čtvrtek 3. září 2015

Justin Cronin - The Twelve

Vydáno: 2012
THE TWELVE, which is the second book of Cronin's towering trilogy, can be read as a complete book, whereas the first book stopped abruptly, like a gasp. However, I urge you to read THE PASSAGE first, because the epic as a whole is a finely calibrated accretion of history, plot and character. The Twelve refers to the twelve "parent" or original virals, the death-row-inmate subjects-turned-virals from "Project Noah," who must be liquidated in order to save the world. The thrust of this book is the hunt of the twelve by Amy, Alicia, Peter, and company.

"All eyes." Two words commonly spoken by the First Colony Watchers, starting in Book one--survivors of the end of the world as we know it. I shiver when I read it now, this sober siren call of fellowship to signal strength and vision, to defeat the virals. It carries an additional, deep and tacit message now--that I honor you, comrade (lover, brother, father, mother, friend, sister, soldier)--go bravely and stay safe. And keep your eyes forward, against the last remaining light of the day.

Cronin's weighty trilogy, a hybrid of mainstream and literary fiction, isn't just a story about these photophobic vampire virals, identified variously as dracs, smokes, flyers, jumps, and glowsticks. Rather, it is a portrait of humanity in extremis. Virals, caused by a military experiment gone awry, are a malignant, violent force of annihilation. But what reserves of strength keep us fighting? How do people live in a post-apocalyptic world? Is another end coming? Or a beginning? Is the world even worth saving? THE TWELVE, like THE PASSAGE, has as much anthropology, eschatology, psychology, and philosophy, as it does gore, battle and horror.

Cronin's tilted, unconventional structure has an elegant, understated, and circular pull and propulsion, muted at times, roaring at others. He periodically pauses in the progress of the plot for his intense and luminous miniatures--mystical, sensory flights of prose and backstory elaboration, (although briefer in THE TWELVE), which deepen the intricate plot strands as well as create a vivid landscape, emotionally and physically. Gradually, he braids it all together.

THE TWELVE isn't linear, but it is, ultimately, progressive. It starts back at year zero (the viral outbreak), providing new characters and expanding on previous ones, as it steadily brings us back to the present, approximately 97 A.V. (After Virus), five years after the end of THE PASSAGE. Peppered here and there are the terse, abstract texts dated 1003 A.V. And, yes, the cliffhanger ending of the first book, as well as all strands, are eventually returned to and understood. The author is in control of his sublime, colossal narrative.

Cronin traveled every mile in the book for his research, and it shows. His sense of place is so atmospheric and sensuous, alive and turbulent, that geography is a character in itself. From the benevolent but arch company of assembled defense forces in Kerrville, Texas; to a terrifying, totalitarian-ruled, labor camp in Iowa; and to a handful of scrappy iconoclasts that roam from place to place, the author's conception of a fractured world flashes and flickers with billion-kilowatt energy in every setting.

Cronin's complex character development equals any realistic literary novel. Amy, Alicia and Peter (and others) continue to evolve, although Peter, admittedly, was more of a placeholder in THE TWELVE, notwithstanding a few valorous confrontations with virals. There's no doubt in my mind that he will figure largely in the final book, now that Amy's character has expanded in surprising, startling, and inevitable ways. He and Amy are bound, as was determined in THE PASSAGE. However, as Amy is more revealed, Alicia becomes more eerie and enigmatic, and discovers an unpredictable and, well, animate love. You also unexpectedly learn more about her descendants.

But wait until you meet Guilder, and reconnect with Lila (Wolgast's ex-wife); the pages nearly howl with the portrayal of these two characters. From their skin and viscera to their organs and bowels, I have rarely encountered anyone comparable to Lila and Guilder in a horror or dystopian novel. And there are numerous and brilliant secondary characters, such as Carter, the twelfth original viral, that are graphic and memorable. Greer, from the first book, is now a military prisoner and seer. Grey, a sweeper from the first book, finds an opportunity to amend for his past sins, but it doesn't quite work out the way he planned. Also three-dimensional are the virals, a ripe and sentient life force of consummate destruction. And, there are some new developments in store regarding viral species transformation.

Skóre: 8/10

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