Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Twelve The Twelve
by Justin Cronin

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jo Toon

The Twelve follows on from The Passage. The story which began with infecting twelve death row prisoners with a virus to turn them into the ultimate soldier; unkillable, powerful and without weakness (how could this possibly go wrong?), continues in the years after the Twelve have escaped from the secure complex where they were being held, and have unleashed the virus, which turns its victims into vampires, on America. The majority of the action is set 79-97 years after the virus has been unleashed. There are little pockets of humanity which have survived, forming tactics to stave off the worst of the ever growing hoards of vampires; guarded stockades, a series of strong boxes strung out over the States to spend the night in and farming work overseen by sentries with guns. Plans are being drawn up to strike back at the lairs of the Twelve, who control through a hive mind, their victims. Pivotal to these plans is Amy, the thirteenth test subject, no longer a little girl, whose abilities include being able to get into the hive mind and sense the Twelve.

The Twelve is an absolutely gripping tale. I definitely had a feeling of Stephen King and The Stand when I read it (and, yes, I am a Stephen King fan, and The Stand is one of my favourites of his books); a post-apocalyptic America, a disparate group of survivors and the need to survive against all odds. Though, here, the characters are less black and white than The Stand. There are motivations given even for the worst of the human 'baddies' (we even get a viewpoint of a couple of the Twelve vampires), and the 'goodies' have sufficient flaws that it would be easy to see how they would be changed if they were on the other side of the fence. Each section has its own self contained stories as well as characters which continue through the book.

Whilst The Twelve is the second of a trilogy, it doesn't make a huge difference whether or not you have read The Passage (I hadn't; I am now going to have to go out and find it). The prologue gives you enough information about the first book to understand what is happening, and, whilst there are the occasional references to the events of the first story and unexplained connections between people, they do not have a significant bearing on the story, and are primarily nods for the astute reader. Even better, as the middle section of a trilogy, the story is self contained. You can tell that the characters and events will continue into the third book, but if you choose only to read this one, you aren't left hanging with a sense that you are missing out by not reading the next book.

Overall, The Twelve is an excellent read, with pacing that doesn't let up right to the end, and I can really recommend it.

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