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386 of 448 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All eyes."
THE TWELVE, which is the second book of Cronin's towering trilogy, can be read as a complete book, whereas the first book stopped abruptly, like a gasp. However, I urge you to read THE PASSAGE first, because the epic as a whole is a finely calibrated accretion of history, plot and character. The Twelve refers to the twelve "parent" or original virals, the death-row-inmate...
Published on August 24, 2012 by "switterbug" Betsey Va...

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59 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not EPIC so much as SPRAWLING
I liked this book, but it was hard to love it.

For starters, the characterization is pretty weak. Major characters like Peter don't appear until late into the book, and even then they have nothing to do until the story's climax. Amy seems to wander in and out of the book and almost all the major changes that happen to her are physical--other than numerous...
Published on November 26, 2012 by Duran A. Valdez


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386 of 448 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All eyes.", August 24, 2012
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THE TWELVE, which is the second book of Cronin's towering trilogy, can be read as a complete book, whereas the first book stopped abruptly, like a gasp. However, I urge you to read THE PASSAGE first, because the epic as a whole is a finely calibrated accretion of history, plot and character. The Twelve refers to the twelve "parent" or original virals, the death-row-inmate subjects-turned-virals from "Project Noah," who must be liquidated in order to save the world. The thrust of this book is the hunt of the twelve by Amy, Alicia, Peter, and company.

"All eyes." Two words commonly spoken by the First Colony Watchers, starting in Book one--survivors of the end of the world as we know it. I shiver when I read it now, this sober siren call of fellowship to signal strength and vision, to defeat the virals. It carries an additional, deep and tacit message now--that I honor you, comrade (lover, brother, father, mother, friend, sister, soldier, daughter)--go bravely and stay safe. And keep your eyes forward, against the last remaining light of the day.

Cronin's weighty trilogy, a hybrid of mainstream and literary fiction, isn't just a story about these photophobic vampiric virals, identified variously as dracs, smokes, flyers, jumps, and glowsticks. Rather, it is a portrait of humanity in extremis. Virals, caused by a military experiment gone awry, are a malignant, violent force of annihilation. But what reserves of strength keep us fighting? How do people live in a post-apocalyptic world? Is another end coming? Or a beginning? Is the world even worth saving? THE TWELVE, like THE PASSAGE, has as much anthropology, eschatology, psychology, and philosophy, as it does gore, battle and horror.

Cronin's tilted, unconventional structure has an elegant, understated, and circular pull and propulsion, muted at times, roaring at others. He periodically pauses in the progress of the plot for his intense and luminous miniatures--mystical, sensory flights of prose and backstory elaboration, (although briefer in THE TWELVE), which deepen the intricate plot strands as well as create a vivid landscape, emotionally and physically. Gradually, he braids it all together.

The trilogy isn't linear, but it is, ultimately, progressive. THE TWELVE starts back at year zero (the viral outbreak), providing new characters and expanding on previous ones, as it steadily brings us back to the present, approximately 97 A.V. (After Virus), five years after the end of THE PASSAGE. Peppered here and there are the terse, abstract texts dated 1003 A.V. And, yes, the cliffhanger ending of the first book, as well as all strands, are eventually returned to and understood. The author is in control of his sublime, colossal narrative.

Cronin traveled every mile in the book for his research, and it shows. His sense of place is so atmospheric and sensuous, alive and turbulent, that geography is a character in itself. From the benevolent but arch company of assembled defense forces in Kerrville, Texas; to a terrifying, totalitarian-ruled labor camp in Iowa; and to a handful of scrappy iconoclasts that roam from place to place, the author's conception of a fractured world flashes and flickers with billion-kilowatt energy in every setting.

