The Night Eternal

Posted: July 25, 2014 in Book reviews

The final chapter in The Strain Trilogy by acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro, and writer Chuck Hogan. Before I start the fact that I’m reviewing the third part of a trilogy means that there may be spoilers, particularly for the first two books. You have been warned!

It’s two years since The Master’s plan came to fruition, two years since he eliminated the other ancients, leaving him top of the vampiric food chain, and two years since he caused nuclear reactors across the globe to meltdown, creating a nuclear winter. Now it’s dark most of the time, aside from a very gloomy “day” that lasts about two hours around midday. Vampires are everywhere, and those humans not allowed to continue with their lives are now forced into camps providing blood for the vampires.

Professor Abraham Setrakian died at the end of the second book, but his struggle against the vampire horde is continued by a rag tag group of resisters, although they are far from a unified force. Epidemiologist Dr. Eph Goodweather has become increasingly unhinged and obsessed with trying to find his son, Zack, taken by his ex-wife Kelly, who is now a vampire. His fellow scientist Dr. Nora Martinez is still struggling to keep her mother, who’s suffering with Alzheimer’s, safe. She’s also found herself falling out of love with Eph and in love with the former exterminator, Vasiliy Fet, who is continuing the work of Setrakian in trying to locate the origin of The Master so they can defeat him. Former gangbanger Augustin “Gus” Elizalde now hates Eph and he’s also keeping his mother, who’s a vampire, locked in his basement. This disparate band are joined by The Master’s “son”, the only vampire left who The Master can’t control, a man who’s been alive since Roman times but is now prepared to die so long as he can take the Master with him.

Somehow they must find a way to work together if they are to unlock the secret of The Master’s creation, the key to its destruction…

It took me a while to get around to reading the final part of the trilogy, and this was, to an extent, because I’d found the second part a little dull. This isn’t to say that the opening novel had been ‘the greatest thing ever’ because it wasn’t, if anything the story felt more than a little derivative, but it was still well written and interesting and I did want to read on.

If the second part was dull, it’s still probably better than the third. It’s hard to know quite where to begin when detailing just what’s wrong with it. Firstly the vampires themselves seem to have got less interesting, and whilst originally they were quite an original take on vampires, now the intriguing, and somewhat grounded in biology, elements of their pathology are shunted aside in favour of some Old Testament bullshit that seems to have come out of nowhere.

Character wise it’s hard to root for anyone (if anything The Master’s “Son” Mr Quinlan seems more heroic than Eph). Eph’s character has degenerated significantly since the opening book. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with flawed heroes, they’re preferable to the whiter than white perfect variety any day of the week, it’s just that Eph seems to have veered too far into his obsessions. The others aren’t much better, they castigate Eph whilst Nora keeps her mother around despite her being a huge liability, and Gus keeps his own vampire infected mom around too, so is Eph’s obsession about finding his son that unusual?

Talking of his son, the evolution of Zack’s bizarre in the extreme; in fact this is a book where everyone seems to be acting out of character.

Of course maybe the new darkened world is to blame, except the nature of the new world seems quite vague, to say the least, a lot of people still seem to be working and living normal lives, whilst many others are in the blood camps, only nothing seems remotely conceivable, it’s as if the authors drafted their idea for a world where vampires are atop the food chain on the back of a fag packet rather than giving even the merest thought towards some proper world building, or did any research on what such a world would actually be like.

As such we have a bunch of unlikable characters, inhabiting a world it’s hard to truly get a grip on, fighting a villain who couldn’t be any more two dimensional if he was a cardboard standee.

I’m also kinda annoyed that they stole the ending from my own novel City of Caves (not that I imagine either has read it, but the denouncements are very similar.)

There were some interesting ideas at the heart of the trilogy, but it almost feels like the authors got bored over the course of writing all three books (or perhaps one of them had less time/input over the course of the story’s evolution) and the tail off in quality is quite dramatic. The trilogy still deserves kudos for making its vampires vicious and disgusting monsters, in the Twilight era this is always a plus point, but I can’t really recommend this unless you’ve already read the first/second books and want to know how the story ends.

  1. Halllie says:

    Aw, that’s a little disappointing, but I’m glad I know before I waste my free time on these books!

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