cover image The Twelve

The Twelve

Justin Cronin. Ballantine, $28 (592p) ISBN 978-0-345-50498-2

Bestseller Cronin%E2%80%99s bloated apocalyptic thriller, like many a trilogy%E2%80%99s middle book, falls short of the high standard set by its predecessor, 2010%E2%80%99s The Passage. The struggle for survival between humanity%E2%80%99s last hope, personified by Amy Harper Bellafonte, and vampire-like virals comes across as watered-down Stephen King, short on three-dimensional characters as well as genuine scares. The action shifts from the %E2%80%9Cpresent%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94five years after the First Colony, a refuge, has fallen to the virals%E2%80%94to Year Zero, when the virus that caused the catastrophe was unleashed, but the value added by the flashbacks isn%E2%80%99t obvious. A prologue surveys the events of The Passage in biblical prose (%E2%80%9CAnd a decree shall go forth from the highest offices that twelve criminals shall be chosen to share of the Zero%E2%80%99s blood, becoming%C2%A0demons also%E2%80%9D), but fails to bring readers adequately up to speed. A dramatis personae at the back listing more than 80 names is scarcely more helpful. 15- to 20-city author tour. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)