Cronin's complex character development equals any realistic literary novel. Amy, Alicia and Peter (and others) continue to evolve, although Peter, admittedly, was more of a placeholder in THE TWELVE, notwithstanding a few valorous confrontations with virals. There's no doubt in my mind that he will figure largely in the final book, now that Amy's character has expanded in surprising, startling, and inevitable ways. He and Amy are bound, as was determined in THE PASSAGE. However, as Amy is more revealed, Alicia becomes more eerie and enigmatic, and discovers an unpredictable and, well, animate love. You also unexpectedly learn more about her ancestors.

But wait until you meet Guilder, and reconnect with Lila (Wolgast's ex-wife); the pages nearly howl with the portrayal of these two characters. From their skin and viscera to their organs and bowels, I have rarely encountered anyone comparable to Lila and Guilder in a horror or dystopian novel. And there are numerous and brilliant secondary characters, such as Carter, the twelfth original viral, that are graphic and memorable. Greer, from the first book, is now a military prisoner and seer. Grey, a sweeper from the first book, finds an opportunity to amend for his past sins, but it doesn't quite work out the way he planned. Also three-dimensional are the virals, a ripe and sentient life force of consummate destruction. And, there are some new developments in store regarding viral species transformation.

The final book, THE CITY OF MIRRORS, is due for release in 2014. The title is a terrific tease, but I believe I possess the prescience to interpret its significance. It gives me a soulful, excited feeling. I know what it means, where this is headed, and that makes it triply electrifying.
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59 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not EPIC so much as SPRAWLING, November 26, 2012
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I liked this book, but it was hard to love it.

For starters, the characterization is pretty weak. Major characters like Peter don't appear until late into the book, and even then they have nothing to do until the story's climax. Amy seems to wander in and out of the book and almost all the major changes that happen to her are physical--other than numerous chapters devoted to her remembering Wolfgast lovingly and some vague references to her maturing there's not a lot that is made clear about her internal state of mind. Besides this, there are numerous characters added to the story that just don't get enough page time to really flesh them out--Tifty Lamont, I'm looking at you. Possibly the best developed characters are Guilder, Sarah, and Lila--however, even they needed more time and attention. Lila, who is wonderfully fleshed out as a character who cannot cope with reality, has a huge change in character in the final chapters of the book. This transformation never felt earned or believable--it was as though Cronin needed to tie up some loose ends and having her instantly come back to sanity was way too pat on his part.

Secondly, the plot is convoluted and lacks focus. The Passage had the characters joined together on a quest to travel eastward. That's simple, but rewarding enough. The Twelve has the characters scattered about, with no clear mission. And again the novel begins with Cronin deciding to the story of year zero, but from new perspectives. The problem with this decision is that a lot the characters he introduces have no real bearing on the rest of the novel. Characters like Wolfgast were necessary in the last book since their POV not only showed humanity's collapse, but because his relationship to Amy defines her as a person throughout that book in the second. In The Twelve we learn about bus drivers and characters who fathered other characters--but who cares? Only a handful play a role in the rest of the book--devoting time to them makes sense. The other characters are pointless.

Thirdly, I just felt like the villains had no clear motivation, which made it hard for me to feel invested in the story. Guilder, for example, becomes steadily more evil, but I couldn't tell whether he was working with the vamps or as a third party until very late in the story. And I didn't know what The Twelve were trying to accomplish. Sure, in the last book, their motivations were pretty simplistic (kill all humans and drink their blood) but at least that was concrete. In The Twelve these demi-god vampires seem to do things just because they do things. They move from their lairs because ... well, just because. They go to the city just ... because. Some of the characters try to guess at their motives, but it's never confirmed, and that made the novel a lot less interesting than The Passage.

