Here's what I've been reading since August 11...yes, that would mean more than two weeks spent with one book, but...oh, what a book.
The Twelve by Justin Cronin is the sequel to The Passage (review here), the post-apocalyptic tour de force released in 2010. I became completely immersed then in the America that suffers an attack by a group of escaped virals, men (with one notable exception) who had been on death row who were used for a military experiment that went horribly wrong. The Twelve picks up five years after the ending of The Passage, and our band of fighters has scattered, with its members either joining the Expeditionary, taken, or fighting separately. The virals are as prevalent and deadly as ever, and even after the death of Babcock in The Passage, no one is closer to finding and eliminating any other of the Twelve. It's almost as though time has stalled for Peter, Michael, Alicia, and Amy...until Alicia's determination to discover the hiding spot of Martinez brings momentum back to the survivors of the First Colony. Meanwhile, there is some time jumping as we are introduced to Lila and Guilder, two characters who will play extremely important roles almost immediately after the initial disaster began; Lila, a pregnant doctor, is traumatized enough by an emergency room attack that she in essence becomes convinced that *nothing* happened, and Guilder, a man suffering from ALS, survives an attack on his own, transformed into something I never saw coming. How these two lives' mix into that of Lawrence Grey from The Passage is both heart wrenching and horrifying, and leads directly to the main action climax of The Twelve.
There is SO. MUCH. in The Twelve, and I'd recommend a reread of The Passage if time permits because it is all so intricate and complicated. There is time movement between the initial attacks, then forward about seventy-five years to another disaster that became known as The Massacre in the Field, and finally, we are led back 100 years post-apocalypse to our First Colony fighters and their determination to destroy the Twelve. The discovery of a settlement with echoes of Hitler's concentration camps leads Peter, Michael, and Alicia northward while Amy is drawn separately to the same place. There are echoes of Brad Wolgast and his deep connection to Amy; there is the hint that not all of the Twelve have lost all traces of humanity in Carter's ability to speak with Amy; there is the appearance of a mysterious woman who leads virals to not only attack, but to take some select humans alive. And through it all, we meet and re-meet people and we're given tantalizing hints of what might happen until it all goes to hell.
I feel as though I'm not doing justice to this novel which has totally enveloped me in the past two weeks; I want to say so much more but yet saying one thing would lead to another and I don't want to possibly spoil anything. I will say that much like The Passage, there were moments and sections in The Twelve when I was so confused and there was so much going on I couldn't keep it all straight, and then there were pages when I just wanted the story to move ahead. But when the action hits, and it hits often and hard, it is next to impossible to put this book down. And you don't know where you're going, and you don't know if a beloved character will make it...and I have to say that the final 50 pages or so are probably some of the best action sequences I've read in quite some time.
I want to talk about what happens to Amy, to Lila, to Grey, to Guilder (the bloody bastard), to Peter, Michael, Alicia, and Hollis...I want to bounce ideas against someone who has read the final 50 pages to see if they interpret a few things as I do. The writing is so detailed, so deep that I feel as though it washed right over me at times; I was riveted, repulsed, and spellbound. I *need* someone else to discuss this book with me!
The Twelve is a worthy sequel to The Passage, and Cronin's writing is both grand and gripping. When I think back over the 500+ pages, I almost feel as though I'd read two or three separate books that somehow weave together to form one momentous story. Amazing and awesome. I suggest you pre-order it now for it's October 2012 arrival.
I received this ARC from a friend who attended BEA earlier in the summer. I'm not being paid for this honest review, but my imagination has surely been stretched and hammered through its reading. LOVED IT. Seriously, seriously loved it.