Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Night Eternal, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

(hb; 2011: Book Three of The Strain trilogy)


From the inside flap:

"It's been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain, and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation.  There is only night as nuclear winter blankets the land, the sun filtering through the poisoned atmosphere for two hours each day - the perfect environment for the propagation of vampires.

"There has been a mass extermination of humans, the best and the brightest, the wealthy and the influential, orchestrated by the Master - an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers - who selects survivors based on compliance.  Those humans who remain are entirely subjugated, interred in camps, and  separated by status: those who breed more humans, and those who are bled for the sustenance of the Master's vast army.

"The future of humankind lies in the hands of a rag-tag freedom fighters - Dr. Eph Goodweather, former head of the Centers for Disease Control's biological threat team; Nora Martinez, a fellow doctor with a talent for dispatching the undead; Vasiliy Fet, the colorful Russian exterminator; and Mr. Quinlan, the half-breed offspring of the Master who is bent on revenge.  It's their job to rescue Eph's son, Zack, and overturn this devastating new world order.  But good and evil are malleable terms now, and the Master is the most skilled at preying on the weaknesses of humans. . ."


Review:

This second sequel to The Strain starts off well enough: it's dramatic, it's apocalyptic and it's ambitious in its storyline scope.  However, Night quickly succumbs to the same bullcrap writing elements that marred the first sequel, The Fall: at least one of its key characters - Dr. Eph Goodweather - is so unlikeable, hypocritical and willing to sell out the human race, I kept wondering why he was in the story at all. 

I have nothing against unlikeable or complex characters, but Eph's alienating aspects go beyond the pale, as if the authors were using Eph as a shout-out to the (justifiably) cautious, asocial Robert Neville, the lead character in Richard Matheson's novella I Am LegendIf the latter is true, del Toro and Hogan have bungled it by making Eph so unlikeable and erratic he's practically useless - something Neville never was in Matheson's landmark work.

Not only that, the action scenes - normally an element I would applaud in such genre work - quickly begin to all read the same, with unnecessary, bordering-on-soap-operatic complications stalling out much of the momentum that this briefly promising work might have had.

This latter criticism wouldn't be an issue (for this reader) if del Toro and Hogan hadn't written Fall, and instead made Night the second and final book in the series, utilizing abbreviated key points featured in Fall - i.e., the Occido Lumen (the book needed to kill the Master), the vampiric takeover and the ensuing nuclear winter - and incorporated them into Strain and Night.  But they didn't, and readers are left with this deeply flawed and drawn out series.

If you must read it - I only read Night to finish the series - borrow it from the library, or a friend.  That way, if you like it, great!  You just read a wonderful book for free!  And if you dislike it, at least you were only robbed of a few hours of your time.

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