twelve is a slog. I’m the type of person who hates not finishing something, but I came really close to giving up on this one as I had to work to motivate myself to keep reading. Eventually around 80% the book picks back up as it’s back to an ensemble cast working together towards a common end, but the majority of the body of the novel feels like it has little to no goal. Everyone has their separate meandering storylines, and I had little to no interest in most of them. And a lack of understanding on what was going on in some cases as well: can someone please explain the major change to Amy’s character in a way that convinces me it isn’t nonsense? Much appreciated.
The Twelve provides a few decent short stories as Justin Cronin unnecessarily attempts to flesh out the world he’s created, but it just doesn’t work as a sequel to The Passage.