I’m starting off my Christmas break reading with quite the fire starter of a book in Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, the sequel to his disgustingly good novel The Passage. In a time where vampires have all but flooded the art of storytelling, leaving little room for new ideas, Cronin’s saga of a world a century from today overrun by a breed of classic, yet scientifically original vampires was able to stick out of the pack of the seemingly endless supply of vampire tales, becoming what is probably the best post-apocalyptic novel since Stephen King’s The Stand. What sets this book apart really isn’t with its unique setting, although it is very cool and interesting, but in how rich the characters are. Cronin seems to have taken his strong ties to the classic literary epic and applied them to a modern take on survival in a new and dangerous world, creating a reading experience like no other. In The Passage we are brought into this engrossing world that has been built over 100 years, as well as harrowing glimpses into the past, whose ashes this new world arose from. In The Twelve, we also get much of the same thing, but the world is much bigger now, despite the slimmer page count, still hefty at 568 pages. Readers of The Passage are able to navigate this world fraught with terror much easier, yet the surprises and twists and even some creative and disturbing uses of violence, still pack quite a punch. As the epilogue of the passage said, there was an attack on the Roswell site that left a few characters from the first book dead, but has left Peter in an unenviable position to look for the other eleven of The Twelve with assistance from the Expeditionary, leading to a failed mission leaving one person dead, yet unveiling a new, very cool aspect of the viral’s habits. But we also hear about another colony that lost a number of its members in an attack on a field, which seemed to be led by a woman who had an eerie amount of control over the virals. This information is found out by Peter after an encounter with this woman himself, leading to a discovery of a new kind of human colony, one much more horrifying and scary than anything the human population can imagine. I may have already given too much away, but the real enjoyment is in watching these different people interact and reconnect from the first novel, as well as the said expansion of this new world, both before and after (called A. V. in the books). We see a man holed up in high-rise apartment fighting off the attack, and another man whose pain at a romantic rejection morphs into something disturbing and repulsive in the future. Again, a lot of the joy is in reading some of these moments with a fresh mind, so if you enjoyed The Passage, which I think is a given, The Twelve is a worthy follow-up.