The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Book 2 of The Strain trilogy (Review copy received.)
Published by Harper Collins, September 2010.
Review by Mark Yon
Having reviewed the first of this series, The Strain, back in June of this year, I was pleased to receive the second novel in the trilogy.
The tale begins straight after the climax of the first novel, in that (SPOILERS HERE!)
Abraham Setrakian has survived the failure of his attack upon the vampire Master, but is weakened. Ephraim Goodweather is now a renegade, believed by the public to have released a hoax video of a vampire and is on the run with his estranged son Zack accused of killing his ex-wife Kelly and her boyfriend. Eph’s girlfriend, Nora Martinez and the city exterminator, Vasily Fet, are also part of the surviving human group who now realise that they have two objectives: to kill the Master and also his human helper, the multi-billionaire Eldritch Palmer. Palmer continues to work towards his ultimate goal, that of achieving immortality in return for assisting the vampires cleanse New York of its human population. Eph and Zack also have to deal with the issue that Kelly, now a vampire, is hungry, and wants nothing more than to feed from and turn her son.
If that wasn’t enough, on the bigger global scale, time is running out. The vampire virus spreads and becomes global. The Master works towards an event which he has been planning around for centuries – that of the Eternal Night, when the Earth will turn to darkness…. and the vampires will rule forever.
As if you couldn’t guess by the title of this novel, this one is dark. It begins bleakly, from the point we left the tale in the first book. In the second novel the problem becomes wider known. Our band of would-be heroes battle against ever-increasing opposition. As more and more people are turned into vampires each night, the streets and buildings of New York become increasingly dangerous. The problem has escalated to a global one, though this book mainly focuses on our troupe in New York.
There are some new elements and new characters however, mainly involving the effects of the vampires in New York as they take hold – we see the battle expand as vigilante street gangs fight back and the battle is taken to the vampire nests underground.
We also have some developments on what has gone before. We find out more about Setrakian’s previous encounters with the vampires in the twentieth century, and also the importance to the vampires of a MacGuffin – an occult book, the Occido Lumen, which holds secrets to the vampires.
One of the more interesting aspects developed in this novel is the relationship between the Master and the other six Masters, called the Ancients. As the new vampires reproduce, the older Ancients take action, not against the humans but against the new vampires, feeling that more new vampires will eventually impact on their food supply. The Master, in return, wishes to wreak revenge on the Ancients for actions taken by them in the past. In doing so, the story has become not just a post-apocalyptic one but a tale of a coup d’état.
As the pages turn, the time invested in following the events is worth it. The pace is relentless and the action scenes both gory and very well written.
There some hokey elements – the fact that vampires’ reflections in a silver-backed mirror are present but distorted is a little incredulous, though there is an attempt to explain. The idea that old myths have a basis in fact is quite a convenient solution. (In this case it’s the purity of the metal silver that has a calamitous effect on the vampire population.) What really matters, of course, is that there are lots of opportunities to see the heroes using silver bullets, with silver swords in action and home-made silver nail guns as the most effective means of dispatching vampires, which happens a lot.
However with your sense of disbelief in place, there’s a lot to appreciate here. Some of the scenes are quite vivid and rather visceral.
What is most noticeable are the ways that the authors ratchet up the tension as events alter and the stakes become higher for the characters. There are some victories and some major losses along the way. Not all survive and there are some unexpected twists – in particular, the ending is a real ‘will they, won’t they’ moment.
Like the first, I rattled through this one in a matter of days. Not all is resolved here, but there are some very interesting plot lines being set up for the third book. If you enjoyed the first, as I did, you’ll want to keep reading the series with this one.
Mark Yon, August 2010.