Sunday, 11 January 2015

Book #3 The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Twelve

I've had The Twelve on my Kindle for about 3 years without reading it. It's the follow up to dystopia The Passage, a trilogy which is due to conclude this year with City Of Mirrors. I've had several abortive attempts at reading The Twelve, in part because I wasn't grabbed by the opening, and because I was struggling to remember where The Passage left off.

I don't quite know how I missed the section at the start of the book, written in biblical style, summarising events up to this point, but I did. Finding it this time made the book easier to get going with, using Wikipedia really helped too. I guess that's what happens when you leave a three year gap between installments.  

Following the end of The Passage our main group of heroes have gone their separate ways, some are missing presumed dead, some are actually dead, and Alicia, for one, has become a creature unto herself neither human nor viral.

After what they learned pursuing Babcock in The Passage, Amy, Peter and co now know that to solve the viral crisis, they must kill The Twelve originators of the plague thereby killing all the virals they individually sired.

Whilst The Passage was an unnerving and bleak novel with a lot of prologue involved, The Twelve is more dramatic set piece after dramatic set piece, action sequences with a clear view to the film adaptation which has been optioned by Ridley Scott.  The cage fighting sequence, the convoy ambush, the stadium, the school bus etc. As such it loses much of its reflection upon the changes in the world.

The flashback to just after the virus broke as we meet Bernard Kittridge 'The Last Stand In Denver' is all really great stuff which ends somewhat prematurely. Other things entirely miss the mark. Lila is a terrible character and the hunt for the Twelve becomes ridiculously over simplified were previously it had much potential for a variety of target take down scenarios.

Given that the entire nation has become literally overrun with these things, at one point they are said to number in their millions; it seems odd then, both that human colonies seem to survive in such large numbers or indeed that 100 years later any are left at all.

There were two things I really actually detested about The Twelve. A lengthy segment ensues in which one of the main characters is trapped in The Homeland - an established colony run by a panto villain named Guilder. Instead of inventing conditions in this oppressive colony Cronin merely borrows from the Holocaust. Inmates have barracks and are starving, they have numbers burned into their arms, they have their heads shaved. Instead of feeling like a subtle allegory, the comparison is like a sledgehammer. To do this felt grotesque to the point of offensive to me.

It also has multiple allusions to rape and rape sequences, which I think many readers would find disturbing.

However, I did manage to read this book, in the end, in two large gulps, it does sort of gallop along with haste in a way that makes it occupy your attention, and ultimately these books are quite long over 500 pages each, so having devoted over 1,000 pages of my attention to this saga, it just wouldn't make sense not to read its conclusion.

I have recently said though, that I wish the publishing world would take note of the fact that pandemic dystopias have somewhat reached saturation point now, and act accordingly. I have certainly reached a 'not another one' malais when seeking out new reading materials, and finishing this trilogy will certainly mark my taking a well earned break from them.


2015 Challenge : A book with a number in the title.

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