Review: The Fall
Is there a worse feeling than when you’ve just finished a novel, and the time you spent reading feels completely wasted? You sit back, your face becoming red with hatred for a book that just kept you from reading something else that was potentially awesome. You vilify the “novel” you hold in an ever tightening grip. This so-called novel is the cause of all your problems, and is the evil force reason for war, world hunger, American Idol, and your failing Fantasy Football team (The Aints).
Take a deep breath. Everything will be fine (except your Fantasy team).
THE FALL is Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s follow-up to last year’s, THE STRAIN. This story is about the ongoing vampire apocalypse (including a newly thrown-in almost-prophesy…*cough*lame*cough*), and the cover of THE FALL has a little blurb pimping it out as a “High-Tech Vampire Epic.” This couldn’t possibly be further from the truth, as last time we checked silver swords and mirrors weren’t high-tech. Yeah. This is a terrible, terrible novel.
We’ll start with what it does right…
OK, now that we are done with that, what is wrong with this novel? In short, everything. The first chapters consist of attempts to explain issues pretty much everyone had with the first novel, THE STRAIN. While it is nice to see that there are some real (if eye-roll-inducing) explanations behind many of the problems, they should have been included in book 1. Beyond that, no other effort is made to explain anything else. Look, if you are going to set a precedent for scientifically explaining away vampire myths, then you better be able to do it to all of them. Additionally, this is one of the worst novels we have ever read in terms of PoV problems. The PoV will often switch mid-paragraph. Twice. Inexcusable.
THE FALL reads a lot like a novel based on a movie. Everything is bare-minimum. Details. Character. Plot. Setting. We couldn’t picture the city at all. Telling us the city looks destroyed and smokey isn’t enough. It was like our characters were floating in a blank white void. When THE FALL isn’t reading like a bad novel, it reads like a bad TV script. One of the characters–an ex-lucha libre and Mexican Cinema star who goes as far as to wear the typical mask that all the stars wear–even says as much towards the end by comparing the current story to one of his ridiculous movies. We aren’t making this up.
Let’s talk about the characters for a bit. They are all awful. THIS is the group that is supposed to save humanity? We are so screwed. Hardened military types are getting killed in mere seconds, yet the old man, the pest control guy, and two CDC members are like Spartacus in the arena. Riiiiight. All the characters expertly use silver swords and knives (they are high-tech like that) to cut a path to…uh…something yet introduced. They are all now professional sword and knife fighters (who never freeze in the face of horror) against vampires that are at least twice as fast as they are. And twice as strong. Even the kid, Zack. He cleans house with his spontaneous knife skills. In the dark. That sound you hear is us banging our heads against the wall.
The first half of the novel essentially boils down to the main characters saying, “We need to get out of here, this city is falling apart.” Instead they sit around doing absolutely nothing while they wait for a magical solution to appear. And it does. Suddenly there is a book for auction that has the history, name, weakness and origin of the Master Vampire. How convenient. But it will have an enormous price associated with it! How will our heroes afford this 30+ million-dollar book? Coincidence and convenience come into play to save the day.
Eph, the main PoV, is terribly written. He says he (and everyone) needs to fight, and how this isn’t about him, it’s about everyone else. Yet his actions prove the direct opposite. This IS all about him. His sections can be summarized by him saying, “I hate everything. I’m going to save the world.” Look, if a character is written in a way that makes the reader want to skip over his entire PoV, its a bad character. Don’t tell us the “Oh, the author(s) made you FEEL, so it was done perfectly. You’re just ignorant.” If it looks like crap, and smells like crap, do we really need to do a taste-test to make sure?
Interspersed between sparse sections of story are flashbacks to Setrakian’s days as a spry vampire hunter. They essentially repeat themselves and the ones from the prior novel. We get it, he hates vampires for all the harm they have done him. We also get blog entries (seriously) from the Fet, the pest control guy. It’s all pointless filler. The novel barely clocks-in at 300 pages, 100 of which could have been cut for their pointlessness.
The writing just doesn’t lend any sense of believability to these characters. For example, the gang aspect with Gus is just stupid. Man, if all gangs were completely brain-dead like the ones in this novel, the USA would have been cleaned up a long time ago. Again, THESE are the people we are relying on?
However, it was the ending itself that really ruined this novel for us. You know things are bad when you want to throw the book away, unfinished, only 30 pages from the end. We have considerable willpower–remember, we read Terry Goodkind–but THE FALL nearly killed us. It had an ending full of cliché, coincidence, predictability and soap-opera dialogue/scenarios.
If you want a good monster novel, read Larry Correia’s MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL. His monsters are scarier, his science better (we know right?), his fighting more realistic, and his characters act in believable ways.
THE STRAIN and THE FALL set themselves on a pedestal as a new evolution in the vampire mythology, yet there is nothing new here. These are not the droids you are looking for, move along.
Recommended Age: Give this to teenagers as punishment. They’ll never disobey you again.
Language: Swearing for the sake of swearing. Swearing without any real force behind the words.
Violence: Poorly described when the characters actually get off their butts and quit whining.
Sex: Alluded to.
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