The Strain/The Fall/The Night Eternal
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Harper Collins 2009/2010/2011
It seems like everywhere I turn these days I'm finding myself knee-deep in post-apocalyptic scenarios. Every book I open assaults me with nuclear war, planetary collisions, universal collapses and of course the inevitable rise of the undead. No sooner do I finish Justin Cronin's excellent The Passage than the final instalment of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain trilogy lands in my lap. At first glance these two tales seem too close for comfort. Everything is normal. Vampires appear. Everything is broken. Plucky group of heroes fight back against the horde. Drama ensues. So, I decided to pit the two against each other and see how they fared.
However, in the course of writing the review I discovered that The Passage is itself merely the first part of a planned trilogy. So Del Toro and Hogan get to lead the day and I'll either return to The Passage individually in the near future or wait till 2014(!) to treat the trilogy collectively and give it a fair chance against The Strain. Either way, it's time for the director of Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth and, erm, Mimic to show what he can do with pen and paper.
The time is present day, the place
Before we know it Eph and Nora are tangled up with Abraham Setrakian, a seemingly crazy old man who is convinced that the events unfolding can mean only one thing – the rise of the strigoi, ancient creatures we know as vampires. The unfortunate passengers were victims of the Master, a rogue vampire seeking nothing less than total dominion over the earth. As soon as the victims were turned they began to seek out the loved ones from their former lives, turning them into yet more slaves for the Master to control. As the infection multiplies the authorities find themselves overwhelmed.
Over the course of the trilogy – The Strain, The Fall and The Night Eternal – Del Toro and Hogan transform the world into something resembling
Hiding amongst the vampires and the ruined society depicted in The Strain is a simple redemption story. Eph is no perfect hero, his shattered marriage, estranged son and battles with alcoholism all paying testament to this fact. The trilogy is his battle against not only the vampiric adversary but also his own nature. Does he have what it takes to fulfil his destiny and atone for his previous failings? This theme is played out with overtly religious overtones, although never to the point where it becomes irritating.
In fact, religion plays a major role in one of The Strain's most surprising assets – a truly original take on vampire origins and biology. Del Toro and Hogan use the story of
If The Strain has one failing it is that Del Toro is no author. At times the book lapses into sub-airport fiction levels and the prose is reminiscent of high school writing classes. The characters' actions often left me scratching my head and large plot holes are glossed over. That Chuck Hogan couldn't compensate for this is a puzzle but it doesn’t detract too badly from the story itself.
In any case, this discrepancy is more than made up for by the fact that GDT is an amazing director. His gift for manipulating visual media shines through in the description of every scene.
To be continued...
This review was brought to you by Cannonball Jones. The Strain, The Fall and The Night Eternal are available now. Thank you to the lovely Cannonball for tackling all three at once!