The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy
by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061558221
Date: 21 September 2010 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Another Review / Show Official Info /
Eldritch Palmer, one of the wealthiest men in the world, continues to betray Mankind in hopes that Sardu will give his aging, dying body immortality. Eph's ex-wife, Kelly Goodweather, is a strigoi that is determined to turn her son Zack into a vampire; Sardu will use her to track down and destroy Eph and Setrakian. Augustin "Gus" Elizalde has been forced by the New World Ancients (three of the original seven vampires of which Sardu is the rebellious one) to help them slay the "unclean" strain of vampires. Meanwhile, Sardu is planning a catastrophe of epic proportions that will turn the world into an environment more suitable for his existence.
The vampire nightmare that was spawned in Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain grows more terrifying in its faster-paced sequel, The Fall. It contains grotesque, bizarre images of violence and horror that will haunt the reader's memories for a very long time. Returning once again are the strigoi; infected blood worms squirm beneath their flesh and six-foot long stingers shoot out from their mouths. Now there are new horrors; they include blind vampire children, known as feelers, which crawl spider-like along walls; Nazi vampires that continue to perform acts of barbaric torture; and vampires are latching themselves to subway trains for transportation beneath the Hudson River.
My favorite character in The Fall is the elderly Jewish professor, Abraham Setrakian. He survived the Nazi concentration camp, Treblinka, where he first encountered Sardu. The Fall delves more into Setrakian's life-long commitment to destroying Sardu and his created strigoi. A lover of historical horror and mystery, I enjoyed the interludes when Setrakian accounts his search and destruction of the Nazis which Sardu transformed into vampires while feeding upon prisoners at Treblinka. This is a treacherous, gruesome journey that takes the reader to various Gothic castles and villages throughout Northern Europe. The reader learns the origin of the blood worm-infested heart that Setrakian keeps inside a jar.
During The Fall, the reader also learns why the wealthy Eldritch Palmer, owner of Stoneheart Group, hates Mankind enough to aid Sardu in its destruction. The novel describes his lifelong search for the Ancients and their refusal to turn him into an immortal. Thus he begins searching for Sardu. Palmer is as amoral and evil as Sardu's Third Reich vampires; he truly has a heart of stone. Eph Goodweather struggles to prevent his son Zack from being turned into a vampire by his strigoi mother Kelly. From The Strain, the reader learned that strigoi are genetically programmed to seek out their "Dear Ones" (family members) and bite them. Sardu uses this strange trait to his full advantage.
A most unique character, Angel Guzman Hurtado, is introduced in The Fall. He is an aging, crippled man who resides alone in the slums; however, he was once known as "The Silver Angel" to millions of adoring fans in Mexico. This enormously large, former wrestler was an action hero on the silver screen; unfortunately, a knee injury plummeted him into obscurity. After a chance encounter with Gus, he once again dons his silver mask and becomes a hero while battling strigoi. Through Angel, Del Toro may be trying to convey how a fallen man (or a fallen society) can redeem himself through acts of bravery?
The Fall is by far the best horror novel I have read this year. I daresay that I enjoyed it more than The Strain. It has more action, more suspense, more gore and a wider assortment of bizarre characters. It was also more emotionally traumatic; not all of the main characters (good and bad) will survive. The ending left me feeling cold, depressed, and gloomy. Mankind has fallen. The vampires have risen. However, the worse is yet to come. I predict that the next novel in the trilogy, Eternal Night, will be the best. It's not too late; every vampire fan needs to read this epic trilogy. Eternal Night is tentatively scheduled to be released on March 15, 2011.