Wednesday, August 18, 2010
"The Fall" by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Also, I'm just going to issue a SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't read The Strain.
Pre-Order The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy. No, seriously, pre-order it with that link I just provided above this sentence. While you're at it, you should probably purchase a copy of The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy. If you're a Horror fan, a Suspense fan, a Vampire fan, or even just a Good Book fan; you'll have no problems finishing these two books in short order and find yourself eager for The Night Eternal. This probably (no, definitely) sounds like hyperbole cooked up to appease a corporate master, but in all honesty these books are addicting reads.
By the end of "The Strain", we found Eph Goodweather and his team of vampire defenders staring down the barrel of the gun that The Master had pointed at humanity's head. The vampiric plague was starting to spread, and Mankind was poised at the edge. In "The Fall", the stage is set right from the opening excerpt from Eph's journal: By November, we're done for. Proceeding into the main story, we find that two certain vampires are stalking the group and for two different reasons. One is Eph's ex-wife Kelly, who is trying to claim her "Dear One"...their son, Zach. The other is The Master, who is fixated with bad assed Intellectual/Vampire Hunter Abraham Setrakian, and intent on causing his demise. As these personal stories play out, our heroes will bear witness to events that will set up the starting point for The Night Eternal.
This book is the Empire Strikes Back of the Trilogy, meaning that this is a dark thoroughfare to the end of the series, which itself is not guaranteed to be a happy ending. After the initial entry's high Horror content, this second installment eases back on the disgusting/shocking factor and goes into Exposition/Setup mode. Again, we're treated to the A and B Story format, alternating between the ensemble in the Present and Setrakian's past; and again we're treated to two stories that are equally intriguing. We're given more detail involving Setrakian's past with some of the principal Vampires in the story, particularly Nazi Camp Commander turned Vampire Eichhorst (who pretty much serves as Abraham's arch rival, second only to The Master); and we're even given more background into Eldritch Palmer, the Millionaire aiding The Master's plans, and just how he became involved in this whole story in the first place.
That's not to say that the book doesn't have its fair share of blood and violence, in fact this book is packed with street fights between Vampires and Humans. There is no shortage of action or destruction in this book, with the fight spilling into the streets and the proverbial big guns being fired off at every turn. In fact this book is basically one big gang war between us and them. Strangely enough though, as much violence and gore there is in this book, one of it's main themes is the power Love has over us. We learn more about Setrakian's wife, we read about the birth of Zach, and we even see Nora start to crack under the pressure when trying to secure her mother, an Alzheimer's patient. We see characters react out of nobility, out of duty, and out of genuine affection for one another. It is this heroism and this emotionality that make the book's closing events all the more devastating. Don't be fooled by the recurring theme of Love, this is still very much an Apocalypse story, and as such don't go in expecting to see the Sun shining through the clouds. To be anything short of a gut punch would ruin the momentum of this series, and that is something I'm proud to say does not happen.
Once again, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan both display their exemplary abilities as storytellers. I found that while this book wasn't as thrilling as the first, it was still an easy, engrossing read that captivates attention and is rich in detail. What's more, this isn't supposed to be a "thrilling" entry, at least if you follow the Trilogy Playbook. Middle entries are the ones that stereotypically (and effectively) put the pieces into place for the Grand Finale. The trick to writing a great Middle though is to recall the Beginning and hint heavily toward the End. The Fall does both in spades, and also gives us a scenario that is so bleak and crushing, one can only wonder how the Hell the third entry is going to pan out. By the end of The Fall, you will truly see Mankind on its knees. How they rise up in The Night Eternal will ultimately be how we judge this series as a whole. If they just keep things on course, it'll be an easy win. But Del Toro and Hogan aren't the type of storytellers that settle for anything short of their all, and I predict/hope that the final installment will be the stuff of nightmares and literary victory.
P.S. Just one last, brief gripe I have for Harper Collins. What happened to the kick assed cover art from the back cover flap of The Strain? You had two really neat looking covers that complimented my Hardcover of The Strain so well. I was even set on buying a Hardcover to continue my collection. (I'm that picky about my book collection.) Any chance of doing a limited Hardcover run with the originally planned cover and going back to the original format for The Night Eternal?