Friday, July 26, 2013

Book 87: The Night Eternal

This is the concluding volume of The Strain trilogy.  Given the fact that the paperback copy has been out for over a year already, it is probably easy to tell that I wasn't in a rush to finish this series.  In fact, if I hadn't found a bargain copy for $4 or $5 at the bookstore recently, I probably still wouldn't have finished it.  The second book was just incredibly disappointing to me, and while I figured I'd eventually finish the series because I was already two thirds of the way through, I certainly wasn't seeking this novel out.
There were quite a few issues with this novel, but at least I now know how it ended.  There were parts of the plot where the action picked up, but overall the biggest problem this book, and I would say the series as a whole, had was the pacing.  It was much too slowly paced.  I think if this series had been one stand alone novel divided into three parts, it could have been great, or at least not mediocre.  It would have been easier to care about the characters because the people in book 1 were interesting.  The people in books 2 and 3 weren't very exciting even though they were technically the same characters, with the exception of Quinlan.  That was actually one part of this novel I liked, the rest of the vampire mythology and lore that is revealed, especially in regards to Quinlan.  There were a few parts of the origin story I could have done without, especially when they are presented as fact rather than myth such as the idea that the vampires are the result of a fallen angel from Sodom and Gomorrah times.  I don't mind allusions to biblical stories but straight up using the Bible?  Let's leave religion out of my vampire novels unless it's a character holding a cross to ward off a vampire.  Also, no visions!  I'm okay with revelatory dreams because it could just be sold as someone's subconscious but don't make it a vision.
The novel takes place two years after The Fall, and the vampires have overtaken the world.  Thanks to the nuclear bombings from the previous novel, daylight has been reduced to only 2 hours a day.  Unlike in some other vampire novels or movies, the Master thought ahead and worked out a ratio of vampires to humans.  While many humans are dead, a large part of the population is still around, allowed to go about their daily lives as long as they tolerate the fact that they are second class citizens to vampires, and sometimes people might be moved to a camp where they will serve as human blood bags.  The human leadership were among the first killed, and with the rest of the population malnourished, there is very little resistance to the new reign.  Ephraim, Nora and Fet are still fighting the good fight as well as Gus and Quinlan, the mysterious vampire like creature.  However, Ephraim is a shell of a man, and he is so annoying!  The Master kidnapped his son Zac two years ago, and Ephraim continues to torture himself about his son, using alcohol and drugs as a crutch.  I admit I have noticed in the past that father-son relationships often don't move me very much in novels unless well written, and in this case, I had very little patience and sympathy for Ephraim.  Of course, the fact that the reader knows that Zac is having a rather pampered life with the Master (at least it's pampered for this new world) and has become an asshole (yes, I know he's under the Master's influence, and it's not his fault) may be part of the reason I wasn't too concerned with Eph and Zac when compared to the fate of the whole world.
The other part of the novel that irritated me, and once again, this completely relates to Eph, was the love triangle.  That's right, there's a love triangle - Nora, the only woman character with anything to do in this novel, has been involved with Ephraim but has been developing feelings for Fet.  The thing is I could buy Nora's interest in Fet since he is still fighting while Eph has become a complete wreck.  I just had a hard time believing any of the descriptions of Eph's jealousy.  He has become so much of a one note character that I really couldn't believe that he cared that Nora was no longer interested in him.  Of course it was also used a plot point to show just how discontent and isolated from the group Eph was feeling.
As discovered in the previous novel, it takes a nuke to actually destroy one of the Ancients or the Master.  Fet has finally been able to secure a nuke, but the team has still not been able to decipher the Lumen which would reveal the location the weapon needs to be detonated.  The novel is essentially a race as the last of the resistance must figure out how to save humanity before the Master zeroes in on them, removing any chance of being overthrown and defeated.
It's been so long since I've read the second novel that I'm not sure if this is an improvement but there is no doubt that the first one remains the best of the series.  Overall, I would even say that the series and this book, too, have some good ideas in them but the series shouldn't have been dragged out into a trilogy, or as a trilogy, it should have focused on more or different characters.  I had a hard time (and the character Gus is with me on this one) with Ephraim as the flawed hero in this because I did not care about a single one of his issues.  It could still make for an interesting movie or two if they cut out some of the fluff, and were alright with having a two year jump somewhere in the middle of the film.  I just wouldn't want this to be turned into a film trilogy.

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