Oh, and finally, it drove me nuts how EVERYONE in this story is somehow related to another character in a way that's meant to be a surprise. The first few times Cronin does this it's cute. Oh, so that guy is related to Alicia! Interesting! And hey, that lady is so and so's wife! But after like ... THE FIFTEENTH time this trick was used it became pretty lame.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If only Cronin believed his readers are as smart as he is, November 26, 2012
In Stephen King's "The Stand", we start with a rampaging and lethal flu virus -- a worthy set-up for what we think is going to be a classic science fiction tale -- and end up with a conflict more suited to horror. After the flu has killed off 99 in a 100, the survivors begin to hear voices or they sense a strange beckoning in the air or they feel the presence of Satan -- whatever you want to call it -- and they end up in an epic battle of good vs. evil. The original virus is all but forgotten. King gets away with this transition because despite the interjection of supernatural forces, the reader never has the sense that just anything can happen. King rightly understands that stories where anything can happen are inherently dull. And so Satan's minions are limited in their powers. And that countervailing Force for Good in "The Stand" -- be it God or some generic higher power -- spends all of the plot just sitting back and drinking a cold one.

The problem with The Twelve and The Passage is that there is little sense of a limiting frame of any kind. Take, for instance, the virus itself. It's a mercurial little bug that turns some people into immortal but mindless cannibals, some other people into telepathic super-cannibals, another person into a Jesus figure who goes conveniently dormant for 100 years so the rest of the plot can unfold, and turns yet another person into a super-soldier. You'd think that this super-soldier, if there was any consistency to the virus at all, would at least get the same 100 years of stasis that Amy got. But, no. Suddenly, only five years after infection, this soldier discovers that she is on the verge of becoming a mindless cannibal, too. Or not. Do you think that's enough mutability for one virus? Too bad! I haven't even mentioned the semi-virals, who become evil, too, but stay largely human while subsisting on a diet of manufactured blood. Did I mention that one of these semi-virals, but only one, has the power to command the mindless virals, just as if she were one of the original Twelve? Her virus must have been just a little bit different from that which the other semi-virals, or "Red Eyes", were exposed to. Or something.

But if you feel the author is jerking your chain in his handling of the virus' properties, you should perhaps be warned that you will feel completely crippled by many of the other too-convenient and even senseless plot twists in this novel. For instance, early on in "The Passage", we have a character who, we are clearly lead to believe, is dying of radiation poisoning. Readers may recall that Wollgast was holed up in the mountains with Amy, humanity's new Jesus, before succumbing to the after-effects of humanity's last attempt to cordon off the virals. Would you be surprised, then, to find that Wollgast didn't die? Silly reader! Wollgast turns up as a viral in this novel, having done who knows what for a hundred years. Fortunately, despite not being one of the original "Twelve", the form of virus Wollgast was exposed to turned him into a mindful rather than a mindless cannibal, a transition for which there is NO basis elsewhere in the novel. Clearly, Cronin was hoping that his readers would be saps enough to swallow this.

Many of the other plot contrivances feel just as artificial and rootless, as when Amy meets the one other "good" viral on some mental plane (viral cyber-space?) that the virus has empowered him to create. Telepathy is one thing, but whole mindscapes are a feature of the virus, too? Another contrivance is when the aforementioned Red Eye with the capacity to bespeak mindless virals just happens to be Wollgast's ex-wife, Lila, tho the means by which she was infected had nothing to do with Wollgast, whom she had left some years before. You want more contrivances? Lila suddenly, after a century of madness and predation upon others, decides to be good and God-fearing. And then there's the time when . . . time to end this list. Suffice it to say that whereas King writes as if he believes his readers to be as smart as he is, Cronin thinks we're very much dumber. I give "The Twelve" two stars only because the writing is so assured and because the chapters where humans confront virals -- actually confront them, without a lot of supernatural hooey -- are entertaining.
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114 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Sequel And Link To The Awaited Conclusion!, September 4, 2012
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Justin Cronin's "The Twelve" is the middle offering of his planned trilogy examining a post-apocalyptic view of America, its devastated future and how the spirit of mankind perseveres through horrifying unknown challenges. I strongly urge those who have not read "The Passage" to read it first, yet, if you did read it, it is not necessary to reread it to follow the events in "The Twelve".

