Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Twelve – review

Author: Justin Cronin

First published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The blurb: It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Infecting twelve death row prisoners with an ancient virus, in order to create human weapons. Instead the virus turned them into ravening, unstoppable monsters. And when the twelve broke out of the underground facility where they had been born, all hell was truly unleashed.

In a world now ravaged by the viral plague, humanity is reduced to stubborn pockets of resistance. But if the human race is to have a future, survival is not enough. Against terrifying odds, they must hunt down the Twelve and destroy them in their lairs.

But something is wrong. The virals’ behaviour is inexplicably changing. And all the clues point towards the Homeland, a sinister dictatorship where an unlikely trio are re-imagining humanity’s destiny: Horace Guilder, a veteran of the original experiment with a blood-curdling vision of immortality; a mysterious woman whose tragic past has driven her into a world of fantasy; and Lawrence Grey, a man whose hunger for intimacy has been fulfilled in the most gruesome way imaginable.

And then there is Amy. The girl from nowhere. Once the thirteenth test subject, and now the only human who can fathom the Homeland’s secret and truly enter the hive mind of the Twelve.

But what she finds there may spell the end of everything.

The review: Whilst not quite as leviathan in length as the Passage, The Twelve is still a weighty tome that, upon arrival, jumped ahead of everything else in my (equally leviathan) ‘to read’ pile because the first book was just that good.

After a pre-amble that takes place in the main story timeframe, this volume jumps back, at the head of the book, to the outbreak and we meet some characters from the first book in a little more depth as well as a whole bunch of new characters. This may have been annoying in the fact that, as we know that the main story is set almost 100 years on, we are meeting characters that will be dead come the main story. However, firstly that is not entirely true and, secondly, the writing is just so good that we fall into the struggles of these characters.

I say that is not entirely true as we begin to realise that, as well as Amy who did not take on a monstrous new physiology post infection, the Twelve have infected helpers (I am almost tempted to say Renfields though the term is not used) who maintain human form and that the virus, filtered through these beings, can infect others without turning them into the standard monster form virals. In the fascistic Homeland these are called red-eyes (due to the change the virus affected upon the eyes) and are the social elite, where the flatlanders (ordinary humans) are no more than slaves. We discover that the red-eyes in the Homeland lose all interest in sex but that might be because their source had been chemically castrated as a human.

A sojourn to a little before the main story’s timeframe, to the massacre at The Field – in Texas – which introduces us to further characters that will now enter the stage of the main story and then we are back to the struggle proper, 5 years after the events in the Passage and centred around the main surviving characters from book 1.

There is a little bit of new lore, beyond the red-eyes, but first I mentioned a traditional piece of lore used in the review of the first book that was a spoiler too far for that review. Assuming you have read the Passage now I will list that lore as the mirror lore and the fact that a viral is stopped in its tracks by holding a mirror before it and letting it see what it has become (and remind it of what it was). This occurs the once and that is pointed out in this book as they are unsure as to whether it would work as a ploy again. I mention it because it ties in with main character Peter holding the gaze of a viral and actually realising who she once was as she calms as her gaze is held. Telepathy has played a part in this series but this seemed to be tied into the idea that the eyes are a window to the soul.

Again a rip-roaring read. 9 out of 10.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

No comments: