Review: The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Artwork by Shane-01
I got The Passage for my birthday, and since it was a rather fat book, I put off reading it. But once I decided to start it, I just couldn’t put it down, and then I had to find the next book in the series. When Wench Donna asked us to share our favorite book discovery for our recent anniversary post, I realized I had never told you how much I liked these books.

The Passage is the first in a dark, apocalyptic trilogy being written by Justin Cronin. The second book, The Twelve, was published last October, and the third book is expected next year. These books tell about the spread of a mysterious virus that causes people to become a sort of vampire. People who turn into “virals” lose their memory and identity; they are constantly asking over and over again in their minds, WHO AM I, WHO AM I, WHO AM I, WHO AM I, WHO AM I.

These books have been a treat for me, a new spin on an old theme. After the jump, I’ll tell you why.

Short synopsis of...

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about the story in each book.

The Passage

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

The Twelve

At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

My impressions of...

The world Cronin creates in The Passage is dark and often seems hopeless. It’s full of dread and melancholy. He gives you hope in Amy, it’s not much but it’s enough. We see the human spirit trying to do what seems impossible. He gives you a group of different people with varied problems trying to work, fight, and live together. You hate some of them, the others you love. Some characters you love die, and others you hate live. So when the book ends, you are left sitting with the book in your lap thinking, “Where’s my laptop?? I have to see when the sequel comes out!!!”

Well, The Passage leaves you wanting more. I really have no way of explaining this if you haven’t read it. You want to know what happens to Amy. You really get involved in all these characters, their lives and choices. I was really shocked and surprised by some things that happen at the end of the first book. There are so many questions and cliff-hangers that made me count the days to the sequel. Who are The Twelve and how were they chosen? Is there any hope for future? What about the group?

I was so impatient to get the second book that I went four days in a row to my local bookstore. The guy at the information desk already knew me! After finally getting my grabby hands on my own copy, I consumed it in just a few days, and then I read it again.

The Twelve is darker that the first book. It takes you in the heads of the mysterious, original Twelve virals, and you find out how the apocalypse happened. You see what happened to the group and how they got to this point in their lives. You see Amy’s story evolve and culminate. I had many questions answered, but got new ones to take their place.

The story is well written, and the main characters are multi-layered and sympathetic. Cronin does a fine job making the characters approachable, and you end up genuinely liking them and feeling concern for their fate. Furthermore, I loved his “vampires” and how they came to be. He gives you a new spin on the popular vampirism plot, and that’s refreshing. In addition, in The Passage, there’s a constant evil presence you can feel throughout the book that just adds to the thrill of reading it. By the time you read The Twelve, you are able to face that presence and not fear it anymore.

I have to point out that even though I loved the story so far, Cronin sometimes gets carried away with describing some minor characters or actions and later forgets about them. There could have been more meaningful dialogue between characters, and not just their inner debates on situations.

All in all, my final impression is that I can’t wait for the third book. Yes, The Passage was a bit better than The Twelve. I’m a big fan of science fiction, post-apocalyptic, dystopian storytelling, but some people might think of reading these books as a daunting task, and if you don’t have experience with this kind of story you might not like it at first. I don’t know if it really had to be a trilogy, but we’ll see where Cronin plans to take the story. I reserve my final judgment after the third book, The City of Mirrors, comes out next year. For now, I REALLY LIKE these books.

This Wench rated them...

The Passage

The Twelve


  1. I'm glad you wrote about these, Vale. I haven't had anyone to talk to about them! I read them both when they came out, and I had to reread the first book before starting the second. He's a very good writer, and tells a great story, though I was a little disappointed in the second book. Really looking forward to seeing what happens next, though I'm pretty sure I'll have to read them again to remember exactly where everything and everyone left off. There are a lot of characters and details to track, but worth the effort if you enjoy post-apocalyptic, scary stuff!! I am very surprised there hasn't been a movie yet.

    1. I know when I first read The Passage there was a rumor going on (online) that there will be a movie. I hope it's true. ;)

  2. This book is so much better than the first novel in the trilogy, "The Passage". First of all it's much less confusing. That said, be advised that in the Kindle version there's a handy timeline at the end of the book which I wish I had discovered sooner. This timeline includes character names, places and dates and is extremely helpful. Secondly, the books seems to move more fluidly in spite of timeline changes. It's quite easy to become more invested in the characters as they are much more engaging than in the first novel. Lastly, the story comes to a satisfying conclusion that still leaves the reader wanting for more.

  3. Justin Cronin has created a really solid post-apocalypse world. The characters are multi-level, flawed and interesting. Lots of characters but great development of relationships and lack of redundancy helps to keep them all straight. I got really engaged with these characters and their story. Can't wait for the last installment!


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