Friday, August 12, 2011

The Fall - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

 After finishing The Strain yesterday I was impressed enough to start reading, The Fall immediately afterwards. It is the second novel in, The Strain trilogy, and I have just found out that the third novel is to be released 25th October this year.

 As I started this novel I instantly hit the snag so many novels that follow on from one another suffer, and that is repetition from the preceding novel. I always find this odd because surely the authors know that most people who have the book are reading it because they have read the first one. Sure I can understand they are also covering for the readers who haven't read the first novel, but the majority of readers are returning ones surely?  The amount of information from the first novel was too great, and the first few chapters were a pain. I found myself getting a bit bitchy about virtually reading parts of the first novel again.

 So I put it down for several hours and came back to it. These are very easy reading, and I had got through 50 pages before throwing it aside. When I came back I polished of the remaining 250 pages in one sitting. Once that annoying so called 'catch up' ( as if I'd forgotten what had happened!! ) was out of the way, the novel cracked along at a reasonable pace, and was a solid follow up to the first novel. Solid but not spectacular, and if anything seriously lacking all of the creepiness of the first.

 The lack of creepiness may be intentional as by now the reader is well aware of what is going on, and the novel moves on to the fall of humanity, and the ensuing apocalypse. This novel also lacked the page turning qualities that I so liked about the first. The surprises are gone and this novel read like any other. But even though I have gripes it provides enough for me to want to pick up the third novel when it is published. There are some flaws in this trilogy which are unfortunate, but overall it has enough strengths to overcome them.

 The strengths come from some very good use of topical subjects, fused around historical backdrops. In my review on The Strain, I referred to Ground Zero and Treblinka. Well in The Fall, we go back to Treblinka but also to other post-war European cities and destinations. The Holocaust background is actually very well done, and I did feel that the authors did their research. Certainly using such an event as a plot line is encroaching on touchy ground, and yet I think they have handled it with aplomb and delicacy, whilst all the time infusing it into the narrative by highlighting its inherent horrors.

The only historical fault I could find was the use of a Roman crypt outside the Treblinka camp. I'm 99.9999% sure that the Romans never made it that deep into what is modern day Poland, so it cannot be a Roman era crypt. Maybe the authors wanted to keep things simple by using the Romans, as they are easily recognisable to the general reader than a more obscure ancient European race. A small matter, but one that stood out against the otherwise excellent research they have clearly put in.

 The topical subjects revolve around nuclear power plants and global warming. Suffice to say Chernobyl is a narrative point, and with it the threat of nuclear winters. I can't say too much as it will give away too much, but the end of the novel is quite plausible, and provides the only chills of the novel. But again the use of modern, and well known facets of our everyday lives as a potential instrument of apocalypse, is well done. The use of nuclear power plants as places of creation for certain vampires, and their destruction, is very clever and original.

 I stated the first novel lacked a certain degree of originality, and I still think so. It is only the vampires that aren't original but otherwise the storyline is quite solid. Fortunately this novel didn't wander off into the realm of implausibility or sheer silliness, and that is its strength. It does have a whiff of the possible, and so much of the break down of society when faced with loss of law and order, has been seen right throughout history. So yes so much could be tomorrow's headlines!

  The authors have shown what greed and to much money can do, and it is again a good infusion of the everyday world into the premise. All this destruction is brought about by one man. He wants to obtain immortality by entering into a virtual 'Devils pact' which backfires. He uses his immense wealth to orchestrate the rise of the vampires, and ends up by not getting his desire. There is an element of truth in the author's observations on humanity and its stengths, avarices, and the trappings of wealth and greed.

 The novel then ends when humanity in the grip of a nuclear winter, and now nothing more than food sources for the vampires. I finished the novel quite literally reaching over to my desk wanting the third novel!! I have raised my criticisms of the trilogy so far, but overall it is very solid with some commendable research. There is a lack of originality about the vampires, but everything else is well done and provides plenty of plot, and desire for the reader to keep reading. The pacing is good even though not quite page turning. I've been entertained and satisfied, and if anything, what more can you ask for from a mass produced novel?!

 Lacking in creepiness but has some very solid plausibility backed by some impressive research. Still worth a look at if you like apocalyptic premises. Like The Strain Amazon has this with 4 out of 5 star from 138  reviews. A fair enough grade as the strong points do for me out way the negatives, which really are only a lack of originality pertaining to the vampires.

No comments:

Post a Comment