This review contains spoilers for The Strain
The second entry in Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain trilogy, The Fall picks up directly where the first book left off. With most of the trilogy’s heavy exposition having been covered in The Strain, The Fall is much more focused on direct conflict with the vampires. The infection continues to spread under the Master’s guidance, and those who resist him begin to search for an ancient book—the Occido Lumen—which may hold the key to defeating him.
Whew, the exposition’s over
The Strain was heavily focused on exposition and setting up the stage for later conflict, and readers who were put off by this extensive buildup will be happy to know that there is almost none in The Fall. All of The Strain’s efforts to establish the conflict and set the stakes pay off in The Fall, as the story explodes into almost all-out action. I have read few books in my life with such a fast pace; I devoured The Fall in a few hours one evening, and I think this is the best way to read the book. The Fall was meant to be absorbed in a single sitting, as it reads more like a high-octane action movie as opposed to the slowly-unfolding drama of The Strain. If it took The Strain a while to grab you, The Fall will suck you in right away.
This isn’t very happy…
The Fall is quite a bit darker than its predecessor. The protagonists’ efforts to combat the Master and his many agents are a constant struggle that, no matter how many vampires they kill, feels like an effort to hold back an inexorable tide—and all the while, they must deal with the now-vampire Kelly, who pursues her family relentlessly. Unsurprisingly, more than one major character meet their end in The Fall. It’s not dark to the point of being depressing, but The Fall fully delivers on the vampire horror that was promised in The Strain. Containing more defeat than victory, The Fall is an aptly-titled novel.
Avoiding the “middle book” syndrome
The Fall is the middle book in a trilogy, and this status has often proven problematic for other works of fiction—in the middle section of a three-part arc, you get neither the beginning nor the end; this can sap the story of a large portion of its weight. Fortunately, The Fall doesn’t suffer from this problem. It has a strong individual arc while still bridging the other two books of the trilogy, and moves at such a fast pace—and with such intensity—that it doesn’t feel lacking in the way that many middle entries in trilogies do. Far from being the worst of the The Strain trilogy, The Fall is the best that the series has to offer.
Why should you read this book?
If you liked The Strain, you’ll like The Fall—but if you didn’t like The Strain, The Fall may still be worth checking out. It is significantly stronger than its predecessor, abandoning extensive buildup for three hundred pages of all-out action. This is a great book to sit down and read in a single sitting, and it sets the stage wonderfully for the trilogy’s third entry, The Night Eternal.