"The Passage" was a very long novel depicting both pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories covering a period of about 100 years. Military scientists experimented with viruses on 12 condemned criminals in an effort to create uber soldiers as weapons of war. Inevitably, a screwup occured and the 12 subjects become soulless vampirelike super creatures called "virals" who quickly multiplied and threatened the existence of the world. "The Passage" then fast forwarded almost 100 years and became a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy that focused on one "Colony" of survivors who struggled to survive each day while remembering as much of the "old world" as possible.

"The Twelve" continues this epic tale following the cliffhangar at the end of "The Passage". Cronin again mixes and matches as he skips back and forth through time filling in gaps and fleshing out the backstory first presented in "The Passage". New characters are introduced, good and bad, and old character arcs are resolved and/or expanded in a variety of ways as mankind's survivors split into somewhat predictable groups--those who work hand in hand for their personal survival with the Virals in new communities like "The Homeland", those who try to reestablish governmental order and societal restructuring in Kerrville etc., and the stalwart heroes, Alicia, Amy, Peter, Sara, Michael, and others who feel the horror must be confronted and eradicated to bring peace back to mankind. Even the events in Year Zero and its aftermath are reexamined from new sets of eyes as a group of newly minted characters are forced to seek relief from the apparent end of times.

But primarily, "The Twelve" is continuation of Cronin's examination of the human character and its will to survive and to make sense of the world. The cavalcade of human characters from the evil Guilder to the naively repressed Lila to the despicable collaborators to the heroic survivors, either those seeking destruction of The Twelve or those planning an insurrection, force the reader into personal introspection of philosophy, morality, survival, and eternal truths. Cronin's take on governing structures and the motivations of leaders in this devastated future is intriguing, thought provoking, and reflective of time honored dichotomous views of the nature of power and the function of government.

"The Twelve" may be the best middle segment of any trilogy I have ever read; indeed, it fills in backstory, it reveals new characters and new survival strategies, it does a superb job of completing some character arcs while embellishing new arcs, and it jolts the reader with several totally unexpected character developments. And the last 100 pages, presented at breakneck and white knuckled speed lead to a confrontation and conclusion that is incredibly satisfying while whetting the reader's appetite for the ultimate conclusion of the trilogy.

Other reviewers have correctly drawn parallels to King's "The Stand", as well as McCammon's "Swan Song", and perhaps more appropriately, to "The Strain" trilogy. Most readers have a fascination with post-apocalyptic novels and the underlying struggle between good and evil that inevitably appears in those who survive and in those who oppress. Yet there is much more originality than derivation in "The Passage" and "The Twelve" allowing them to stand nicely on their own merits as Cronin's view of a devastated future where all facets of the American character are allowed to drift toward their inevitable belief system (very much like those in "The Stand") and where these differing views create conflict within emerging governments and within emerging societal cocoons. "The Twelve" is that rarity of being a sequel that outperforms its introductory novel and passionately links it to the eagerly awaited conclusion. Highly recommended to those who can see beyond the vampires in this epic trilogy (although the vampire element is supernaturally gripping).
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96 of 116 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, October 19, 2012
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I highly recommend that you re-read the first book, The Passage, immediately before you read The Twelve. I read The Passage last year and with this book I found myself frequently lost and confused, sometimes resorting to google to try and piece things together. The experience reminded me of reading the Game of Thrones series--there were so many story lines and trying to follow even the old ones was difficult enough. In this book, there are a couple of new storylines that just POOF, disappeared. I will assume that they pick up in the last installment but it was especially distracting to get caught up in something that went nowhere and I likely won't remember when the next one comes out. There were also some terms that didn't seem to be explained or defined that had me reading, re-reading, re-reading. I like the plot and the story arc and I think (emphasis-THINK) I understood how it ended but I wouldn't swear to it. The story I'd give a 5. The flow/writing drags it down to a 3.
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42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh., October 30, 2012
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Double D (Dover, NH U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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I read the Passage when it first came out without any prior knowledge of what I was getting into other than it fit loosely into the Post Apocalyptic category and it was written by someone with some literary chops. I read a lot of PA fiction (it's my guilty pleasure), but I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled with Cronin's work. Perhaps there was no way for the book to live up to the anticipation The Passage generated, but after the epic grandeur of the first book this second one was thoroughly disappointing. When I finished The Passage, I did not even realize that it was part of a trilogy. I was fine with the open ended but hopeful conclusion, even with the massacre (hey, you knew the world continued since someone was around to document it). I recommended it to everyone I could as a great story that transcended genre. The Twelve is not even a good genre book.

