“The Twelve” by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Books, 2012) [BOOKBANTER BOOK REVIEW #700]


It is finally here: the anxiously awaited sequel to the bestselling The Passage.  Justin Cronin does a great job of not just presenting a number of different situations of survival in his post-apocalyptic world, but also goes back to pre-apocalypse times with some pivotal characters, exploring the roles they will play in this story.

In the present day, there are three characters who will play an important position in this world’s future: Lila, a doctor who is pregnant and due soon, even as the world is falling apart around her; a man known as the “Last Stand in Denver” who has been blogging and reporting about what is really happening; and April, a teenager fighting to keep both herself and her brother alive.  Then we cut to the post-apocalyptic world of groups trying to survive against these horrific vampires; the night is now a terrifying time.  But one little girl, Amy, has the hopes of many, and the ability to forge forward and give this world a chance.

While The Twelve at times becomes somewhat predictable, like many other dystopian books, it still takes one to interesting and new places, with its unusual characters, keeping one hooked until the end.

Originally written on December 4, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Twelve from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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The Passage


BookBanter Episode 33 with Justin Cronin

Just Cronin


Justin Cronin

(L-R) Alex C. Telander of BookBanter, Justin Cronin and Kaye Cloutman of San Francisco and Sacramento Book Reviews (Photo by Kaye Cloutman)

This is the first of hopefully many co-interviews for BookBanter, with Kaye Cloutman of the San Francisco and Sacramento Book Reviews. Justin Cronin is the author of The Summer Guest and Mary and O’Neil, and the first book in a epic trilogy about vampires and a post-apocalyptic world called The Passage. In the interview, Justin talks about how he got started writing, where the ideas and storylines for The Passage came from (totally worth hearing), why he began writing The Passage, who some of his influences are, and how he feels readers should handle dealing with an almost 800 page book.

The Passage

For the first time, a BookBanter interview was recorded on video, which you can enjoy below, split into two parts:

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be on vacation, traveling to distant England and Sweden.  So with all things going according to plan, vis a vis Internet connection, the overdue written interview with Gardner Dozois should be up around August 15.

Gardner Dozois

Until then, keep reading!

Alex C. Telander

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Books, 2010)

The Passagestarstarstarstar

Justin Cronin began work on The Passage when he realized two things: 1) he needed to make more money to support his family, and 2) his then 9-year-old daughter informed him that the two books he’d published so far – The Summer Guest and Mary and O’Neil – were boring.  So he challenged her to come up with an interesting story, and for three months in the afternoon, for an hour each day, while Cronin ran and his daughter learned to ride her bike, they came up with cool and interesting story ideas.  The result, for the most part, was the almost 800-page epic The Passage.

In the style of Stephen King’s The Stand, The Passage is the story of humanity’s attempt to triumph over nature and mortality, and failing miserably.  On an expedition into the deep jungles of Brazil, a group of scientists and mercenaries is attacked by some very unusual bats, killing some, infecting others with a hemorrhagic fever, but most importantly giving survivors a newly discovered virus that proves to be a useful “cure” for humanity.  Under Project Noah, death row inmates from around the country are rescued and brought to a secret government lab where they are injected with this virus and begin the planned transformation into super-soldiers for the US military, but these test subjects soon transform into something not human, with a strength and a hunger that cannot be controlled.  Soon the virus breaks out of the labs and begins to run rampant through the country, turning the population into these powerful, hungry, superhuman vampires.

Our main character and hero to be is a young girl named Amy whose mother, a prostitute trying her best to support her daughter, leaves the girl at a nunnery, where Sister Lacy Antoinette Kudoto looks after her the best she can.  She takes her to the zoo, but Amy begins to act strange, inciting the animals in the cages to rage and fear.  It soon becomes clear that there is something very special about Amy, but then she is captured and kidnapped, taken to the lab and injected with the virus; only it doesn’t affect her quite like it does the other test subjects.

As the country begins to fall apart, more and more people come in contact with the virus, as cities fall and states follow next.  Brad Wolgast is the man who works for Project Noah and first kidnapped Amy, capturing her once more, escaping from the lab and hiding out in the forests of the Oregon, as the country continues to fall to the vampires.  It is here that Cronin reveals an important tenant of the book: the importance of children, and the relationship between a parent and child.  Wolgast is still dealing with the loss of his own child, and seeks companionship with Amy.

And then the book moves ninety-two years into the future, where the United States of America no longer exists.  All that remain are pockets of humanity, eking out a sheltered life, fighting to survive from these vampires.  A particular group, known as the Lost Colony, lives in a well defended fortress in Southern California.  They refer to the vampires as virals.  At the heart of this regimented and protected colony is the Sanctuary, where the children are kept, looked after, fed and educated until the age of 9, when they are reintroduced to the horrible reality of this world.

This is a story of survival, an exploration of the human consciousness and the extent of its abilities in extreme situations.  Cronin has done thorough research, wanting to get all the details right with a study in weaponry, the science of viruses, and actually visiting each and every place mentioned in the book, as well as driving and plotting out the distances covered for accuracy.  His characters are great in number, but are all strong and individual, believable people.  And then there is little Amy, who is the key and crux to the whole story, as well as to the second and third books in the trilogy.

As to whether Justin Cronin has satisfied the two reasons for writing The Passage, after entering into a bidding war among publishers, he received a considerably large advance, and the book has gone on to be a national bestseller, with a movie in development by Ridley Scott’s company.  And because his daughter has played such an important part in developing the story, she no doubt considers this an “interesting book,” though it will be some years before she will be allowed to read it.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on July 29 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

If you liked The Passage, you might like:

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Justin Cronin @ Books Inc., Berkeley

Justin Cronin

Tonight I had the pleasure of doing a joint interview with Kaye Cloutman, and we were interviewing the bestselling author of The Passage, Justin Cronin.  As this reading and signing was close to the end of his book tour, I was expecting Justin to be giving short answers to questions he’d probably answered a million times in the last couple months on his tour, and yet he answered each question as if this was his very first interview for The Passage, going into a depth and complexity I hadn’t expected.  We ended up running out of time, as Justin then had to do his reading and signing, but what we ended up recording (both audio and video) turned out to be a really great and fun interview.  It’s not surprise that the man behind this complex, entertaining and fascinating book is all of these things and more.

I am reorganizing the BookBanter schedule to run this interview in Episode 33 on August 1st (the Gardner Dozois interview will go up August 15th), and I hope to have the video together by then too.

I would also like to thank the great people at Books Inc. for organizing the interview for us and putting on a great signing.  It’s a wonderful, quaint store that you should check out if you’re ever in the area.


06/18 on the Bookshelf . . . “The Passage”

The Passage

There’s been a lot of growing hype about The Passage by Justin Cronin, with lots of promotion, the author going on a big book tour, and two websites: www.findsubjectzero.com and www.enterthepassage.com.  I’ve also had it recommended to me by a number of people, so will be looking forward to finally reading and reviewing it once I get done reading one of my current books.  Stephen King also gave it a glowing review, so here’s hoping.  Plus it has such an enchanting cover.