The Twelve - Justin Cronin This review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum.

The Twelve is the follow-up to The Passage and the second novel of what is a planned trilogy. In the first book, we saw the world before and after it was ravaged by a viral plague that turns its infected victims into vampire-like creatures. This sequel continues the saga, further chronicling our group of main characters in the post-apocalyptic future, as well as filling in the events of the past leading up to the outbreak.

Plot-wise, our group of survivors in the future -- Alicia, Peter, Michael, Sarah, etc. and of course, the all important and influential Amy -- take action to fight back against the virals and their collaborators, and even aim to take down the twelve original infected plague-bearers from the government experiments performed before the world fell (hence, the title). That's the main story of this series, which I found enjoyable enough, but it wasn't what I liked best.

Actually, even now I am surprised that I like this book as much as I do, given my tepid response to its predecessor and especially considering that The Twelve was written in much the same format and style. Though many of the characters in the first book return for the sequel, a few have perished and a handful more are also added. And not surprisingly, Justin Cronin continues to exhibit his long-windedness by insisting on writing back stories for pretty much every single one of them.

While I'm usually one to welcome any and all forms of character development including back stories or other devices authors use to flesh out their characters, I recall that Cronin's way bothered me greatly in The Passage. The book wasn't what I expected; thinking I was going to get a good old-fashioned apocalyptic story, instead I was bogged down by chapters full of flashbacks and found myself wondering when we'll actually get to the part with the end of the world. I was several hundred pages deep already before it finally happened, and the worst part was, when it came it wasn't even all that great or exciting.

That brings me to what I liked best about The Twelve. Yes, Cronin is still as verbose as ever, but the first part of the book and its focus on the early days of the plague and the downfall of the country was exactly what I wanted from The Passage, and which it didn't deliver. It was good to see some of that covered in the second book, even if it wasn't nearly as much as I'd hoped for. Still, it was something, and it filled in many of the missing pieces.

I am also seeing how all the characters are coming together, their connections and relationships like loose threads finally being tied up. This actually made me feel a lot better about this series, since another one of my frustrations with the first book was how I would get emotionally invested in someone (while irritating at times, those lengthy back stories have a tendency to do that to me) only to see them die or have the story change perspectives or skip ahead in time. Often, this made me feel cheated and almost punished for caring about a character. After all, why spend all that time writing about them, just to kill them off and never return to them again?

Well, The Twelve showed that this wasn't always the case. Some of the characters I never expected to see again from The Passage make an appearance, proving Cronin still has plans for them yet. That went a long way in mollifying me and assuring me that I didn't waste my time, and also gives me hope that the third book will continue this trend in weaving all these seemingly random characters together. After this book, I'm starting to get an inkling of just how big the web is.

Only read this book if you've read the first one already, as this doesn't appear to be a story with a real beginning or end, all its parts seeming more like puzzle pieces coming together to form one overarching, comprehensive epic.