Review: The Twelve/ Lessons from Justin Cronin

Title: The Twelve
Author: Justin Cronin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: January 2012
Genre(s): horror, sci-fi, apocalyptic
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):  


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?

Here I find myself yet again re-reading a long-ass book in order to FINALLY finish a trilogy that Justin Cronin took 4 years to complete (see my The Passage re-review). And once again, I feel more critical of the book after re-reading/ revisiting Cronin's world. And thusly, I feel like I've learned a few things, 7 things really, from re-reading a series in preparation for the next long-awaited addition to this, or any, series.

7 Things Justin Cronin Taught Me Whenst Re-Reading The Twelve

1. Whilst re-reading The Twelve I was reminded, often, of death. Not just characters in the story, but in our world. As in, some famous writers DIED BEFORE THEY FINISHED THEIR EXCESSIVELY LONG SERIES. To wit: Robert Jordan died with the finale to his epic fantasy series partially written. Brandon Sanderson took up the gauntlet, and with the help of Jordan's widow HAD TO MAKE THE FINAL BOOK INTO 3 PARTS leaving it as a 14 book series, each roughly 1000 pages. George R.R. Martin will NEVER survive his apparent writer's block; he's WAY old and blogs way too much about American football. What if Cronin had a [knock on wood]* horrible accident using a wood-chopper that mangled his hands, and consequently his mind, to such an extent that we would never have a conclusion to The Passage trilogy? Why take such unnecessary risks? 
Lesson: Don't start reading ANY unfinished series ever again as long as I live.

* knocking on wood for this NOT to happen. 

2. Always use bad guys when experimenting on humans to find the cure for disease/ death. Because when they inevitably turn into super-humans/ virals/ vampires/ familiars (?) you don't feel as bad trying to kill them to death. (Don't try to correct my grammar; it's just redundant.)
Lesson: Only experiment on people who really deserve it.

Would anyone lose sleep over these two getting dusted?

3. If you're messed in the head as a mortal, immortality, or anything close to it, may exacerbate the situation.
Lesson: Making memes from crazy vampires is the best case scenario.

4. [Mini-spoiler] The war veteran character Bernard Kittridge was a nice touch; juxtaposing the evils of war that he had seen and partaken in, and the consequent suicide-bomber repeating. "Anta al-mas' il" before the explosion that took Kittridge's leg. Translation: "You did this."
Lesson: if you shit the bed, you get to lie in it.

Can't we just change the sheets?

5. Numerous references to the character Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol, specifically the quote: He wore the chains he forged in life. Cronin even italicizes it for you just in case your highlighter was all dried-up. One character in particular keeps revisiting this sad Dickens ghost, but it could apply to many a character in The Twelve needing to atone for their crimes.
Lesson: If you sin, God will make you re-read The Passage series for all eternity.

What happened to saying the rosary 50 times?

5. As Americans, specifically the residents of Florida, have proven time and time again, ANY wild animal [or in this case, viral] can make a good pet. It's the OWNER of the alligator/ tiger/ wolf/ rabid dog that makes them behave or misbehave/ eat people. Also, they can't be startled. And don't make eye contact. Or smell like prey.
Lesson: Can't we put our fangs away and just realize that we're all just people trying to make sense of a senseless apocalypse?

I just need a little TLC!

6. I first discovered my love for multiple narratives when reading Ernie Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. I mean, sure, the first half of the book feels like light torture; you're constantly asking E.H. "why are you telling me about this seemingly random person?"  Until you hit a point of the book where all the dominoes start to fall into place and you can't put the book down. I remembered the dominoes connecting in The Twelve a LOT sooner than they do. The reader feels like prisoner Lucius Greer:
His heart was full of a feeling of events set in motion, circles closing, a destiny unveiled. All his life, it seemed, he had been anticipating this moment.
"Something's happening, isn't it?"
Amy nodded evenly. "I believe it is."
"I've prayed on it. I've prayed on you."
Amy nodded. "We will have to move quickly" (p. 295)
When you read these words, you think, "oooookay! Shit is getting REAL now!" But it doesn't. Get real. Because there are just SO MANY characters that stuff is happening to, it S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S the narrative to 568 pages where 90% is the building of anticipation.
Lesson: Sometimes you just need to cut to the chase.

Too soon?

7. Justin Cronin is not Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King. And that's okay! I feel like I've been kind of shitting on this book a bit, and I don't mean to! It's just disappointing to REMEMBER it as 5 star book and then re-read it into 4 stars (or lower!). When King is in "the zone" I don't mind just reading for reading's sake. This may sound wacky to some, but there are certain books where you just enjoy the ride, and don't notice that you've been reading for 4 hours. I really like the characters in The Twelve and feel a modicum of investment in their plot-lines, but I did feel impatient for SOMETHING to happen sooner than it did.

Lesson: Never trust your younger selves: they were stupid and naive. Just like all young people.

Okay, I give! Just go. Did you do it, yet? ... How about now? No?

I'm going to leave it at 7 lessons instead of stretching this into 12 (which was my initial plan) and beating this Sod to death. (HAHA! The Twelve inside joke!)

Let's raise a toast to Cronin for a good sophmore effort! And here's to City of Mirrors being awesome and redeeming.
How have I not seen this movie??*

Thanks for reading! 
(Dibs out on explaining what a meme is to my mom.)

~ Spinning Jenny

* Vampire's Kiss (1988) staring Nicholas Cage.
"After an encounter with a neck-biter, a publishing executive thinks that he's turning into a vampire."

No comments:

Post a Comment