The writing style was choppy at best, and seemed to me more like the author was trying to see how fragmented he could make 10 different plot lines by breaking them into the smallest chunks possible. Employed properly (and moderately), this builds tension and enjoyment of a story. Done the way Cronin has done it here, it makes the book laborious and slow.

The confluence of characters and plots in The Passage seemed natural - of course everyone mentioned in the world before the fall was somehow important to the story (why else would they be mentioned), and they gradually converged when the world ended in a single event. After the end of civilization, the characters came from the same place at the colony and their lives naturally progressed to another central event triggered by external influences like the condition of the infrastructure and the arrival of Amy. In The Twelve, Cronin lost the tone and pacing of the story and as a result I lost my suspension of disbelief. I am not saying a story needs to be realistic to be good, just immersive, and this story is not. When your first reaction to major events is how unlikely and improbable they are, it is not good. It took a conscious decision and effort for me to finish this book. The interrelationships seemed more like something George Lucas would have come up with than a respected author - "Oh, wow, you mean Boba Fett's housekeeper once dated a mechanic that worked on Han Solo's first speeder bike? Let's build a whole plot around that kind of minutiae!"

The new characters are also random, flat, and frankly annoying. I found myself wishing for the quick death of almost all of them so that the book could stop jumping to their point of view all the time. I even wished some of the main protagonists would just up and die, since that would have at least resembled a character arc and clean up the mess of threads. The virals have been pushed to the back burner (remember when they were scary?) and the bad people all seem to have ham-handed parenting issues that are amateur at best. Most of all, nobody ever seems to die. No matter how many times they are kidnapped, disappear, are caught in a hail of bullets or a city crushing explosion, they seem to come back. I reached the point where I would just groan aloud every time Cronin wrote about another character's disappearance or death because a story can only pull the "I fooled you, they're still alive!" so many times before the entire story has no tension or conflict. I am extremely suspicious that the few that did not come back will resurface in the next installation. If I read it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful moments, but disappointing, October 29, 2012
By 
D.S. Cahr (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This sequel to Justin Cronin's fantastic "The Passage" was almost great, and fans of apocalyptic fantasy with a literary flair will still find it worthwhile, but Cronin lost himself in genre cliches at the very end. The storyline is fractured by design, and while the twisting narratives seemed to come together about 2/3 of the way through the book, many characters were developed and then dropped, as though Cronin had a book twice as long and felt compelled to compress it. Then, suddenly faced with space constraints, he hurried the ending with strained vampire conventions that did not seem true to the original conception. I'll read the next book in the series, and still have high hopes for it, but it is rare to enjoy a book that much for most of its length only to find yourself feeling that empty at the end.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One step forward, two steps back, October 22, 2012
The Twelve by Justin Cronin is the second book in The Passage trilogy series. If you've read The Passage, then you should have an idea of where things are headed here. With the virals having pretty much destroyed the United States, the search continues to hunt down the original twelve virals to hopefully put a stop to the madness. I seriously had nothing but love for The Passage. The story was gripping and although it was considered a bit wordy, I loved almost every bit of it and have recommended it to many readers. However, I can definitely not say the same for The Twelve. When you are not even halfway through the book and feel dreaded to continue reading, something is wrong. Here, the author goes away from the virals as the focal point and instead spends a whole lot of time performing world and character building. The problem here is that the world is a mess and no matter where the characters go, it's still a deserted mess so it doesn't make for a very interesting read. The other major problem is that most of the characters are just plain ol' boring. Although the story doesn't take a back seat, it's just that the author spends way too much time developing it when instead the book could have been much shorter and focused.

