book two of The Passage trilogy:
I don’t have a lot to say about the second book of The Passage trilogy, mostly because The Twelve has a bad case of middle book-itis. It begins in faux bible verse, relating all the events of the first book up to that jarring cliffhanger. Then it goes back in time to introduce more characters, taking some of them on a mythic journey, and let us know what happened to some minor ones who had disappeared somewhere in the first book. Then it goes forward in time to introduce some more characters, some of whom appeared briefly in the first book and some of whom Cronin comes back to later in The Twelve. Then of course, the author skips back in time to flesh out the characters he has just introduced in the – which timeline are we in?
Got whiplash yet? Cronin’s character stories are entertaining for the most part, but they hold the book together like dough with not enough liquid until suddenly he pours us into five years after the cliffhanger and sticks with it for a while. I’m not sure why he goes back and forth like that, and I had a difficult time keeping track of who is who is descended from this person and oh yeah this is the one who did that and died/killed/lost someone somewhere in the timeline.
Hints here and there of a supernatural element pop up, and there is a lot of coincidental action. After nearly every human in the country are killed by a vampire or become a vampire, six degree separation characters keep bumping into one another in the vast empty reaches of the wasted country. Uh huh. This could be a matter of Cronin not having a tighter rein on the timeline, but mostly it felt contrived.
The reader learns a lot more time about the bad guys in The Twelve. We find out that these sociopathic rapists and killers are, well, not very nice people, so we should hate them even more than we already do for cruelly killing almost everyone. The actual stories are interesting and well told, but I’m not sure there was much reason for them, same as the stories looking more deeply into the up till now mysterious military side of the manmade apocalypse.
Finally we are rewarded with Cronin picking a spot and moving the story toward a destination, involving solving the mystery of the cliffhanger and building toward an enormous, violent finale. On the way there we learn more and more about the state of the world after the end and it is mostly bleak. For a hundred years people have huddled together behind walls, whittling down the remnants of the old world into gassy, wheezy engines on ancient tires hauling salt water polluted oil. There is no poetry or sport or industry, no beauty or prospects for the future except in small, quiet spots inside the walls and the occasional small victory over the virals outside of them. As in the first book, Cronin interjects modern objects into the story without considering the fact that these characters would have no idea what they are. Someone sees a swimming pool overflowing with a hundred years of missed maintenance, and knows it’s a swimming pool, then walks up a rusted escalator. People haven’t had nice things for a hundred years. So far as he would know, that’s just a smelly rectangular mess and a too-tall stair with a spikey edge on the risers.
Here’s hoping the third book will get to it and make me forget the twisty, confusing and coincidental nature of the middle. If you don’t mind questionably unneeded but well told stories and anachronistic knowledge, then you will have an easier time reading The Twelve than I did.
CFR: In Addition: You can read Mildred’s review of the first book in this series, The Passage, here.