Checkman's Reviews > The Twelve

The Twelve by Justin Cronin
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UPDATE: 11/20/16
I'm changing my rating to 3.5 Stars. I just finished "The Passage" and now I see how this installment fits in. It's my own fault for having read this one first, but sometimes these things happen. Onto "The City of Mirrors".

I have a sort of rule that I usually follow, but not always. If a book series sounds interesting wait until it's complete to read it. Well I did say it's a sort of rule. I realize that the third installment was released last month and I figured I would buy the complete set at the used price on Amazon in six months or so. But a few days ago I found a hardback copy of "The Twelve" at the local Deseret Industries for $1.00. I thought to myself " what the hell" and bought it. Went to Wikipedia read the (very) in-depth synopsis of The Passage and plunged into the second installment.

Right off the bat I could tell that this was a post-apocalyptic/action/horror novel written by an author of "serious literature". While different in many ways it reminded me of Zone One by Colson Whitehead. The whole post-apocalyptic/zombie/vampire genre must be raking in serious money when the upper tier writers decide to step down into the ghetto. Anyway it's not a bad book. At times it tends to stray into "serious fictionland", forgetting that it's basically a dressed up b grade novel, but such pretensions don't hurt the story. If anything I found the pretensions to make it a smoother read. It's like you spend the evening with a well dressed and sophisticated member of an outlaw motorcycle club. You know that you're in the company of a man who is more than likely guilty of many crimes, but he's a great conversationalist and host, providing only the best (i.e. expensive) food, wine and beer. So for a few hours you choose to not think about that other stuff and enjoy his company (and food and drink).

The story isn't perfect. It's at it's strongest when taking place in the present during the early days of the vampire apocalypse. Mr. Cronin does an excellent job of showing the threads of civilization unraveling under the strain. However only about one-third of the story takes place in the present. The bulk of it is set approximately one-hundred years in the future and doesn't have the same urgency and visceral quality. It isn't bad mind you I just didn't find that part to be as involving. Still well written with some nice characters (I especially liked the poet oil worker Cep), but more distant. In other words moving from the horror novel (the present) to a type of gritty fantasy novel complete with the classic supernatural vampire aspects and the inevitable "heartwarming" chapter in which a character's soul is finally able to "go home" and reunite with his loved ones. As a flesh and blood person I find such a scenario to be comforting, I really hope such a thing does await us after we're finished here on planet Earth, but it's also clichéd and a little hokey. Such hackneyed material reminded me of Stephen King and Mitch Albom which I found surprising. I like most of King's work and Albom is okay in small doses, but I didn't expect it in a post-apocalyptic vampire novel. It doesn't hurt the story, but does make it a little jarring. I guess I like my PA/horror novels to be a little harder edged though ,perhaps, Mr.. Cronin did some research into what the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps went through. There is a Holocaust feel to the story when it moves to The Homeland.

I will be picking up the third installment of this series. I'm interested enough to see how everything is going to play out, but I'm willing to wait until it's out in paperback. Or at least until I can buy a used hardback copy on Amazon. It's really nothing more than the book equivlant of a very well made B-movie, but many of my favorite movies are B flicks so I don't mind. I actually think it's rather fun that "serious" writers are now tackling this material though I worry that pulp fiction writers might find themselves being pushed off to the side. Well regardless of that situation it's not too bad. Perhaps a little bloated, but it's a skillfully written bloated book.

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Reading Progress

February 2, 2012 – Shelved
June 14, 2016 – Started Reading
June 14, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
June 14, 2016 – Shelved as: post-apocalyptic
June 14, 2016 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 14, 2016 – Shelved as: action
June 16, 2016 –
page 206
June 19, 2016 – Shelved as: beach-read
June 19, 2016 – Shelved as: horror
June 19, 2016 – Finished Reading
November 13, 2016 – Shelved as: disaster
November 13, 2016 – Shelved as: dystopian
November 13, 2016 – Shelved as: thriller
November 20, 2016 – Shelved as: reevaluation

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