Review #32: The Night Eternal by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro
The Night Eternal is the third installment in what I think of as the strigoi trilogy, following The Strain and The Fall. When I saw The Strain on Amazon, written by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro, I knew immediately I would be buying and reading the entire trilogy. First off, I LOVE when books come in a set. Secondly, how could these two possibly go wrong? Guillermo Del Toro is the genius director of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, two of the most beautiful and haunting movies I’ve ever seen. Chuck Hogan is author of Prince of Thieves, the book that Ben Affleck’s The Town was based on. He’s like Jr. Lehane. There was no room for anything but greatness with this trilogy, and I quickly devoured The Strain and moved on to The Fall. I finally got the paperback of The Night Eternal, and now I have completed the trilogy and discovered that sometimes, greatness can be overestimated.
I’ve tried to describe the plot of this book but found myself writing entirely too much detail, yet having a tough time being eloquent, so I’m going to direct you to TylerDFC’s review for an excellent plot description. Very briefly, The Night Eternal begins two years after the failed attempts to kill off The Master, the vampire (i.e., strigoi) leader who has taken over New York City and are quickly turning the world’s citizens into vampires. This new strigoi world is typically post-apocalyptic, with camps of human survivors being bred for blood, human and vampire soldiers, a subdued (and specifically chosen) human workforce, and the expected imagery of everything being dark, dirty, and looted. It is a dangerous world for humans, but most dangerous of all for Dr. Eph Goodweather and his friends who are now outlaws in this new world. Eph is “The Chosen One” with the power to kill off The Master, and in so doing all of his progeny.
I wish I could say that I love this trilogy, but I just couldn’t. The Strain was easily the best of the three books, the only one that combined horror, action, and a strong emotional impact. The Fall was simply TOO much action, with entirely too many close-calls that our heroes escaped from. It was downright cheesy at points. The Night Eternal is better than The Fall, but suffers from many of the same problems. The narrow focus on Eph and Company just doesn’t work. At this point in the trilogy, we simply can’t root for Eph any longer and the narrative is largely focused on him. When the focus was shifted to Fet and Nora’s separate stories in the first half of the book I found myself caring again, but this was only a brief reprieve from the singular focus on ending The Master. There is again entirely too much action where the heroes escape with little to no damage (until the end). This book could have benefited from a more emotional focus, rather than just “go-go-kill-kill-sword-silver-kill-kill.” The flashbacks/interludes aren’t particularly compelling (when they were in fact the best parts of the previous books). I was exhausted by the end, but after 500+ pages really couldn’t give a damn. We have some excellent moments where Nora is in the human breeding camps, and if only more of the book was focused there it would have been more compelling, and frankly, that’s where the real horror lies.
I’ve mentioned this before in a previous review where authors collaborated, but I really wish I understood more about the writing process here. Del Toro and Hogan obviously are co-authors, but how did their process work? Was one the creative drive while the other penned the words? This is my own curiosity, and I suppose it would not impact how I felt about the book, but would it kill to include a foreword or afterword about the creative process? I think not.
I wish I had more to say about this book and this trilogy, but I guess it boils down to this main point – too cheesy, too action-y, too shallow, not emotional enough. I was doing some googling this morning, and apparently The Strain is being transformed into a graphic novel. After reading the first seven pages, I have to say that THIS is the medium for this story to be told. The imagery is very strong in the book, and looks beautiful and exciting in the graphic form. I think that in graphic form the emotional impact would be stronger, and the action would read better than in novel form. The graphic novel version is bound to be more artistically successful, and maybe I’ll check it out when it is released.