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In eternal night
on February 20, 2012
Vampires, angels, a darkly grotesque world and the occasional massive explosion. Yup, this a Guillermo del Toro story. And while "The Night Eternal" has some headscratching moments (the not-sufficiently-foreshadowed origins and fate of the vampires), it's still a solid ending to del Toro and Chuck Hogan's epic horror trilogy.
Two years have passed since the Master came to New York, and the entire world has changed -- the wealthy/smart/influential people have been killed (the vampires are Occupiers?), humans are rounded up like cattle, and the toxic atmosphere keeps the world in perpetual night.
Only a few ragtag humans are still putting up a resistance -- a devastated Eph spends most of his time popping pills and moping about the loss of his son Zack, Nora is struggling to care for her mother, and Vasiliy Fet has gotten his hands on a nuke that might be able to take out the Master. And Zack -- still human -- is being kept in a mansion by the Master, who seems to be sculpting the boy in his own image.
But the key to destroying the Master may lie in an ancient book left behind by Abraham Setrakian, which hints at how the entire vampiric plague started. If they can decipher it, they might have a chance at destroying the Master -- but their enemy has thousands of years of cunning on his side.
The Strain Trilogy really shows the way that vampires should be depicted -- not as pouting sparkling pretty-boys, but as vicious, intelligent creatures with ancient power and knowledge. And "The Night Eternal" is a good -- not brilliant, but good -- way to wrap the trilogy, with plenty of suspense, horror, and vampires who actually have a smart plan for world domination.
The book is wrapped in a grimy, bleak, decayed atmosphere, with lots of bloodspattered action scenes and dark humor ("Vivas las rates!"). But del Toro weaves in thin, pale threads of mysticism, which culminate in moments of almost frightening beauty. And his prose style meshes beautifully with Chuck Hogan's, especially since they both have a knack for the gritty details (guess where the vampire excrement ends up).
The biggest problem with "The Night Eternal"? The origin of the vampires was depicted as being biological in the first two books, but in this one... it's mysticism, magic and ANGELS. This isn't entirely surprising since del Toro inserts a lot of angels into his work, but it wasn't well foreshadowed. At all.
Without Setrakian, the original group has fractured a lot -- Eph is an unreliable, emotionally distant shell of himself, and he's so doped-up on drugs that his vampire ex-wife is having trouble finding him. Nora and Fet have found solace in each other, and we still have a bunch if colorful side characters such as Quinlan the vengeful half-vampire (whose backstory is explored here), ex-gangbanger Gus, and the increasingly messed-up Zack.
"The Night Eternal" has a major central flaw, but is saved by the brilliant prose, strong characters, and vampires who actually scare you. It's not brilliant, but it is still a solid read.