Blockbuster written all over it
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The Night Eternal, Harper, 2012. 55 pp. €7.87
The Night Eternal, the final instalment to Guillermo del Toro’s and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain trilogy, has kept fans waiting with bated breath for the past year. With the hardback version released a few months ago, the (less expensive, less unwieldy) paperback is now out for mass consumption.
The trilogy achieved something of a cult status since the first volume was released in 2009, with a number of factors contributing to its immediate success.
For starters, the Del Toro signature. More well-known for cinematographic efforts like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, Del Toro has a loyal niche following among film buffs. His decision to collaborate with Hogan and to translate his imagination to the literary arena created instant hype.
The trilogy was also considered a refreshing departure from the onslaught of heavily romanticised vampire novels, such as the Twilight and the True Blood franchise that were created for the ‘pink’ market.
Because yes, this trilogy is all about vampires. Not the highly sexualised vampires we got used to reading about – instead, the book’s protagonists can be compared most closely to the frightening parasites featured in the film 30 Days of Night. There is nothing remotely human about them.
Despite a brilliant first volume, the second instalment (released in 2010) was a massive letdown. Del Toro and Hogan seemed to have lost their direction, rambling endlessly about gang wars and the relationship strains between the human protagonists. Happily, from the very first chapter, The Night Eternal is back on track with a perfect balance of action, romantic interplay and psycho-analysis between the main characters.
The book continues where The Fall left off. The grand plan to defeat The Master failed and the protagonists are fast losing all will to fight. Ephraim’s relationship with Nora also failed, and the lady is now showing signs of transferring her affections to Vasilij Fet, leading to much friction in the group. Ephraim’s ex-wife Kelly is now one of The Master’s favourites – cue even more angst for the good doctor.
The Night Eternal succeeds where the previous volume failed. It paints a picture of a world so bleak so as to chill your soul. Del Toro and Hogan weave an only too vivid picture – the descriptions of the human farm and the horrific way humans are abused to serve the vampires’ needs are not for the weak of stomach.
The authors give a very sickening portrayal of the baser human instincts, mostly through the subplot involving Nora Martinez’s ordeal at the hands of her former boss. Rather than fighting for the survival of the human race, the ex-Centre for Disease Control director prefers to become a vampire sycophant in order to build a little empire for himself.
The treatment he metes out to his (mostly female) victims is as horrifying as any of the cruelties carried out by the vampires.
The opposing duality of the father-son relationship is also beautifully brought out.
The teenager’s conflicting emotions show him torn between three life forces – that of his mother (no longer human), his father (never previously present in his life and now going through a massive mental breakdown) and the perversely attractive power of The Master, who is doing his best to seduce Zack with the promise of power. The Master’s plan with respect to Zack is only too transparent.
The book races to a conclusion that is predictable but nonetheless satisfying. The final chapters are an action fest that culminate in Ephraim’s redemption.
The Night Eternal is an ending worthy of Del Toro’s and Hogan’s reputation. The trilogy will undoubtedly make a fantastic blockbuster film and there can only be one director at the helm, of course.