Review of The Night Eternal : Part 3 of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (SPOILER KLAXON)

Plot Synopsis

“It’s been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in The Strain and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There has been a mass extermination of humans orchestrated by the Master—an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers. The future of humankind lies in the hands of a ragtag band of freedom fighters—Dr. Eph Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Vasiliy Fet, and Mr. Quinlan, the half-breed offspring of the Master who is bent on revenge.”

Review

I don’t say this lightly. I can’t remember the last time I finished a series and regretted reading it but that is how I feel about ‘The Night Eternal’. After a strong first book and a so-so second book the Strain series concludes with The Night Eternal and it’s a complete stinker.

Books, films, poems, games, stories of any type really make implicit promises to the audience that things are going to unfold in certain ways. The story sets up questions that are going to be answered or at least expectations of the type of questions asked and/or the way that are being answered.

If you start off playing Mario you expect to fight Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. If the story starts with a quest to a far off mountain to destroy a magical ring the story better be about getting to the mountain and destroying said ring. If the story starts with John McCain taking his shoes off in a skyscraper then that skyscraper better be taken over by German terrorists and the fact he is shoeless needs to figure in also. You get the point.

The Night Eternal doesn’t understand this. ‘The Strain’ (Book One) set the scene about the type of story that is being told. The book starts off by putting a ‘scientific’ spin on Vampires. Rather than being mythical creatures the main character is the chief scientist for the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

When he starts investigating the outbreak he is looks at the situation in a rational, clinical way. He is doing autopsies of the infected bodies and we the audience get to see how the virus is completely taking over the host and rewriting its physiology at the most fundamental level.

This is an interesting and fresh take of the vampire myth. Given the popularity of Twilight and other vampire books that are essentially about teenage girls being able to bang impossibly hunky looking guys it is particularly refreshing. These vampires are EVIL, they want to destroy humanity and they have a plan to do it.

Now it is important to be realistic with vampire stories. We are dealing with well worn tropes here. So I’m not expecting things to completely different and I wouldn’t want them to be.

These vampires cannot cross flowing water unaided and they are hurt by silver. I’m fine with this and the vulnerability to silver is nicely explained by the Silver’s well known anti-bacterial properties. The story is fitting the tropes of vampires into the idea of vampirism as a virus that exists in the modern world. This is story that I’m expecting to be told.

In ‘The Night Eternal’ this ‘scientific’ story was completely jettisoned in what is a complete mess of a book. The book decides to give us the origins of ‘The Master’ by making the story about religion. In brief ‘The Master’ is one part of an Angel that came down to Earth when God was dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah. Stuff happens it turns evil.

Then to compound matters the climax of the story is straight up Deus Ex Machina in which it turns out that Eph is a prophet. He gets a vision from God and is miraculously given the answer. It’s really unsatisfying.

Furthermore, the series has set up a whole series of character arcs that it never takes the time to develop and then gets bored of and drops halfway through.

Annoyingly/pointlessly they decided to keep Nora’s Alzheimer suffering mother around only to have her killed off screen. Even worse they set up the relationship triangle with the Master, Eph and his son Zach only to leave it to late to do anything about the issue.

Then as a final kicker the entire story has a huge plot hole. The characters spend much of the book trying to acquire a detonator for a nuclear bomb as a nuke detonated at the right place can destroy ‘The Master’. This is fine but in passing they also decide to say that the UK has survived the vampire apocalypse in tact by flooding the channel tunnel.

It’s nice that they have saved my homeland but they didn’t think this through. The UK is a nuclear power. Its weapons are based on nuclear powered Trident submarines. Wikipedia tells me the UK has around 225 Nukes. I’m not going to go into all the permutations but one way or the other the UK is going to take care of this Vampire apocalypse/ be really really helpful. This avenue is completely ignored though and it is symptomatic of how lazy this book is.

In conclusion, this is one of the most disappointing conclusions to trilogy I’ve read. Given that the authors are really good storytellers on other projects. The Night Eternal’s laziness is inexcusable.

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My top five Christmas Stories

Its that time of year again; saturnalia. With this in mind I this in mind I thought I’d give you a list of my top five Christmas books, films and or characters. So without any further ado….

Five – Evil Robot Santa from Futurama.

Blasting through the steel reinforced windows of the awclarehugh blog command centre is the evil santa from Futurama. Every time I catch one of these episodes it is laugh out loud funny. Here’s hoping he doesn’t pay me a visit after only placing him at five.

Four – Home Alone 1 & 2

Duck Joe Peschi! Duck!

Ouch! He didn’t duck.

At times there is nothing like some cartoonish violence to make one’s heart feel warm and snuggly. I could watch Home Alone 1 & 2 time and time again. I’m watching these films to see actors get hurt by blowtorches, nails and BB guns. Wow, when you put it like that I sound like a bit of a physco.

Oh well, can’t do anything about that now. For your amusment and interest I’d like to direct you to these two links. You’ll never look at Kevin McCallaster in the same way again :-

1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTo6yvJ5SCM

2) http://theweek.com/article/index/238037/diagnosing-the-home-alone-burglars-injuries-a-professional-weighs-in

Three : Die Hard

Possibly the best action movie ever made. So good it keeps me liking Bruce Willis after Die Hard: A Good day to die hard, Red, Red 2 and the other countless awful films that Bruce Willis seems to be making at the moment. Seriously Bruce read the scripts before you accept!

Best of all it takes place during Christmas so its a Christmas film. So blasting its way in a three with Hans Gruber’s missing detonators is Die Hard.

Two : Its a Wonderful Life

A really heart warming story. That is watchable no matter how many times you have seen it before. Plus its interesting to see how the economic message of a 1947 film can still be so relevant today.

Merry Christmas You old building & loan!!

One : The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett has written some really good books but for my money this is  his best. Its funny, it has a great plot and it has great ideas.

I mean Death has to become Santa because, a manically insane assassin has killed Father Christmas. This is the best/ most absurd high concept premise ever and it has great characters like Susan D’eath, Death of rats, Death himself, the wizards, Mister Teatime, the eater of socks and the god of hangovers. It is simply brilliant.

Best. Christmas. Story. Ever!