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The Fall: The Strain Trilogy, Book 2
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
William Morrow, 308 pages

The Fall
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Guillermo del Toro made his feature directorial debut in 1993 with the film Cronos, and has since gone on to direct Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy I, Hellboy II, and Pan's Labyrinth, which garnered enormous critical praise worldwide and won three Academy Awards.

Chuck Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Standoff and Prince of Thieves, which won the 2005 Hammett Award and was called one of the 10 best novels of the year by Stephen King. Prince of Thieves will soon be a major motion picture.

ISFDB Bibliography: Guillermo del Toro
ISFDB Bibliography: Chuck Hogan
SF Site Review: The Strain

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandy Auden

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It's strange but I have to confess that I frequently smiled to myself while I read The Fall. It's a dark and horrific story that invokes a suitably serious response overall but, quite often, I was smiling underneath.

Why?

For three reasons.

The first one comes out of my preference for evil vampires. I don't mind what kind of evil they are, but the vampires of history prey on people, see humans as a lesser species and manipulate them to their own uses. Which is why I struggle sometimes with the current Twilight trend, where they're seen as fluffy, friendly and romantic characters.

My first smile -- well a smirk really -- comes because I'd love to see a Celebrity Death Match between the Twilight vampires and the strigoi in The Fall. It would probably last no more than sixty seconds and end with Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's strigoi exalting victorious, standing in two inches of blood and viscera, with little gobbets of half eaten Twilight vampire flesh strewn randomly around.

The Fall's vampires, you see, are vicious, single-minded, hungry and deadly. They are ex-humans whose bodies have been taken over by a worm-like creature which invades their organs and brain, discarding the host's personality and leeching out their humanity in favour of total obedience to the source of the infection, the Master.

The Master is one of the Ancients -- the original vampires, existing for millennia, acquiring riches and manipulating politics and industries alike. There are seven Ancients in total and mostly they want to remain hidden, ghost puppeteers of the world economy. But the Master? He has different plans for the human race.

In The Strain, the first book of the series, the Master is aided by millionaire Eldritch Palmer and manages to release his worm virus into the heart of New York City where it spreads exponentially, creating a state of emergency where Palmer's well placed sympathisers divert all the normal safety controls -- like CDC quarantine and martial law.

The spiral into chaos is vividly drawn, terrifying in its easy logic as more people are infected and infrastructure and services fail. As The Fall opens, the uninfected population is panicking, clogging the roads and railways as they flee. A few pockets of normalcy remain but mostly civilisation is breaking down, especially at night when the vampires come out driven by bloodlust or the need to find their loved ones, to infect them and show them a new and better way of life.

One of those vampires, Kelly, is desperately trying to infect her young son, Zack, but his father, Ephraim, was one of the first CDC doctors to understand the severity and nature of the virus. Eph has joined forces with one of his CDC colleagues Nora, along with a pest control workman called Fet, and Setrakian an old survivor from the Treblinka concentration camp where he first encountered the Master many years ago. Setrakian has been collecting weapons -- made of silver -- to use in the war against the vampires. Gang member Gus also brings along some fighters, rounded up from the remnants of several gangs across the city.

This group, fighting for their lives against huge numbers, are all ordinary people, something that makes The Strain significantly more engaging and life-like at the same time. These aren't elite troops, trained and armed to the teeth; they're confused, frightened, intelligent and determined people and they are my second reason to smile -- as I'm drawn easily into their lives and relationships and issues.

My third reason to smile is because this a damn good thriller. It generates a sense of curiosity in wanting to know what happens to the central characters fighting the invasion. Can they beat overwhelming odds? What will be the cost of trying to fight? How will the other six Ancients deal with their rogue member? What will happen when Palmer is made immortal by the Master? How will the rest of the world fare as other cities are attacked and infected and a world apocalypse becomes a likely prospect?

The answers are so unexpected and intriguing that I think I'm going to be smiling until the next volume is released.

Copyright © 2010 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and a combination interviewer/reviewer for SFSite.com and UKSFBookNews.net. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.


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