I just finished The Twelve. While I plan to listen to it again to catch what I missed, here are my initial impressions (and no spoilers here that aren’t mentioned in literary reviews). First, the narration by Scott Brick is excellent as always. The beginning part of the story switches back and forth between 97 A.V (five years after the conclusion of The Passage) and the Year 0. In the Year 0 portion, Cronin expands on the events surrounding the viral plague through the eyes of those living through it. A few of the characters make a brief appearance or are mentioned in the first book. Of note are Kittridge (known only as Last Stand in Denver in the first book) and Lila (the ex-wife of agent Wolgast). It is interesting to see the apocalypse through the new eyes of people just trying to stay alive as the world is dying around them, and also how these characters impact future events.
The story of our main band from The Passage continues five years after the death of Babcock with the survivors trying to cope and adjust to life in Kerrville. Each is struggling in one way or another. Peter has joined the Expeditionary, but feels he isn’t fulfilling his mission. Alicia is as tough as ever, but the strain of being half human, half viral is a constant weight. Amy is growing as a woman and leader, but is haunted by the twelve and her memories of Walgast. Greer is serving time in the stockade for deserting his post to follow Amy and Peter, and he has become a man of deep faith.
The primary enemy in this novel is another human settlement located in Iowa. Some of the people we meet here are old characters and some are new. I do agree with some of the early reviews that draw a comparison between this settlement and the Vegas colony in The Stand. The leader of the community even bears some similarities to Randall Flagg. It is the confrontation and the threat of this new foe that is the source of the conflict.
I found this a great read, and an excellent follow up to The Passage. We learn the answers to many of the questions left hanging at the end of the first book, including the fate of the garrison at Roswell and what became of the citizens of First Colony. This book takes a much deeper turn into the mystical than the first book. Some of the passages that delved into the world of dreams and other dimensions were confusing at times. I also was never fully engaged by the characters in the colony in Iowa, which reminded me of a Nazi concentration camp, or its leader. Guilder, the leader, is an evil character, but I never found him as compelling as, say, Randall Flagg, to which he seems an homage.
I rate this highly as a second installment, but was not as blown away with The Twelve as I was with The Passage. It was entertaining and was good to revisit characters fans of The Passage have come to care about. It was also good to see the story move forward to what any fan knows will be the ultimate conflict of good vs evil against Subject Zero. Some people did not find the cliffhanger ending of the first book. I loved it, and found it to be great storytelling. There is no abrupt ending as before, but that’s not to say there aren’t unanswered questions. The ending does set up the finale and opens a couple of burning questions that will ensure fans run to buy the next installment. I will.
I admit that was unfamiliar with Malcolm Gladwell before hearing about this book. Since downloading it, I've listened to it 3-4 times. One reason is that each chapter is a story in itself. I can clean the kitchen or take my dog for a walk and complete a story without stopping the narrative (plus I catch something new each time I listen). But the genius of Gladwell is his way of making the ordinary or mundane completely fascinating. I never would have imagined I would be amazed by the story of ketchup, but I was. He is brilliant at taking seemingly straight forward issues like the Challenger disaster or Enron or pit bulls and making one think differently. That is where it is genius. It makes one think. I certainly never would have thought the story of Ron Popeil or the history of women's hair dye would be interesting. Instead, I found these stories utterly fascinating.
I've read every Edward Rutherfurd book, starting with "Sarum" (still my favorite) twenty years ago. I always enjoy the journey through time and the interconnectivity of lives and families. I love historical fiction and seeing great figures and events from a character's firsthand perspective. The narrator is fantastic, seamlessly switching from character to character and giving distinct voices and convincing accents to the characters. [Akin to Michael Lee, in my opinion.] I did have three minor disappointments with the story, though, compared to his other books.
First, in earlier works, such as "Sarum" or "Russka", we follow the interactions of families over thousands of years. The timeframe in "New York" -- about four centuries -- is the shortest of all his works. Yet the vast majority of the story focuses on one privileged English family. The other families (Indian, Dutch, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, etc.) give color and heart to the story, bringing the rich history and diversity of the city alive. But they often seem secondary to the narrative, and once introduced they disappear at times for long periods with no explanation of what has happened in between. That works better in a story that spans a few thousand years, but in a story that spans a mere 400 we know the character we cared about in the previous chapter is still alive and they are often never heard from again.
Second, I wish the story had started earlier. Though homage is paid to the Native American inhabitants in Rutherfurd's well-researched style, I would have enjoyed a chapter or two discribing life on Manhattan prior to European arrival. Instead, we begin with the Dutch settlers with depictions of the remaining and displaced natives. I would have liked to have learned more about life before the Europeans came.
