The Passage and The Twelve are the first two books of a planned trilogy by Justin Cronin, a prior winner of the Hemingway/PEN, Whiting, and Stephen Crane awards. The third book of the trilogy has yet to appear, but has been variously announced for late 2014 or sometime in 2015.
I can’t remember who first recommended The Passage to me, and it took quite awhile – more than a year, I think – before I finally began to read it, but once I did, I was immediately sucked (yes, sucked) into the apocalyptic world and multilayered story created by Cronin.
Let me begin by saying that, if you think you’ve had enough of vampire stories in recent years, you probably haven’t read The Passage and The Twelve. The plot has nothing to do with Transylvanian castles, swooning maidens with fang bites to the neck, the need for native soil, or lush romantic views of New Orleans. No, this is something completely different.
What Cronin has concocted is a nightmare of Frankensteinian proportions in which, in the military’s attempt to create a race of disease-resistant, superhuman warriors, things go wrong, the monsters becoming more than anyone could have anticipated. Grossly physically altered humans, vampiric in their need for blood and indiscriminate in the swath of destruction they create while killing or “taking up” most of the rest of humanity, the world, or at least, what we are shown of the United States, is completely devastated. Except (of course), for some hardy survivors. And thus the stage is set for a quest as a band of brave survivors sets out to try to destroy the rapacious predators that humans have created.
Okay, now, I get it. You’re thinking, I really don’t need this. It sounds just awful. But the truth is, it isn’t. It’s terrific, with minutely detailed character descriptions and an emphasis upon what it is to be human, to be connected to others, to have a common purpose, and to pursue it with great dedication. This is a book not really about monsters. It is about people and about purpose and love. At almost 800 pages, it is also very long, and it ends with the setup for the second book, The Twelve.
If the first book concludes with the heroes’ mission still in its early phase, the second book takes us much farther along and into the lives of survivors not acknowledged in The Passage. It is a world in which those who could rise within the vacuum to seize power and abuse it have clearly done so, and it is up to our band of friends both to liberate those oppressed by humans as well as to chase after the monsters. At its conclusion, we are prepared for the not yet released final book of the trilogy, City of Mirrors, in which the ultimate battle will surely take place.
In this review, I’ve purposely not described any of the characters in the stories, for to do so would greatly diminish the pleasure the reader will have upon meeting such completely delineated individuals. Beyond that, to describe or even hint at what happens to several of them would give away much of what makes the saga so interesting since, again, the two books are far more about the people than about the (shudder) vampiric creatures.
Upon finishing The Twelve, I was disappointed over the delay in appearance of City of Mirrors. I can assure you, however, that I’ll be reading it as soon as it’s released.
Assessment: Highly recommended
Reminder: Don’t forget my two books: Zendoscopy and Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe, both available online in softcover and e-book (Kindle) format.