So we come to the second blood soaked, post-apocalyptic zombie-fest in Cronin's trilogy. Part Two has attracted it's fair share of disappointed reviewers but I, for one found The Twelve to be a rip-roaring page turner; beautifully written, exciting, gripping and largely satisfying - a worthy follow-up to The Passage
The story continues, briefly, more or less where it left off, with our heroes holed up in a Texas community of plague survivors. It then jumps back some 100 years to Day Zero when the vampire plague first struck and adds a whole new layer of back-story and fresh characters. We then jump forward in time to about 80AV and then again to 100AV to pick the main thread of the story back up again. I can sympathise with some of the objections - there is a whole host of new characters and some of the old ones have disappeared without trace, so quite a lot of water has gone under ther bridge (or should that be blood under the bridge?) since Part 1 ended. Along with the jittery timeline, this makes The Twelve is a pretty confusing read to begin with and even towards the end I was having to skip to the Dramatis Personae to remind myself about who was who, who was where and who was when.
Nevertheless, as I've mentioned, I couldn't put this book down and enjoyed it from first to last. Cronin writes beautifully - this is no amateur "You know what? I think I'll write a vampire novel!" affair. His descriptive passages are elegant and dreamy and his characters (when you can keep up with their identities) are nicely fleshed out. He doesn't stint on the tension or action and the story is enjoyable, gripping and compelling. I guess if I was to criticise, I would point to the deus ex machina that drop by to help our heroes out of trouble (a get-out that Mr C used somewhat liberally in The Passage). It's also fair to say that the apocalyptic demnouement in the football stadium is, how can I say this? a bit of a Hollywood action flick sequence, overblown and rather breathlessly written.
I was rather taken, however, by the way Cronin avoided the James Bond evil genius cliché by making the baddie (Horace Guilder) less of an evil genius and more of a bureaucratic despot and Guilder's Babylon less of a city of the d@mned and more of a city of god-d@mned civil servants. My guess is that when society does disintegrate, the survivors won't be ruled over by the traditional post-apocalyptic little H!tlers - it will be the public servants who flourish (along with the telephone sanitation engineers and advertising executives
I for one and happy to award this five stars. It's a great story and I can't wait for Part Three.