Moving straight from The Fall to The Night Eternal in my one-woman book club, I didn’t have to wait long to get an ending to Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain trilogy. Thoughts? It may not be Salem’s Lot, but it’s good enough. “Good enough.”
That’s what you want to hear about your book, right? Entertaining with some shortcomings? Nah, that doesn’t sound too great either. One thumb up and one leaning sideways? On the one hand I want to say it is a step up from book two’s lack of focus on the people I wanted to care about as the vampire epidemic flowed out from our main group, but what I did learn when the focus was brought in wasn’t all I hoped for either.
Let’s start with the story: now that the cat is out of the bag about the vampires, the world is forever changed. That’ll happen after numerous atomic bombs are strategically detonated by the leader of the vampires. As if blood draining isn’t bad enough, I bring you nuclear fallout! Not to say the blood draining is done for; oh no. Now, instead of the more personal feeding process of typical vampire lore, a blend of Nazi and farming practices are put into effect to make the feeding process most efficient. Remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the Bring It On cheerleader had giant suction straws drawing the blood from her body as the vampires circled around and watched? Yeah, that is what The Night Eternal, with a little Daybreakers thrown in.
As bleak as this is, this side of dystopia makes for a great setting for a vampire story. I have a few questions about the accuracy shown here when it comes to an environment following a nuclear explosion, but my bigger problem with the book focuses more on the characters. Simply put, I just don’t care as much about the characters anymore. As much as I want to cheer for Eph to get his happy ending following the abduction of his son, he doesn’t make it easy. There’s down-and-out worthy of sympathy, and then there’s the step below that, where my sympathy wanes. Maybe if his son was completely traumatized by being kept by the Master then the fire in my belly for vengeance would be blazing, but following one specific plot point I didn’t care what happened to the kid. Sure he was being manipulated and that’s interesting I guess, but there is a lady out there in space going through some real crazy poo and I am way more interested in learning about that instead of watching this stupid child attach his strings to a puppeteer.
Seriously, I want a short story (though longer than what we did get, obviously) about the woman trapped in outer space. Now that’s terrifying! But just as soon as my interest is peaked del Toro and Hogan rip that subplot away because of a symbol. Which leads me to the religious aspect of this story. I’m fine with making new mythology when it comes to well worn areas, I’m even fine with mixing in some religious and/or unexplainable elements into what seemed to be based mostly in science at first, but I couldn’t get behind the origins of the vampires. The origin of Quinlain? Yes. The origin of the vampires on the whole? No.
This mythology and religion comes on thick in the book’s latter chapters to spur the characters to the final setting, and things start inching away from my comfort zone of what I was willing to accept. I wanted more from Ephraim’s son and Quinlain’s final confrontation with the Master, because my opinion can be swayed rather abruptly by the emotional tropes and big moments that usually get a good reaction, but it just didn’t happen. That’s not to say there wasn’t a decision made by the writers and protagonists that found a way to at least make the ending satisfying, if not what I hoped for, but then the mythology came back and everything changed back to “ugh.”
In the end I don’t know really where I fall with this book, or the trilogy on the whole really. The grade I am giving it is still pretty decent because there is definitely a lot I enjoyed about it, but there is still plenty holding it back from being something truly memorable. I guess, for me, it’s just good enough.
Final Grade: 3-3.5 out of 5 Follow @BewareOfTrees