Monday, December 10, 2012

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

My selection process for audio books lacks rigor. Years of listening have exhausted the public library's selections that are within my areas of interest such that selecting a new book can mean twenty minutes or more of scanning the shelves. One shortcut is to look for shiny new boxes. Justin Cronin's The Twelve (2012) was one such new box and when I saw the phrase "post apocalyptic" in the plot summary it sealed the deal.

Unfortunately, with a bit more research I would've found out that The Twelve is part 2 of Cronin's three-part Passage series that began with The Passage (2010). The final installment, The City of Mirrors, appears to be due for publication in 2014. I was already well into the book before learning any of this so I pressed on.

Somehow I found myself in another zombie-like tale. However, unlike the lifeless World War Z, Cronin's tale is a bit more interesting. First, the protagonists are not simply undead - they are nearly immortal vampire-ish creatures. Second, they're not the result of some natural phenomenon but rather a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Third, unlike your average mindless zombie, Cronin's "dracs" have an extra-sensory or metaphysical side to them.

The Twelve is set about a century after the event that unleashed the drac hordes on the U.S. populace nearly wiping out humanity except for small but highly fortified communities like Kerrville, Texas (a town just northwest of San Antonio, about a 5-hour drive from where I am now). As most people go about their lives and try to rebuild the country a few are focused on trying to destroy the dracs. More importantly, they want to kill the dozen original infected persons (i.e. the twelve) who are psychically tied to the dracs.

I had a little bit of a problem following the early part of the book because Cronin tends to toss in a little backstory that's out of context and at one point I thought he was looking back from even farther in the future. There are quite a few characters to keep track of which made it even harder to keep up with what's going on. And the way the plot is structured, it's actually two stories in one - or at least a Part A and Part B - and the two are virtually independent. There's also a strong Christian undertone that peeks through at various stages of the story and I can't tell whether Cronin's overtly trying to make this a morality play or whether it's just a plot device.

Overall I found The Twelve to be enjoyable enough to queue up The Passage for my next audiobook. I think it's on par with another modern thriller trilogy (thrilogy?) - John Birmingham's Without Warning series. But at 29 CDs it may take a while to get through The Passage.

The Twelve was voted by Goodreads' users as the top book of 2012 in the horror fiction category. (I guess I don't know what horror is.)

You can read more about Justin Cronin's The Passage Trilogy at There is also a companion teaser site at

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

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