The Twelve is a worthy sequel to The Passage, though it didn't quite keep me up at night like the first book. The imagery and pacing doesn't quite pack the same punch, and if you're not a careful reader some of the most important character relationships can sail right past you. The Passage introduced the reader to a strange new world full of horrors brought to life with vivid imagery and suspenseful chase scenes, whereas The Twelve is told in a series of sorrowful vignettes which only during the last quarter of the book begin to tie together. The Twelve requires a bit more patience to enjoy, though I definitely did.
One of the more entertaining aspects of The Passage was Justin Cronin's skillful employment of tropes. He weaves elements which could easily become cliche into a story that's greater than the sum of it's parts, a Hollywood action movie on literary steroids. In The Twelve, Cronin takes a different approach.
The Twelve is structured more as a biblical parable of sin and redemption (or sin and destruction). The story focuses more on the (non-viral) antagonists; each is given an elaborate backstory full of suffering, each makes a terrible decision in response to their anguish and becomes a monster, then finally each is redeemed or destroyed depending on whether or not they try to right their terrible actions.
This may turn off readers that are expecting another scary sci-fi adventure. The religious references are also dialed way up to 11, which while cute at first might become a little irritating by the end. Finally the characters from the first book generally take a back seat to the new antagonists, and sometimes come off as a little too woodenly "Good".
Scott Brick delivers his performance in a lilting, melancholy voice that's absolutely appropriate for Cronin's prose. In some other books I wonder if Brick doesn't actually interfere with the story by adding pathos the author didn't intend. Not so with The Twelve (or The Passage), where his style is a perfect fit for both the style and the substance of the book.
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