As a big fan of the post-apocalypse genre and the first novel in Justin Cronin’s epic trilogy of a post-apocalyptic United States., I was reserved in my eagerness for The Twelve. What I found was a book which only expands upon the magnificent wasteland Cronin has created; full of adventure and above all, the perseverance of humans.
In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
The Twelve is truly epic in many things, perhaps the most theatrical is that Cronin employs a full ensemble of interesting characters. The ensemble is so large that a Dramatis Personae is included at the back. One of the most astonishing things is how Cronin intertwines the lives of countless characters over a century. Not only are these characters connected through their actions but through their bloodlines. While the focus on this lineage was not my favorite, it was nonetheless interesting to see how a daughter or brother evolved over time.
One of the greatest things about Cronin’s expanse of characters is that no matter who you are, you will find a character who reflects a part of you or a character who is simply your favorite. My favorite lies in a continuing character from The Passage, Alicia Donadio. She is my favorite for many reasons, but there is one reason above them all. While every other character is focused on their lineage, settling down to continue their bloodline or reminiscing on where they came from, Alicia has one focus – revenge. For me, this focus and her natural evolution from a girl eager to please her father figure to a woman with purpose is one of the many highlights of the Passage Trilogy.
Though sometimes slow paced, The Twelve tells the story of what happens to people when society has been rebuilt after the apocalypse. This comes with some normality such as: who wants a promotion and who is pregnant. However, Cronin beautifully keeps the focus on where I feel it should be, on action and adventure; carried out in true trilogy fashion with many questions from the first book answered while many new questions arise.
The Twelve follows the typical style of a long journey with a climactic finish and subsequent epilogue. Cronin makes us yearn for action scenes but truly delivers. Throughout The Twelve, the shining moments are always in action not in dialogue. This is clearly Cronin’s strong point and the end battle has the unique sense of vivid detail while bestowing the overwhelming blur of time which the characters experience. Many writers balk at battle scenes and it is refreshing to see Cronin once again show them how it’s done.
The Twelve is a truly unique piece of writing, telling many captivating stories with the overarching theme of human survival and revenge. Cronin masterfully intersects lives at will and has the gift of carry through to see each tale to its conclusion. At times the lives which are told seem normal in their mundane activities but it serves to fully realize this post apocalypse world into the reader’s mind. The climax is truly that, and I found myself unable to put down The Twelve until it was over. Without guilt, Cronin delves into both the successes of humans overcoming their past and the failure of humans turning to barbarity. This willingness to tell a true post apocalyptic story and the pure attention to detail make The Twelve an essential part of any library.