Third, everyone seems basically good. There are few "bad" people, but not many. There is no family that spawns generations of thieves and rogues. There are no multi-generational grudges. The criminals are still good at heart. The rich are generally generous and open-minded. Even those we at first dislike often find a redemption and change of heart. And that isn't the way life always works.
These three points are criticisms, but not condemnations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it. As always, the author weaves a tapestry of the history of a locale with his characters bearing witness as it evolves. And if you haven't read (listened to) Rutherford's earlier works, do so. His journeys are enlightening in their passage through time.
Like many who have enjoyed the other books in this series, I was excited for this final installment. Sadly, it was a major let down. There were a few times I considered giving up because all it seemed like it was all a series of people meeting Ayla, being surprised by Ayla's strange accent, being shocked that Ayla could control a wolf and horses, looking at old cave paintings and reciting the "Mother Song" over and over and over and over again. I stuck with it, but it wasn't until 25+ hours into this book that anything occurred that advanced any narrative at all. But even then, there was never any real drama. The "big" revelation, when it comes, left me thinking, "really? that what all this build up was about? really?" It was just a very disappointing final chapter for a great character and a great series.
I've never written a negative review before, but I had to throw my two cents in on this one. I have enjoyed many Wilbur Smith books over the years and have been entertained by this story telling set in a historical context. After so many other entertaining books set on the African continent I was eager to read (listen to) his take on ancient Egypt. Sadly, I was disappointed. There was little of the real Egypt (which I have visited a number of times), and instead concentrated on a bunch of mystic mumbo jumbo that detracts from any real characters or story lines. I would not recommend this to anyone.
A great read and great reader (John Lee)!!
This book is almost, in a way, like a Shakepearan or Aristolian tragedy (though not to that level of "literature"). Everyone thinks they are doing the right thing, but it just leads to more conflict and escalates. What it does do is show so effectively the attitudes and opinions that were stuck in the 19th century and led to a great tragedy in the 20th. And, presumably, set the stage for even greater hardship in the next installment in the trilogy. WWI is a forgotten war in many ways. That era is often overlooked, but the events that took place in the 1910s shaped the world we all inherited in the latter 20th century. I learned a lot, and it prompted me to investigate aspects of WWI I never knew about before. The array of opinions and characters may be preditctable, but they do reflect their age.
I read a few reviews that objected only to "sexual" references. Those negative few are laughable. People had sex (and always have) and not always in the Puritanical sense that some would prefer. That is the way people are and have always been. If you want Disney, this isn't your book. It reflects a realistic picture of life a century ago, and how we are still the same and we continue to make the same mistakes.
Great first installment, Ken. I look forward to the next issue.
I first read this book in hard-cover nearly 20 years ago, and was compelled due the recent mini-series based on it to get the audio version. I loved it then and still love it. It is one of my favorite books. Yes, it is long. Yes, there are some archetypal figures -- the underdog who makes good, the evil bishop, the salt-of-the-earth mason, the "princess" brought low who fights back. Some claim it isn't true "historical fiction". Well, not if you compare to something like the "The Killer Angels". Instead it is a more a good story set in the backdrop of historical events and at a certain period of history. You learn a bit about the history of the The Anarchy, but that is merely the setting. Some claim it is too romantic, and I have never found that to be the case. There is romance to be sure, but I am hardly a fan that genre and have never viewed it as the pervading theme. There are even those that claim the book lacks morality, either due to the violent depicted or the author's proclaimed lack of faith. I disagree. It was a violent age and depictions of it only underscore what was common then. As for the author’s faith, it doesn’t matter. Follett has given us a many moral and admirable figures (even as a non-Catholic, I wish I knew a clergyman as wise and devout as Prior Philip).
This is a story that anyone could relate to. True the characters are very clearly drawn for the most part. But is their struggles through life in what to us is a primitive period is what is compelling. It is historical fiction, but it also draws on our 20th-21st century sensibilities. There are brutal depictions of torture, violence and rape, but not for gratuitousness. It serves to show the fragility of life and hardships that those in that age had to endure. I can only imagine the hardships my own ancestors had to endure 900 years ago in order for me to be here today.
At its core, Pillars is about people and survival. The good. And the bad. They exist in any age. S
The author was obviously an intelligent man, and the book was well researched (though his knowledge of computer technology in the 70s is futuristic, which distracts from the story).
I did appreciate the insights into Japanese and Basque cultures.
But more often than not, I felt the author (why the one name, if not for ego?) was just using his characters to espouse his own opinions and political views. Moreover, the author seems more interested in showing how smart he is than in telling a good story.
In a work a of fiction, if you are thinking about the author while reading (or listening) about the characters, then that isn't a good sign. Check it out if you like. This book is not without merit on some levels, but it is hardly the "classic" that others seem to think it is.
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