Having read The Passage when it first came out, I have now totally forgotten almost every single character in the story save for Amy. It's ironic because I considered her to be one of the more boring characters in the story yet I somehow remembered her the most. With The Twelve, I somehow found myself reading Wikipedia to refresh my memory of what happened in The Passage and I suggest you do the same as well if you find yourself lost when reading The Twelve. The author does very little to jog my memory and assumes that I'm reading this book immediately after having read the first. He does drop hints at certain places and recollects some events in the past but I still had a hard time remembering. This is weird because I have no problem recollecting characters in a series such as in A Song of Ice and Fire where it's basically characters galore. This proves to me that the characters in The Passage trilogy is just not that interesting. Yes, Amy is still suppose to be one of the most unique characters in the story but yet is still a bore to read.

The story is something I have the most issue with in The Twelve. There are definitely memorable parts and set pieces sprinkled throughout the story but those are far and between. The good news is that we do get a view of how the survivors are making do in a world filled with virals. The dreadful atmosphere is definitely there and it really makes you feel a part of the world. If you haven't guessed already, this trilogy is very depressing and The Twelve more than proves that point. The book's title refers to the original twelve virals that were infected with the virus and here some of the characters set out to hunt them down. The problem here is that things take a long time to develop. The other thing I didn't like is that the book was just not as scary as the first. With The Passage, there were actually parts that gave me goosebumps such as when reading about Zero in the lab before things got out of control. When they broke free, I felt genuine terror for the civilians. I hardly got any of that here. Here, although Peter is one of the main protagonist, I didn't really care if he lives or dies in the end.

While this book was a general disappointment to me, I do admit that when the action did get started, those parts were fun to read. However, I still couldn't shake the feeling throughout the book that I just wished the book would come to an end. At around 600 pages, this is no small book. However, I've read many books past this number but never wanted the story to conclude. But when you have many slow and boring parts, that 600 page book seems to be a whole lot longer than it should be. Honestly speaking, I am actually dreading what the author should come up with in the last book of the trilogy. I have no idea of how he can keep things interesting. Although I will still read the last book, I'm definitely not keeping myself up at night waiting for it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, Disconnected, Disjointed and Discordant, The Twelve is Discouraged., March 14, 2013
The Passage was a well-conceived, if overlong and bloated, addition to the abundantly crowded vampire literature pool. I gave that book a soft 4 stars and was hopeful that the sequels would excise the worst parts of that book and cultivate the favorable ones. Alas, The Twelve does just the opposite. This book is a meandering, choking, rat's nest of a read with so many disparate, uninteresting story lines and wild permutations of the virus, that it no longer retains any of the eerie, claustrophobic realism of the first entry. A lot of the players are back, but The Twelve casts them in sepia tones of under-realized expectations rather than the crisp, defined characterizations of the first book. Amy seems almost drawn in after the fact. Her story line is so mundane and fruitless here, that by the time Cronin gets around to trying to resurrect it, it feels pasted on and pointless. Peter emanates very little of the everyman hero glow so expertly on display in the first book. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn't much better. Lila and Grey's overabundant and ridiculous presence in this volume had me literally rolling my eyes at times. As did many other things, like a female prisoner's escape using one of the more cliched tricks in literary and movie history. The writing is also strained here with dreadful anecdotes and personifications scattered throughout. One thing that's strangely almost entirely absent in a book entitled The Twelve? You guessed it: Anything to do with the twelve. Is this the best we should expect? I say no.

