the twelveThe Twelve by Justin Cronin

Published October 16th, 2012 by Random House

Picture and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

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At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

Rating (out of 5): 1 star


***Warning: Spoiler alert!  Consider yourself duly warned!***

It is with great sadness that I give this book one single star, and even that might be more than it deserves.  The Twelve is the sequel to 2010’s The Passage and is the second book in the trilogy.  I read The Passage and I absolutely loved it.  I admit that there was a large section of the middle that was horribly boring and tedious, but overall I thought the book was one of the best I had read.  I looked forward to The Twelve with much fervor and excitement.  I pre-ordered it almost a year in advance and tapped my foot impatiently that the release date wouldn’t get here any quicker.  When the book arrived at my house I tore open the packaging and spent a lot of time just starting at it in wonder.  It was finally here!  Then I plunged into it and was stopped dead in my tracks.  This book that I had looked forward to for over a year was just not good!  It took everything I didn’t like about The Passage and amplified it a hundred times.  I was so distraught that I thought perhaps it was my fault and I should put the book down for awhile and come back to it.  So I took a month long break, and it still wasn’t any good when I came back.

My first irritation with this book was something I noticed in The Passage but it was much much worse in this one.  Cronin has a tendency to use really weird word choices sometimes.  And he falls into purple prose constantly.  No, scratch that, he doesn’t fall into purple prose, all he writes is purple prose.  I got really sick of hearing about the undulating crimson waves of light shimmering across the cerulean sky as the sun peeked it’s head just over the dusky horizon as if afraid to make any further appearance.  It got really old and I just wanted SOMETHING to happen already. Stop describing everything in such an unnecessary way and give me some plot, please!  And the word choices were just strange at times.  It would completely pull me out of the story as I stopped short and thought, “What?”  For example he described Amy as “meager”.  Okay, I know what meager means, but he is using it to describe her as humble and that is not a very common usage of that word.  Or describing a rape as “peculiar ministrations.”  At first I wasn’t even sure what the hell he was talking about.  It took me almost five pages to realize that was a rape scene.

My next problem was how often we jump around to different characters.  Literally every two or three pages we jumped to a completely different plot and a different narrating character and then a few pages later it was something else.  This made it really hard to track what was going on or whether we were even in the same time period.  Were we at directly after the virus or a hundred years later, I often didn’t know.  Then you add in that certain characters were present in both time periods, with no real explanation of how that happened, so that made it extra confusing about where we were.  Then you have a huge cast of characters that is impossible to keep track of on top of the confusing narration.  At one point I had to put the book down to scratch my head because I know for a fact that X character died in The Passage (I read it 3 times, he died, we buried him!), yet all of a sudden he’s back and a viral.  I think the author confused himself with the multitude of characters.

I’m also still not sure exactly what the plot was.  When I finished The Passage, I was fairly certain that we were going to be hunting down the eleven remaining virals out of the original Twelve.  But, 95% of the book was spent NOT doing that, so I have no idea just what the hell we did for nearly 600 pages.  Instead we jumped around from character to character and had a character making the virals into some kind of deity and enslaving people.  Because the plot was so vast and confused, we missed out on some great opportunities.  At one point, a young boy wants to run into a stadium after the virus is released and they don’t want him to see the horror.  What horror?  I still don’t know.  They may have wanted to protect the boy but, I wanted to see it!  I wanted to know what was going on there!  The boy escaped the adults and managed to see it, but I still didn’t.  This trend continued throughout the book.  At another point Peter is fighting a viral while locked in a cage.  We get a whole two paragraphs before we get a narrative AFTER it’s over and find out it lasted a total of 27 seconds.  I felt so incredibly ripped off.  All of the potentially good horror or action scenes were skipped over like they didn’t matter so we could spend 10 more pages on purple prose that made my eyes want to explode.

Finally, I got sick and tired of the religious references.  I had the inkling that we were going down that road from The Passage and I didn’t mind it.  But the author just tried too hard to make the connections.  I started trying to predict what the next religious reference would be.  Oh, is he the new God?  Yep, he proclaimed himself to be.  Is she going to die and then get resurrected?  Yep, she did…oh look twice.  It was pathetic that trying to predict the absurd religious references was more entertaining to me than the book itself.  It almost felt like the author was standing and looking over my shoulder saying, “See, do you get it?  Twelve Apostles and Jesus?  I’m clever huh, don’t you get it?”  Yes I get it and it’s fucking stupid!

In the end I cared about this book so little that I honestly didn’t even want to finish it.  The only reason I did finish was to see if there would be ANYTHING that would spark my interest in the third book.  I couldn’t even care that my favorite character got raped, because I had no idea that’s what happened until long after it happened.  Then I couldn’t even care that she got revenge on her rapist because it was just glossed over like it wasn’t important…like everything else that was good in this book.  At this point, I will not be reading the last book.  I loathed every page of this book and I hate the direction this plot is taking.  I don’t care how it ends anymore, this book killed any enthusiasm I had for this story.  I keep trying to figure out where all these good reviews are coming from because I am not even sure we read the same book.

To end, I want to add a personal note to Mr. Cronin:  Yes, we realize that you are a highly literary, intelligent individual who has a degree and can write literary works of genius.  But, guess what, you are writing a horror trilogy.  I know you feel guilty about “selling out” for a big paycheck and being in that dreaded mass market category, but that’s no excuse to bastardize your own work.  You have destroyed this story by trying to make it highbrow and literary.  Assuage your guilt about selling out some other way.  I swear you are on some personal mission to make me hate your book, congratulations I did.