Friday, October 8, 2010

The Fall

[WARNING: The following post of necessity has spoilers about the preceeding book The Strain. If you haven’t read The Strain and still wish to do so, you might want to skip this.]

The middle book of a trilogy is always somewhat problematic. It doesn’t truly have a beginning or an end – the beginning was in the first volume and the end will be in the next one. So, if you read them as they come out, you have to resign yourself at the outset you will get neither the joy of discovery nor the thrill of the conclusion, instead the connective tissue between the two. Despite that, The Fall, the second book in the trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan began by The Strain, manages to be a pretty entertaining bit of fiction.

The book begins only a week after the mysterious plane landed on the tarmac of a New York airport and began the nightmare. New York City is fairly well lost at this point, with only pockets of human resistance, and the rest of the world is following suit. Our core group of protagonists, epidemiologists Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez, Professor Abraham Sertakian and exterminator Vasily Fet, are searching for a way to fight back against the vampiric Holocaust, but hope is growing dim. Their best chance seems to lie in recovering an ancient book that supposedly details how to stop The Master, the leader of the vampires. They have an unlikely ally in The Ancients, a small group of incredibly old vampires who want to see The Master fail for their own reasons.

With the introduction of characters and setup of the conflict out of the way in the first book, The Fall is mostly a book of action sequences. This is not a bad thing. Since we know we won’t reach the end this time, we might as well have some excitement along the way, and del Toro and Hogan are adept at keeping the story moving.

If I have a quarrel with the book, it is the character of Ephraim’s son Zack. As is frequently done in this sort of book, Zack is less a personal than a living plot device. The danger that befalls him serves to distract his father from the main issues, and unfortunately, do the same to us. Not to discount fatherly love, or how danger to a child adds to the suspense, but when the central issue is the survival of the entire human race, Zack’s troubles seem a little inconsequential.

I would recommend the book. The action is fast-paced, the vampires are not only evil but disgusting (in contrast to the pale poets we get these days) and there is enough resolution to make it worthwhile. I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion of the story sometime next year.

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