Justin Cronin Returns with Second Vampire Tale – The Twelve
Whether you read his first vampire tale epic The Passage or not, you could not have missed the hoopla that surrounded it. Cronin was a well-established “literary writer” when he decided to tackle a vampire tale and we are all the richer for his decision. So is he, if we are to take into account the three and a quarter million dollar advance he received along with $2 million for the film rights. That film, a Ridley Scott production, should be amazing if he sticks to the vampire tale, as told in The Passage. Because the first book of this vampire tale trilogy was the kind of novel that sucked you in and left you at the end gasping for air. Is it any wonder that we have been waiting breathlessly for the second shoe to drop? And at long last it is here. But if you haven’t read The Passage and want to jump right into The Twelve, here is a bit of back story to set you up.
The Passage Begins the Vampire Tale
It all begins when the government decides to do an experiment. They decide to take twelve death-row inmates and give them a jungle virus to make them into super soldiers, like something out of an old 50s comic book. But somehow things get nasty and out of control really fast. This shouldn’t be that surprising when you stop and consider who they chose as hosts for this virus. It changes them to a kind of super monster, one that feasts on human blood and suddenly cannot stand sunlight for some reason.
Sound like any kind of monster we know?
That is really all you need to know the get the setup to The Twelve. If you want a bit more detail, especially about the characters so you can jump into the second vampire tale, feel free to check out this Wikipedia page about it.
A Continuation that Loops Back
Like the first book, The Twelve is a vampire tale that covers about 100 years. I expected it to pick up where The Passage did, especially since it is such a cliffhanger of an ending. However, it actually starts by moving back to the early days of the viral experiment. This is an interesting device and not seen often with a vampire tale. It actually gives us a chance to get to know some of the background type characters from the first book.
We continue to follow Amy, a child at the time she was infected that is now around 100 years old. It is her diary from the future that we continue to read now and again. It was a jarring effect the first time I hit it, but it is brilliant in setting up some expectations for the reader in the story. But then, Cronin has always been such an effective writer that it doesn’t really surprise me that he is able to pull everything off so perfectly again in this horror vampire tale of grim possibilities.
The Twelve Absorbs You
You might feel like the vampire tale meanders a bit in the first 200 pages but stay with it, because the reasons for taking the story this way soon become clear. We reacquaint ourselves with the plot we left in The Journey, and add more meat to the already heady stew of a story. It wanders down to the next 100 years, as we follow the narrative of Peter Jaxon. He is the closest you come to a traditional hero in this vampire tale that verges on post-apocalyptic horror. They are continuing the quest from the first book, to find and destroy the remaining monsters from the first twelve inmates. There has been some success in destroying the leader and now it is time to see if they can rid the world of these monsters that have infected and destroyed most of the US and left Europe terrified and isolated by choice.
I will warn you that like in any real war, sometimes we lose those we have come to know all too well. I give credit that he doesn’t do it for shock effect, but it made me break down while reading it in any event. This vampire tale has a lot happening, plenty of action and a terrifying pace that makes you wish it wasn’t quite so dark at night when you put the book down. The monsters in this vampire tale are horrifying and the consequences are huge if the goals our heroes set out to accomplish can’t be done.
Luckily there is still one more book to go in this breathless trilogy. Rumor is that we should see the next vampire tale out sometime next year, but let’s hope it makes it out sooner. There aren’t many vampire tale tellers I would await with this much anticipation. But then, The Twelve is no ordinary vampire tale.