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The Twelve, Justin Cronin


I meant to re-read “The Passage” before jumping into this one — after all, it has been a couple of years — but there was a waiting list, and once I picked up “The Twelve,” I didn’t put it down for the rest of the afternoon, reading with an engrossment only recently rivaled by my first reading of the Harry Potter series.

The prologue begins with a fascinating excerpt from the Third Global Conference on the North American Quarantine Period, which was also used as a frame for the previous book. This novel jumps between at least three different time periods, Year Zero, 79 AV, and 97 AV, some of which overlap the time periods that were covered in book one. Some of the cast of characters will be familiar, including the twelve virals, Amy, Peter, Alicia, Hollis, and Sara; though as I was reading, I had only a vague recollection of who was featured before. In Year Zero, a pregnant doctor has gone into shock and denial after witnessing the death of nine people by an infected patient; carrying on a facade of her daily life, she encounters Lawrence Grey, one of the janitors from Project Noah, and casts him as a Home Depot painter. Meanwhile, a sniper in Denver meets up with other survivors during the last big push before the failure of the quarantine line. In 79 AV, a group of agricultural workers and their families are dually attacked by humans aiding virals during an eclipse. And in present 97 AV, Amy emerges from the convent where she has been hiding, and begins to take actions that will converge at a commune in Iowa led by a former director of the department which oversaw Project Noah.

This book can be read without revisiting the first, though picking up “The Passage” will clarify much of what is happening. Some will probably be disappointed by the lack of action and focus on the remaining virals, especially since so much time was spent following Babcock and Carter in the first book. This book is noticeably shorter than “The Passage,” but a lot of ground is covered, and I’m curious to see what is left in the third book. Similar to Brunner’s dystopian novels, I really enjoy the wide cast of characters and the eventual intertwining of people and events, despite some initial confusion during first readings; the religious and political implications are also fascinating to see as they play out over time.

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