The Twelve by Justin Cronin: A Gripping and Masterful Sequel Done Right


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Conventional book wisdom would have readers believe two things: 1) The book is always better than the movie, and 2) A sequel cannot be better than the book from which it stems. Obviously, there are some exceptions, but adages like these don’t develop from thin air–they’re based in something, whether it’s hundreds of anecdotes or thousands of online ratings. It often feels edgy to say that a sequel is better–and, most times, this simply isn’t the case. Once the novelty of a new world wears off, the difficulty of sustaining reader interest intensifies substantially, and many writers resort to gimmicks and cheap tricks to warrant revisiting a story’s characters again. Every so often, though, a sequel comes along that not only enhances enjoyment of the first book, but improves upon the flaws from the first story in nearly every conceivable way. The Twelve by Justin Cronin is one such tome– it masterfully continues the story where The Passage left off, hooking readers with its nonlinear narrative and indelible characters, and it does so in a much shorter timeframe. The Twelve is 200 pages thinner than its predecessor, forcing the story to move at a breakneck pace that whips readers along for the ride. Not a second is wasted, and every narrative move pays dividends by the story’s end. Everything that made the first book so memorable is still present and in the forefront–it’s just better on this second go around. Continue reading

The Passage by Justin Cronin: A Sprawling, Apocalyptic Thriller that Makes Vampires Cool Again


If you watch cable television these days, it’s a safe bet that you’ve seen an ad for a FOX show called The Passage, a drama starring Mark-Paul Gosselear, Henry Ian Cusick, and up-and-coming actress Saniyya Sidney. FOX’s marketing campaign was extensive, with ads beginning in the weeks leading up to the premiere and showcasing scenes of intense gunfights and fiery explosions.  The Passage seems all but destined to be a moneymaker for the network; it contains all the elements of compelling TV: pretty people, intense action, and evil monsters trying to destroy them all.

For those uninformed, The Passage is based on a series of books from author Justin Cronin, the first of them being the book from which the TV show takes its name. It first came across my radar in 2012, when I saw it on’s list of The 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium. I’ve just finished my second reading of the novel, and let me tell you–it more than lives up to that billing. The Passage reclaims vampires for the horror genre, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Surprisingly literary, the true horror comes less from the blood and guts and more from the characters’ constant struggle for survival in a ruined world. The Passage takes readers around an unrecognizable United States, meandering at times but ultimately reaching its destination in climactic fashion; it more than sets the table for the rest of the series, but it’s also strong enough to stand alone. Think Dracula meets The Stand, but with better writing. Sign me up.  Continue reading