by Justin Cronin
“We’re all dying, baby. Fair enough. But some of us more than others.”
The players from book 1 of the trilogy have separated and scattered with many years having passed before this book begins. Much like The Passage, this one starts with a serious bang and maintains a fantastic pace for its first few hundred pages. But unlike the first book, this one doesn’t taper off much much after the first explosive sections.
Besides pacing, another improvement over its predecessor is general setting. A good deal of this book takes place in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of the world, as opposed to the isolated area many generations later in which the first book spends so much time. Here the population has still been all but destroyed, but a great deal of the book takes place around recognizable city structures, and various elements of modern living are present. And when we do get to our characters from the first book that grew up in such a small community in the wasteland, the main stage they’re interacting with is much more relatable than the dusty huts and tiny village that dominates so much of The Passage. In short, many of the elements that helped slow down the otherwise excellent first book just aren’t present here.
The cast of characters is complex; our heroes are scattered, captured, tortured and alone, and the overall story becomes so much more satisfying when some of the threads from the first book as well as new ones started here begin weaving together.
The Twelve never once devolves into a slog, a big achievement for a work of this size, and at times it crosses the line over into masterpiece territory, managing to be both fleet and sweeping. With this one clocking in as a superior work to the startling but slower-paced first novel, you’ll find yourselves wanting to read it quickly despite relatively few action scenes and comprehensive storytelling, both of which are factors that often hinder other horror novels. Here is works exceedingly well–The Twelve s a phone-book-sized behemoth that’s nevertheless tough to put down. This second novel maintains all of the color and complexity you’ve come to expect while improving the flow, and if you liked The Passage, chances are you’re going to love this one.
“Love had sealed their doom. Which was what love did.”
4+ stars (5-)