If I seemed a little out-of-touch over the past two weeks, it's because I was thoroughly entrenched in Justin Cronin's The Twelve, the sequel to his incredibly popular thriller, The Passage. Summer pre-ordered the follow-up as a birthday present back in August (it was released in October) and I'm just getting to it (the stack of books on my bedside table has been insane).
To begin my opinion, I'd like to say that I was initially a bit underwhelmed by this sequel. Perhaps my standards were set too high after The Passage, and I certainly don't want to sound like a reader who can't be satisfied, but something about this story left me a bit wanting.
The Twelve begins much in the same way that the first novel did: roughly 10 years in the future, in the days when the virals were first being found in the mainstream. A young, pregnant doctor, Lila, is being questioned by the police and it is obvious that she has been incredibly traumatized by what she saw in the hospital on the day in question. Horace Guilder is a high-ranking military official with ties to Lila and the viral who picks her up, Lawrence Grey. We'll read about these three throughout the novel.
Flash forward to 97 A.V. (after virus) and we're following a couple of story lines involving a strict work camp in Iowa, as well as a couple of characters from the first novel (Peter Jaxon, Lish, Sarah, Hollis, etc.) as they seek a way to restore humanity and hope to mankind.
My mind was all over the place while reading this book, mostly because it jumps back and forth between story lines, characters, and even time periods. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it; I did the whole "I'm into it, so I'm reading quickly...oh no, it's going by too fast, slow down..." dance. Whereas Passage focuses on human survival and their inherent goodness, Twelve is written more from the point-of-view of certain virals, and has some semblance of government and society rules within. Stronger themes of parental attachment and lineage, the reasons for survival, and motivations of a governing party abound in this novel, giving more meat to the already bulky Twelve. After dwelling on the ideas and characters, I can't help but feel like this novel is actually even more epic than its predecessor.
Pardon me while I geek out, but I'll compare it to the 5th Harry Potter novel, in which sheer character development and escapades don't create the emotional heft of the story; that's left to the battle between what's right, what's accepted, and how to enact change. The Twelve addresses revolution and change, both individually and as a society, in a way that The Passage doesn't need to. I'm so psyched for the last installment in this trilogy; 2014, get here quickly!