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Book Review – Fuse

fuseFuse — Julianna Baggott

I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the publishing industry. However, the process of acquiring blurbs from famous authors and reviews from famous publications is especially mysterious. I present Juliana Baggott’s Pure trilogy as a prime example. The first book, Pure , was critically adored following its publication in 2012. I read the novel because of that critical adoration. Baggott earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, a positive review from The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and blurbs from Justin Cronin, Aimee Bender, Robert Olen Butler, and others. Not too shabby. Amazon, on the product information page, also published an interview that Cronin conducted specifically for the site. I read Pure last spring, and I enjoyed it enough to look forward to its sequels. But when Fuse was published, I hardly heard a peep. The Amazon product page for Fuse lists exactly two editorial reviews. They come courtesy of those titans of media, Xpresso Reads and The Bookish Dame Reviews. If Fuse were a complete train wreck, I would understand this drop in media attention. Had Baggott left her publishing house and instead commissioned thousands of monks to hand print each copy, thereby raising the list price above the reach of normal readers, I would understand that too. But neither of those scenarios occurred. In fact, Amazon customer reviews rank the second book slightly higher than the first. So what gives? It would be great if I had an answer following that entire glorious preamble. But I don’t. Nor do I possess the gumption inherent in journalists that would compel me to find out. However, if someone happens to know, please do educate me.

How’s the book? Kind of like the first one. It’s very good, a standout of the genre. Honestly though, I could go another year without reading about a post-apocalypse, and I would not miss all of the dusty roads, cobbled together outfits, and evil masterminds who are usually Hitler-ish in their ambitious quests for genetic superiority. Like many middle volumes in a trilogy, Fuse takes the cast of characters assembled in book one, and then disperses them to new locations, pairing them off or stranding them alone. It all more or less works. My biggest problem is with a sentient computer character that discloses some information freely and requires other nuggets to be guessed or to have their revelations triggered by solving riddles. Why is this necessary when the thing can test someone’s DNA, thereby determining who the “true” recipients of the messages should be? I don’t know, and neither, apparently, does the author. Despite this, Fuse remains a good story and a more than adequate middle book in a trilogy.

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Book Review – The Twelve

twelve

The Twelve — Justin Cronin

The biggest knock against The Twelve, the second part of a trilogy by Justin Cronin, is that it’s not as good as The Passage, the first book in the series. That’s true. But (and this is a very big but) The Passage is awesome. Undeniably awesome. It’s the rare supernatural thriller that was embraced both by readers and stodgy critics. Cronin is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and he writes about vampires that are sort of zombie-like, subject matter that would have sparked derision from his fellow classmates and constant reminders from faculty members that he was stooping to the level of genre fiction. The Passage, in addition to being beautifully written, plays with readers’ expectations. It fast-forwards as needed, leaving behind central characters in favor of newer ones. There was no way that The Twelve would equal it. However, it remains a worthy entry in the series and promises an exciting conclusion in the final chapter.

Cronin once again rejects the standard format of following a single main character or characters during a single time period. The resulting story is not as thrilling as the original, but it remains a solid thriller with interesting characters and vividly realized scenes. We see more of the post-virus world, visiting cities built around the needs of their rulers. We get reacquainted with the heroes of the first book, who are now scattered and dealing with the fallout of the events featured in the previous volume (By the way, if you read The Passage when it first came out, you will be happy to know that Cronin includes a thorough and helpful prologue, written as an artifact of the fictional world instead of a simple retelling. Need more reminders? Check out the summary on Wikipedia.). If you like realistic thrillers with a hint of the supernatural, read The Passage and The Twelve. Show your support of zombified vampires, who are definitely not pretty nor sparkly nor the object of anyone’s dying or undying love, wreaking havoc on a post-apocalyptic world populated with an ever diminishing supply of tasty humans.

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