The novel “The Night Eternal” by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan was published for the first time in 2011. It’s the third novel in the Strain trilogy and is the sequel to “The Fall“.
The Master’s plan to seize power worked. It used atomic weapons to cause a nuclear winter with an almost perennial night. In two years it took control of most of the world creating a society in which humans survivors are divided between his servants and the “cattle”, used to provide blood and for breeding.
The group formed by the epidemiologist Ephraim Goodweather, his colleague Nora Martinez and exterminator Vasiliy Fet keep on trying to form a resistance against the Master. They’re helped by the mysterious Quinlan, who served the other ancient vampires and now keeps on looking for the Master’s weakness in a fight that seems hopeless.
The final book of the Strain trilogy starts in a devastating way two years after the Master implemented its plan. The narrative jumps forward in time after the end of “The Fall” and the readers is thrown into a world of almost perpetual darkness almost completely dominated by vampires.
The resistance against the Master seems defeated, also becasue Abraham Setrakian’s dath made it much more difficult to decipher the Occido Lumen, a book that contains the secrets of the vampires. Ephraim Goodweather, who is supposed to be one of the leaders of the resistance, is almost gone mad after his son was captured by the Master.
The tones of “The Night Eternal” are really apocalyptic and not just because the situation for humans is really bad but also for the change of the base setup. The trilogy started with tones that, while containing classic elements of vampire stories, seemed more a mix of science fiction and procedural drama given that vampirism was described as a sort of disease.
From the beginning, the trilogy hasn’t shone for originality and the story of the vampirism epidemic reminded in many ways the move “Lifeforce”, adapted from the novel “The Space Vampires“. The Manhattan infested by vampires in the Strain trilogy echoes in some ways the London of that movie.
The tone of the story changes considerably in “The Night Eternal”, turning towards the mystical / religious. Both the Occido Lumen and the flashbacks reveal some elements which are clearly supernatural connected to the vampires. The story of the attempts by the resistance to destroy the Master doesn’t come up to that point but still contains religious connotations.
This unevenness compared to the previous books in the trilogy can leave the reader puzzled and yet I think that “The Night Eternal” is the strongest of the three. That’s because the plot may focus on the resolution of the story, without the need for an introductory part with an often slow pace and without the weakness of the central book.
“The Night Eternal” is primarily an action novel in which even the flashbacks contain elements related to the final resolution. The story is complex and events don’t always move directly from the beginning to the end of the novel even the detours lead there.
Again in “The Night Eternal” there’s a widespread use of cliché and not very original elements. The Emper… er, the Master who tries to bring Zack Goodweather to the “dark side” smells of been there done that, although in this case the sone is used to get to his father. Quinlan, who however is an interesting character, isn’t like the other vampire and the fact that Guillermo del Toro directed the movie “Blade II” suggests where he got the inspiration.
The ending isn’t exactly surprising either. The fast pace only partially covers for the flaws but if at the end of the novel you think about it a bit it’s impossible to ignore them. The good thing is that the protagonists are very human, in some ways even Quinlan, and not spotless heroes.
The idea of the Strain trilogy was originally conceived to create a TV show by Guillermo del Toro. After years of attempts to find the funding needed for the project, a pilot episode scripted by del Toro with Chuck Hogan and directed by del Toro was filmed and approved by the FX channel, which ordered a 13-episode season that is expected to debut in the U.S. in July 2014.
In the end, the Strain trilogy can be considered a single novel split into three books that tell a story unoriginal and uneven. For those who appreciate the stories of vampires, especially the classic ones, absolutely ruthless, rather than the glamorous ones of some modern productions, it can still be a fun read.