Cronin, who didn’t read 1984 until he was in college, long past the era of Soviet Stalinism that Orwell hoped to expose, didn’t see the novel in ideological terms. “I was fascinated by it as a rich novel of human character, as opposed to the pure allegory that its reputation suggests,” he says. “It’s a book about how you engage the complicity of good people in an evil regime. . . . How do you get ordinary people to come over to the dark side?”
The parallels with 1984 become even more explicit in The Twelve, much of which takes place in a human colony in Iowa governed by vampire puppets who bombard their subjects constantly with patriotic slogans and anthems, much as Big Brother does in 1984. “I hadn’t planned it to be the inspiration, but part way through, I realized that’s why I was writing what I was writing,” he says.
That zig-zag path between political science and pulp winds throughout both books. Cronin’s survivors move between three territories — a tiny, besieged cooperative, socialist in practice if not in name; a larger confederation of settlements where the economy is based on markets and money; and the vampire-quisling empire as the Homeland, which most resembles a plantation of masters and slaves.
“These societies have all sprouted and grown up independently, like the city-states of ancient Greece,” says Cronin. “They all have their own lexicons, their own economies. They are all different responses, for good or for ill, to this dangerous world in which small bands of people will live for generations.” Or another thousand pages, anyway.