Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recent Books

The Janus Affair, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

It's another adventure for agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, after Phoenix Rising, their first adventure. More witty banter, more dodging the day-to-day jobs the pair are actually assigned to, more uncovering fiendish plots that threaten to overthrow the empire. The trouble with sequels is that, should they veer too far from the original, readers who enjoyed the first book may not enjoy the second. Conversely, however, should the sequel be too similar to the first book, readers have no reason to continue the series. Unfortunately, my reaction to The Janus Affair was that it fell into the second category. A relatively brief book might have survived this repetition, but The Janus Affair clocks in at over 400 pages. I found myself bogged down in details and unable to finish.

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

Another sequel, this time book two of a trilogy that began with The Passage. A hundred years earlier, a virus went out of control, converting thirteen prisoners - the ur-vampire Zero and his twelve disciples -  into vampire-like creatures who, with their not-quite-vampire followers, destroyed civilization in the United States. Only a few communities survived, and continue defending themselves against attacks from those who feed on blood. In the second book, we are introduced to a new community, this one in Texas, get more detail about the virus outbreak and the days immediately following the outbreak, and learn of a large community in Iowa that is run by an oligarchy of government survivors from the outbreak, themselves living an extended life through the consumption of virus-tainted blood.

Both The Passage and The Twelve are sprawling books, with numerous characters whose lives intertwine. It's often difficult keeping track of the minor characters and even some of the major ones. The Twelve also suffers from the "middle book of the trilogy" problems - it's hard to have a satisfactory conclusion to the book when the purpose of the book is to set up the final confrontation in the third.
Still, Cronin is a good writer, and I found myself drawn into the plot, even when the action slowed to a crawl. I'm looking forward to the conclusion, due out in 2014.

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