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The Twelve
By Justin Cronin
Ballantine Books, $28.00, 564pp
Release Date: Octobre 16, 2012
This is the sequel to his “The Passage” from 2011. This continues the apocalyptic story of a post-vampire-virus America . I still found the pace a bit disjointed. It starts with little vignettes that are all over the time line. Caleb in the orphanage with Amy well after the first book ended, a woman doctor who lost her mind watching a viral destroy nine people in her hospital at the beginning of the plague, then Alicia hunting for one of the twelve, then back to year Zero with a man in Denver broadcasting images of the city dying that the government wanted to stop. We see a little of what happened immediately after the twelve escaped and started the plague. The author treats us to about a hundred pages of a hopeless journey of survivors, I think one of them is an ancestor to a character we see later but it was difficult to make connections. We also see a significant event in Texas just before Amy found the First Colony. It was dramatic but unconnected; the connection wasn’t made until much later when it was difficult to remember the key points. After that it got a little easier as the author started trying to pull the threads together.

I still like the concept of these vampires, it is a bit original although, as a point was made in “The Passage”, all the clues are in the original Dracula movie. The unique point is that the original twelve (plus Amy) all retain sense of self while all the ‘made’ vampires are mindless. And all the mindless vampires are linked to the one who made them and are forced to constantly relive a pivotal moment from that one’s previous life. And since all twelve were convicted felons on death row, you can imagine their pivotal moment wasn’t all that warm and cozy. The mercy is that when one of the twelve is killed, all his followers are released and immediately die.

A new twist in this book is that maybe women react differently to the virus. So far we have Amy who was deliberately infected at the Project in Colorado when she was six. Then we got Alicia about a hundred years later who was deliberately infected with the same batch of virus. Both of them retain their minds and their physical image of humanity while becoming immortal and quite a bit more powerful. And then we get Lila, the insane doctor from Colorado , who was saved from death in a classic way – her vampire Renfield protector gives her his blood to save her. Her part in this is very different; she has control over the mindless vampires. Perhaps Amy and Alicia could do the same if they tried.

This plot revolves mostly around Alicia’s efforts to track one of the Twelve and destroy him. There is a subplot about Amy’s impending puberty, long delayed, and the suggestive ramifications. And finally, what looks like a final solution but isn’t since this is a planned trilogy.

The pace is fast, the writing quite competent, the action engrossing. I still don’t like the transitions between characters or time lines and I think the author could have done a better job keeping us connected with characters. I don’t like feeling like I need to read back 50 pages to figure out who is who. I suppose I’ll be reading the last book to get closure but I won’t be waiting impatiently. ~ Catherine Book

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