Review: The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I read and enjoyed The Strain (as did my friend Val) last year but this time out I nabbed the audiobook version of its sequel The Fall.  The Fall, second book in a planned trilogy, takes place bare moments after the end of The Strain.  New York is sliding further and further into chaos, rioters run rampant, people are disappearing, and the authorities (local or otherwise) are at a loss for what to do.  Abraham Satrakian, Ephraim Goodweather, and the exterminator Vasily form the core of the resistance against the rising vampire population.  Unfortunately they are a resistance with its back to the wall.  As it turns The Master’s plan doesn’t just encompass New York but the world as cities worldwide receive planes full of dead passengers; as New York did at the start of The Strain.

The primary focus of The Fall is the rapid destruction of human society as a direct result of The Master’s machinations.  Rest assured this is a dark novel, there is very little hope and our heroes seem to be fighting more out of stubborn resolve than any real belief that they can over come The Master.  Sure, Satrakian believes that there is some hope in form of an ancient text (festooned with silver making in anathema to vampires) but even that hope is slim.  Where The Strain seemed to focus on the vampires in a more scientific light The Fall serves to restore much of their otherworldly characteristics.   The manner through which this occurs is far from traditional and one of the more original interpretations of vampirism that I’ve read.  Or at least, it is if  The Fall is telling us what I think it’s telling us.  The origins of the vampire ancients are always hinted at but never stated outright and I suspect we won’t get a straight answer until the final volume is released.  If your desperately curious I’d suggest you look to the novel’s title for a hint.

As in The Strain the biggest problem with fall is any and every part of the plot surround Ephraim Goodweather.  I just cannot find it in myself to find anything worthwhile in these sections of the novel.  Don’t get me wrong, I can see what the author’s are trying to do in attempting to put a human face on the tragedy of The Fall’s events, but it is never really successful.  Ephraim Goodweather never comes off as the “everyman” I suspect they are trying to make him into.  His story just never really impacts me in the way the others do.  Something about Goodweather’s character, decisions (all seeming mostly bad), and especially his whining about feeling useless raise hackles and set me on edge.   I found myself looking forward to sections with Vasily and Gus.  An exterminator and a gangbanger who exhibit more of that “everyman” vibe that I just don’t get out of Goodweather.   While the notion a father trying to protect his son seems explicitly designed to tug on readers’ heart strings I found myself more saddened by a new character in The Fall, The Silver Angel.  Perhaps it is fond memories of The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco (from Season 5 of Angel) but this broken down, famous wrestler of The Fall touched all the right notes for me.

Narrator Daniel Oreske’s deep, clear voice is perfectly suited to the dark tone of the novel.  Rich and full of portent his voice easily conjures up images of chaos and violence that punctuate The Fall.  While adept at handling description and internal monologue Oreske is less suited at dialogue.  Oreske’s voice rarely changes from character to character and several times of the course of the novel I found it difficult to follow who was saying what during the novel.  Still Oreske does a stellar job and I look forward to seeing what else he can do.  As a side note I think The Fall would have made a great choice for a more dramatic choice in terms of production.  The sound effects and music of the Star Wars audiobooks have perhaps spoiled me a bit, but a bit more of a dramatic approach to the reading might have added something special to the proceedings.

Overall, I found The Fall to be a much stronger novel than The Strain.  It is somewhat reminiscent of The Stand, a novel that serves as a catalog of the apocalypse.   I find myself now wholly sold on del Toro and Hogan’s vision of the vampire.  From nearly sexless Ancients, to the inhuman monstrosities the roam the streets, these vampires exhibit a practiced eye for the horrific and the frightening that seems lost in so much vampire fiction today.  I now find myself eager to see where this series goes and especially hungry to understand the true origins of The Master and his kin.  del Toro and Hogan have something special here and I think all fans of horror and apocalyptic fiction should jump at the chance to read The Fall.

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