A Review for ‘The Passage’ from 2011.
First, the bottom line:
- The Passage – A Book you really must read. One of the best post-apocalyptic novels (perhaps not Top 5 but definitely Top 25).
- World War Z – A good, fun book. Read it before watching the movie (July 2013) or after. It’s one of the most readable Post Apocalyptic Novels.
- The Twelve – A Book you must read if you’ve read The Passage and one which you shouldn’t read unless you’ve read The Passage.
This will review ’The Twelve’. I will add a review for World War Z later and perhaps even one for ‘I Am Legend’. Though they could have just renamed it ‘I Am Good but Way Overrated’.
Just a Note: I wasn’t going to publish this. But I’m hoping someone can get it to Justin Cronin and he can read it as brutal but honest feedback. I love The Passage and now the last book in the trilogy is the only hope to make the trilogy a modern classic.
The Twelve Review – Justin Cronin’s Masterpiece continues
This is how I felt about ‘The Passage’ -
If the remaining two books of the trilogy can keep the good parts of the first, and perhaps get rid of a few of the flaws, this trilogy has a chance at becoming a classic. The best vampire story since Dracula. It really does have that much potential – the story really is that good.
That feeling still stands.
However, the third book will now have to do a LOT of the heavy lifting. Because The Twelve fails to meet the very high bar set by The Passage. To be quite honest, if you were to remove ‘The Passage’ from the equation, then The Twelve is just a very good and slightly disjointed book – not even approaching greatness. Whereas, The Passage was just bursting with amazingness.
Good things about The Twelve -
- You get to meet some amazing characters from The Passage again. There are some very satisfying details filled in.
- There are some very, very well-written parts. The Twelve is worth reading for the language alone.
- There are some storylines that are really, really good.
- Some of the characters are fascinating. While a few are too flat, the details that emerge about Amy, Alicia, Lila, etc. are really, really good and very well constructed.
- The religious references and the beginning section are very well worked.
- The Field section (almost a short story in itself) is superbly done.
- It progresses the story. It also sets up the third book in the trilogy, The City of Mirrors, very very well.
You might wonder how a book that has great writing, some very good storylines, some great characters, and which does a good job of bridging the gap from the first book in the series to the concluding book of the Trilogy can mess up.
Well, it can. It does. Spectacularly.
Not so Good Things about The Twelve -
- The ‘Journey’ aspect is missing. If you look at The Passage, or any other book with a really good journey (LOTR for example), you become a part of it. You take the journey with the protagonists. In ‘The Twelve’ Justin Cronin makes it a bit too much about some of the destinations (if that makes any sense).
- Too Convenient of an Ending. You’ll understand once you’ve read the book. It’s just too convenient. Someone at Good Reads wrote that the coming together of the various storylines in The Passage was genius and that wasn’t the case in The Twelve. It’s very true. It was all too convenient and contrived.
- Some of the characters are just weak – Peter Jaxon comes across as really bland, Director Guilder is also boring. As opposed to The Passage where 80% of the characters were fascinating, in The Twelve only 50% of the characters are interesting and relatable.
- There’s way too much of an attempt to humanize the Virals (The Vampires). Also, there’s way too much of dream-trance stuff. There are entire chapters that seem like they were written in an Opium Den in Hong Kong.
- The way some threads are brought together in the last 3rd of the novel is sad. There’s no other word for it. It turns from Walking Dead written in beautiful words (and with multiple elaborate storylines, no less) to ‘Happily Ever After’ YA type stuff. Justin Cronin doesn’t even kill enough people at the end. How disappointing – it starts off like Apocalypse Now and kills off the most relatable characters helter-skelter. Then it turns into some sort of PG-13 rated movie where the only person who dies is some innocent bystander.
Basically, two things stood out for me -
The way The Passage was written it needed another 3 to 5 books to finish things properly. The Twelve attempts to do the job that 3 books were needed for. The net result is that in places the story jumps ahead at a painfully unfulfilling rate. We have storylines coming together so fast it becomes contrived. There’s way too much serendipity.
The Twelve attempts to progress too many storylines, without one being the main story arc. In ‘The Passage’ we had, quite literally, the passage to safety. A journey by a group of survivors. The Journey was the focus and all the storylines could be tied together to it. In ‘The Twelve’ it seems everyone is lost – either because Justin Cronin couldn’t figure out how to make one journey the main theme, or because he decided to sacrifice The Twelve to set up ‘The City of Mirrors’ spectacularly.
My guess would be that either someone new and very inexperienced did the editing for The Twelve, or the editor was the same but was now afraid to point out that the latter part of the book kinda sucks.
So you can review it two ways:
- The Twelve as the bridging book between The Passage and The City of Mirrors. It’s a 4.25 to 4.5 stars book there.
- The Twelve as a book in itself, on its own virtues. It’s just 3.5 stars there.
I’d be a lot less disappointed if The Passage hadn’t been so amazingly good. If the second half of The Twelve was as brutal as the first half. If the characters weren’t so lovey-dovey and washed up in trances and love of all sorts. Everyone loves everyone so much in the second half of the book you might get diabetes from all the sweetness. Daddy. Mummy. My Love. My Wife. My Husband. My Son. My Daughter. My Comrade in Arms. It just goes on and on. The second half is pretty much a Romance Novel with some vampires thrown in. I was half expecting the Brady Bunch to show up and cook everyone dinner in the middle of the most amazingly serendipitous post-apocalyptic novel ever.
That’s the downside of writing something as amazing as The Passage. You’re probably not going to be able to match it. But it sure could have been a better attempt than The Twelve.
Mr. Cronin – Please read The Passage. That’s the bar. It’s a trilogy. You have one shot to cement this as a Trilogy that stands the test of time. The story is more important than the message you’d like to send through the book. The story deserves utter loyalty. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t write an amazingly good book with a true powerful story, while also injecting some way–too-sweet message of love and hope into the story so blatantly. The story has to do it, not you. The story is enough.
Please Note: I still LOVE The Passage and hope City of Mirrors will be as good or better. I waited 2 weeks hoping I’d be less bitter about all the ‘Let’s make it a lovey dovey super contrived YA novel’ aspects of the second half of The Twelve. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointing book compared to The Passage. Please Mr. Cronin, we’re all addicted to the level of story-telling and writing skill you displayed in The Passage. Please don’t let us down.