Fiction Reviews

The Fall

(2010) Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, Harper Collins, £17.99, hrdbk, 308 pp, ISBN 978-0-00-731949-7

The Fall is the second book in the 'The Strain Trilogy',the first being The Strain released in 2009 and the last, Eternal Night, will becoming out in 2011. The books arise out of a collaboration between Mexican Guillermo Del Toro and US American Chuck Hogan. Oscar winning Guillermo Del Toro is better known in the film industry especially for his adaptations of the comic Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy 2 in 2006. He first came on the scene with Cronos in 1993 and has since produced Blade 2 (2002). Although Guillermo Del Toro is better known for The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), both a cross between horror and fantasy with the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War: it also won a Hugo Award. His other work includes an introduction to a non-fiction book, Hellboy 2: The Art of the Movie (2008) in collaboration with Mike Mignola and up and coming book Don’t be Afraid of the Dark on release in 2011.

Author Chuck Hogan won the 2005 Hammett Award for excellence for his novel Prince of Thieves (2004), which is based on the 2010 Ben Affleck film The Town. His other books includes The Standoff (1994), The Blood Artists (1999), The Killing Moon (2007) and more recently The Devils in Exile (2010).

The novel starts with the reflections of one of the main characters Abraham Setrakian; this briefly recaps the end of the last book and introduces to the reader the main antagonist known as the Master. Setrakian and his friends Ephraim Goodweather, his son Zack, and pest exterminator Vasiliy Fet are survivors of Vampirism, which here is a contagious viral disease that has laid waste to their city and threatens the rest of the world. Together they must try to stop the Master and the spread of the disease before it is too late.

However, the Master is aided by the wealth and greed of one Eldritch Palmer seeking eternal life himself. Kelly Goodweather, Ephraims’ wife, has succumbed to the virus and is seeking to claim her son with sub-human determination. To make matters worse Ephraim himself is being hunted by the New York office of the Centre of Disease control an organisation that has been sticking its head in the sand in regards to the virus an organisation that Ephraim was director of. Added to that Palmers sinister plot involving his “charitable” organisation towards blind children and the appearance of a mysterious book called the Occido Lumen.

Modern New York City both surface and underground is the main backdrop that Setrakian and friends makes their stand against the Master. This is interspersed with flashbacks of Setrakians life as a Jew during the holocaust; his fight against the Nazis, the Master and his kind. Those combating the vampire plague are not alone because the Master has other enemies who join Setrakian namely the Jersey Sapphires and Spanish Harlem’s La Murgre: two rival gangs brought together by an older force of vampires. And lastly, there is The Sliver Angel an ageing Mexican ex-wrestler caught up in the conflict for the survival of the human race.

The novel works very well as a stand alone book because of its style and the way it has been written. Although there is a lot of information regarding the storyline, which is strong and well focused the style remains clear and uncomplicated. The recap from the last book is short, to the point and gives the reader insight to the storyline and the main characters. The characters themselves come to life by aid of good description, especially of human qualities. For example, the flashbacks of Setrakians past is beautifully described and appropriately allocated into the body of the novel as not to affect the flow of the story but to add to it. This also makes the reader feel for the character as he becomes more than two-dimensional.

There is a fresh look to the vampires themselves due to the fact that they are not portrayed as the beautiful creatures like the vampires of Twilight, True Blood or Buffy. They are more like the creatures from 28 Days (Weeks) Later but with a hive like intelligence and a few important individuals. Regarding the above the novel will appeal more to fans of horror and Science Fiction since it crosses both genres. Blade and Predator fans will also be appeased.

Nadia Mook

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