At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.
To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?
If you were here a couple of months ago, you’ll remember I posted an enthusiastic review of “The Passage”, the fantastic first book in a trilogy written by the very talented author Justin Cronin. That novel told the story of a secret United States military program code-named “Project NOAH” – a biological weapons program attempting to genetically alter humans into what could only be described as a type of vampire. On paper, these super-humans would be under the full control of the military and would make ideal soldiers, virtually impossible to defeat. In reality, the test subjects are uncontrollable. Ultimately, under the leadership of a creature labeled Number Zero, they unleash an unstoppable attack, which spreads across the United States like an epidemic, earning all those infected with the name of “Virals.”
“Kittridge felt a stab of wonder, even of admiration. In school, he had learned that you couldn’t catch a fly with your hand because time was different to a fly: in a fly’s brain, a second was an hour, and an hour was a year. That’s what the infected were like. Like beings outside of time.” The Twelve, Chapter 4.
While reading “The Passage” it is revealed that in the initial stages of the deadly project, a dozen of these creatures were created as prototypes. The first book is told from the POV of those who escape and survive the initial attack of these particular Virals, and so I had high hopes that the sequel entitled “The Twelve” would give the reader an insight into the men who were unwittingly recruited and transformed into supernatural killing machines. To an extent this is true, but just as he did with “The Passage” Cronin has a deft ability to take the reader on a most unexpected journey with his imaginative narrative. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the author sends you down the least predictable pathways.
“All these people: they were trapped. And not merely by the wires that surrounded them. Physical barricades were nothing compared to the wires of the mind. What had truly imprisoned them was one another. Husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and companions: what they believed had given them strength in their lives had actually done the opposite.” The Twelve, Chapter 17.
I was particularly thrilled to learn that in the second book, Cronin not only takes the time to introduce and develop several new characters, he also goes on to explain what happened to some of the secondary characters seemingly left by the wayside in the first story. Not every author has the ability or the patience to do this successfully, but Cronin’s writing style is so effortless and enjoyable that every detail revealed is a treasured moment. As one begins to see the pieces of the bigger picture fall neatly into place, it’s impossible to deny the delightful mix of suspense and excitement that only an exceptional horror story can deliver.
“At the wheel of the Redbird, Danny Chayes was experiencing, for the first time in his life, an emotion that could only be described as a magnificent wholeness of self. It was as if he had lived all of his twenty-six years within an artificially narrow bandwidth of his potential personhood, only to have the scales fall abruptly from his eyes. Like the bus whose course he guided, Danny had been shot forward, propelled into a new state of being in which a range of contrary feelings, in all their distinctive contours, existed simultaneously in his mind. He was afraid, genuinely and soulfully afraid, and yet this fear was a source of not paralysis but power, a rich well of courage that seemed to rise and overflow within him.” The Twelve, Chapter 21.
The world set up in this trilogy is broad, involving many characters and spreading over several generations. In concept it can seem like an overwhelming amount of story for a reader to tackle, but I promise you this is a read well worth taking on. Cronin’s storytelling is highly engaging and emotional and his books are written in a natural and relatable way.
“Events can seem random while you’re living them, but when you look back, what do you see? A chain of coincidences? Plain old luck? Or something more? I’ll tell you what I see, Peter. A clear path. More than that. A true path. What are the chances these things would have just happened on their own? Each piece falling into place exactly when we needed it? There’s a power at work here, something beyond our understanding. You can call it what you like. It doesn’t need a name, because it knows yours, my friend.” The Twelve, Chapter 30.
My biggest disappointment with the end of “The Twelve” was the realization that I’ll be waiting another year or two for the third book of the “The Passage” trilogy to be released. In the meantime, I hope to find a friend or two and convince them to give this spectacular series a go. I really don’t want to wait alone.
In closing, I want to thank Tamie for giving me the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for these books. I also want to thank everyone that joined in on the discussion of “The Passage” after my very first review for Bookish Temptations. Reading has been a lifelong passion of mine, so if you’d like me to stop by again, I’d love to keep popping in here occasionally to review other novels.