Update Next Day: Does it strike anyone else as strange that right after two luke-warm reviews appear that within a few hours, 4 5-star reviews pop in from first-time reviewers all with startlingly glaring generic one-line raves? I looked back through the previous hundred or so reviews. There is a remarkably similar pattern: first a 1 or 2 or 3 star review, then a rash of one-line, one-time reviews that are all, bah-dum-dum 5 stars. Sigh. It's impossible to put any credence in the mass ratings. You have to cull through the fake reviews to find ones that were written by real readers. The star system is broken.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment, March 7, 2013
By 
M. McCrady "Billy_Pilgrim" (Lexington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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Lots of spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk. I read "The Passage" a couple years ago and enjoyed it; so I was looking forward to the sequel. I was disappointed. Cronin could be a great storyteller, but he has this annoying habit of seducing the reader and then getting up and leaving when things heat up. Not to belabor the seduction metaphor, so let me explain. Cliffhangers. Every chapter or segment usually ends on a cliffhanger, a mini-climax of action, which is then never properly followed with catharsis. Several chapter later, Cronin might refer to what happened after he left us hanging, but usually we are left to deduce the consequences ourselves. And he does this all the damned time. Specific examples (spoilers ahead): the climax of the pre-cataclysm storyline of Lila, Lawrence Grey, and Guilder, in which Guilder smashes Lawrence's head with a rock. And then that's the end of that, for a long, long time. 97 years and many chapters later, to be exact., before we find out, second-hand, what happened after. That brings me to my second complaint: non-linear narrative story-telling. This ties in to the cliffhanger complaint, because in the beginning, the novel starts in the post-apocalyptic present with Alicia's story, then goes back to year Zero and picks up several different strands of story, introducing new characters, such as Kitteridge, "Last Stand in Denver". Just when it seems like the whole novel is going to be about these original characters and how they survived the vampire apocalypse, Cronin kills Kitteridge and ends that whole storyline, shooting forward in time again to the story of Alicia and Peter and the other characters from "The Passage". Novels don't have to be linear narratives, but it takes a better writer than Cronin to pull it off without leaving the reader confused and/or disappointed. I felt like the introduction of new characters, and in particular the lengthy flashback, only served to confuse. Reading it, I kept wondering why he was telling us this part of the story. When the story ended with Kitteridge's death and some hint that he had impregnated a girl with the ancestors of the Jaxson kids, I sort of got a sense of why Cronin was telling us all this. But it still seemed like a long, unnecessary digression. The additional story of Lila and Lawrence and Guilder created yet another subplot from the past when what I really wanted to read about was what Peter and Alicia and the others were doing. All the while, I had in mind that there are 12 original virals, and somehow they are going to have to be killed in the space of a trilogy--a lengthy trilogy, but a trilogy nonetheless. It took the entire first book just to kill one. How are the heroes going to take out twelve in the remaining books? As you might expect, Cronin had to get the 12 virals together in one place. It's a plot contrivance that isn't well explained. Is Guilder constructing the "project" as a living space for all of twelve? If so, that seems like an incredibly dumb idea from the standpoint of the 12, who have been quite safe overall by living far apart. There is a suggestion that they are "molting", in a way, due to food shortage. With few humans, and few animals to feed on, the virals are dying off and the 12 have to go into a kind of hibernation. But in typical Cronin style, this is left to guesswork on the part of the reader, rather than explicitly detailed. And also typically, the ending leaves a lot of questions in the reader's mind. So is Zero the last remaining viral? He was apparently not killed with the 12. And what about Alicia. Did she fully change into a viral? To sum up, by the end of the book, I felt like the endless string of cliffhangers had become terribly contrived and annoying. The way Cronin resolves these cliffhangers obliquely, forcing the reader to read between the lines or make assumptions, also felt contrive. With the nonlinear narrative and the Hemingway-like style of writing by leaving things out, leaving the reader to guess or assume what happens, Cronin was trying to be needlessly avant garde in a book that should have just told us a good, satisfying story. Furthermore, the introduction of new characters, only to kill them off after the reader has invested quite a bit of emotion in their well-being, just added to the overall disappointment I felt about this book.
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The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel
The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy): A Novel by Justin Cronin (Audio CD - October 16, 2012)
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