Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: "The Fall" by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan return with the second installment of their trilogy about an epidemic that has turned people into walking vampiric viruses, “The Fall” ($26.99, Harper).

In the first installment, “The Strain,” the scene was set with a creature known as the Master arriving in New York City and unleashing the virus on an unsuspecting public, creating waves of creatures that are part vampire, part zombie. The outbreak has now spread to all corners of the globe, and with governments scrambling to cover up the truth about the virus and calmed panic citizens, the world doesn’t stand a chance.

With the setup out of the way, the second installment starts with a bang. Ephraim Goodweather, a former agent with the Center for Disease Control and now a wanted man due to some political wrangling after he spoke the truth about the virus in the first book, is torn between trying to rid the world of the virus on his own and protecting his son from his ex-wife, who has been turned and is now stalking her son across the city. He’s joined by aging Holocaust survivor and vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian, who has been obsessed with destroying the Master since he first met him at a German concentration camp, a former New York City exterminator Vasiliy Fet, who has discovered that ridding the city of vampires is much like ridding the city of rats, and Eph’s CDC partner Nora, who he has a complicated relationship with.

A new power has also risen in the battle. Beings known as the Ancients, unhappy with the direction of the Master’s plan, have arrived on the scene to recruit their own army to eradicate the newly-formed monsters and restore order to their world.

It’s no secret that I’ve had my fill of vampires for a while now, but not when they’re like the creatures that Del Toro and Hogan have created. These aren’t pretty, young creatures who spend their time reading poetry, picking out the best goth ensemble to wear and expressing angst about their romantic relationships. These are vampires as they should be – mean, ugly, gnarly and nasty. No nice neat fangs, but stingers that extend from their mouths. No ritual sharing of blood, but parasitic worms that burrow into the host and infect. No regard for humans at all, except as food. With the exception of the Master, the Ancients and a chosen few others, these are mindless, rage-filled monsters that would shred Edward, or Jacob, or whatever his name is, to bits.

“The Fall” jumps right into the action and barrels full speed ahead into complete apocalypse. It’s at times loud and noisy like a summer blockbuster, yet still manages to find a few moments for introspection and some deeper thoughts about the nature of humanity.

Del Toro again proves himself to be as adept at writing horror novels as he is at directing dark films. He offers some of the same macabre and fantastic imagery in print, and I can’t wait to see him translate the books to the screen.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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