Sunday, November 04, 2012

Book Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

( #thetwelve @jccronin )



"The Twelve" is a sequel to Justin Cronin's "The Passage" which I read a few years ago. I liked Cronin's take on a vampire apocalypse. Cronin opted out of the typical gore-fest that seems to be a natural reaction to the "Twilight Vampires" (aka kind of wimpy) by telling a cause and effect story. The book is told in two timelines: how society falls and then 100 years into the future as society attempts to rebuild.

The Twelve continues the storyline in the future and but also revisits the initial outbreak to introduces a few new characters. Overall, I liked the book. But my enjoyment relied heavily on my enjoyment of the first book. The first section (revisiting the outbreak) is like a prequel with different characters (their viewpoint of what went down). While I liked how the outbreak was fleshed out, those chapters were not critical plot points. I am going to bring up some spoilers about the plot in this review, so this may be a good time to stop reading if you don't want to know too much about the story.

**SPOILERS**

The prequel characters establish the bloodlines of the future characters which added depth, but like I said, not critical. The prequel chapters also establish the concept of a "familiar". Every vampire can make a helper that has some powers and needs to drink blood, but they don't change into monsters.

The main story is that one of the helpers, who is a fairly sympathetic character, is used to create a city/society of immortals that capture and enslave the remaining humans and of course feed them to the vampire overlords. This totally makes sense except for one thing...

There are twelve vampire leaders (hence the twelve) and the millions of vampires running around are basically mindless zombies controlled by one of the twelve. If you kill one of the twelve, all of the vampires in their bloodline die. A major part of the book is the twelve are moving to this vampire city to feed in comfort. But the city has been in progress FOR DECADES. Slaves are being fed to the zombie vampires for no real reason. At one point, The Twelve kill off most of their zombies because there are too many vampires hunting the remaining humans. Why feed the slaves to the mindless zombie vampires?

The "familiars" go through all this trouble to capture and enslave humans only to happily feed them to the mindless zombies. This would make sense if this was occurring with the twelve, but they don't show up until much later in the book.

Also, most of the twelve head vampires are not fleshed out. Cronin spend most of the first book on a vampire named "Babcock" and singles out two vampires called "Martinez" and "Carter" in the second, but the others are just in the background. Why not just make 6 lead vampires?

**END SPOILERS**

Even with those illogical plot points, The Twelve is an entertaining and well written novel. Cronin is very good at giving the book a sense of history and handles the time shifts well. The book does suffer from middle child syndrome, but Cronin does a nice job setting up the third book. It is clear that the trilogy has a "big bad" and he was saved for the third book which should deliver a satisfying conclusion.