Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Night Eternal; well thank goodness that's over with

I have blogged previously on Del Toro and Hogan's masterful (as in, full of a character called the Master) The Strain and The Fall, and have to open with the confession that I only bought, and very painfully read, The Night Eternal so that I might have the chance to write a mean-spirited critique of a book I would otherwise not enjoy.

I have been suitably punished for such a petty aim, because The Night Eternal is an entirely fitting climax to what has gone before. I wrote earlier that the trilogy was going to need a hell of a big finish to make up for the ground that it had lost; I can't rule out the possibility that this advice was overlooked, but if - as they should be - Del Toro and Hogan are reading my words as though they were the word of God himself, what I meant was PUNCH IT UP DUDES, YOU'RE RUNNING OUT OF ROAD! Clearly, I don't have billionaire Mexican film directors hanging on my every word, because the ending of the NIght Eternal is flat and uninvolving and just plain wrong.

Not that I want to waste a huge amount of time on this, but what went right? Well, as I started into the last lap of the death march, and the book sketched in the vision of a world after two years of nuclear winter, chaos and vampire predation, my main thought was; the whole damn series should have started here. There's enough in the "previously on The Strain" opening internal monologues that you could quite easily dispense with the other two books and just read this one. That thought carried me through the first thirty or forty pages, or what would probably be the pre credits sequence of the eventual movie, and then we were back into the familiar urge to throw the book across the room. I persevered, reminding myself that this is the price you pay for wanting to poke fun at bad writing, but man, it never even got enjoyably bad. The same faults I've already ranted on about are there, so why rehash all of that noise?

Instead, let me just vent a little on how New York City is not the goddam centre of the world. I'm sure it must feel that way to the people who live there and are constantly treated to reminders of how important their city is - though most of these reminders are actually filmed in Toronto because it's cheaper and vastly less unpleasant - but in reality any rational vampire master overlord destroying the world and rebuilding it from scratch would pick a HQ with nicer weather, better water quality and well, a hell of a lot fewer New Yorkers, though in fairness, the Master is ALL OVER that last requirement. The whole world has been treated to a dose of the armageddons, but no-one in the book ever gets any further from the five boroughs than New Jersey. It's like an episode of Friends, though vastly less true to life. 

Other grumbles; we're told at the outset as an aside that the Master had all the world's cars crushed so that they couldn't be used as weapons, but from then on in, cars are all over the damn place; not just stashed away in mountain fastnesses by the plucky rebels, but just flat out abandoned hither and yon all over the New York Streets so that they can be used as cover and impromptu getaway vehicles. In New York? A city where less than 10% of the population (statistics may have been pulled out of my ass, estimates can go up as well as down) actually own cars and on-street parking is something most people have only heard about? I was cutting Hogan a break thinking he was just writing what he knew, and then that? But it's the whole thing of sketching in a new kind of world and then not even bothering to stay consistent with its rules. When writing's as bad as this to begin with, only the story will save you, and for that everything has to make a lot more sense.

And the story of the vampires? Well, I just have to share this, because it is perhaps the stupidest vampire origin story and happy ending since Bram Stoker walked the earth. I suspect - without having the patience to check - that even Stephanie Meyer's Twilight is actually less dumb, and she openly admits she didn't know anything about vampires and just wanted to write a story about the importance of abstinence. And glitter, I think. Here's the deal; the original seven vampires come to pass when God sent not two, but three angels to give Sodom and Gomorrah a talking to, and the third one (who is not in the canonical biblical account) went all rogue from the sudden shock of having fun on earth and started snacking on humans, and then on the other angels. So God, who doesn't seem to have been either a good planner or an especially good manager, tackled this problem by having the bad angel chopped up into seven pieces and scattered to seven different places. Keep in mind, now, this is your actual God. On the one hand, he's omniscient, so he really ought to have seen all this coming. And on the other hand, he's supposedly all merciful, so this seems a little excessive. And on the other other hand, he's just sent these three clowns to turn Sodom and Gomorrah into a parking lot, so maybe not that merciful after all, but if so, what's the big deal about one of his staff snacking on the targets instead of letting them get collectively vaporized? So there we are, seven helpings of angel delight, buried good and deep and forever separated, yadda, yadda, yadda. What happens next makes me wonder if Del Toro was consulting on Prometheus, because lo and behold, all this buried evil can somehow manifest itself as tendrils of blood which somehow turn into worms which somehow burrow their way into people and turn them into vampires. Because - hell if I know, actually. Anyhow, it all ends happily, since the human cast blow up the last remaining resting site of all this crap with a nuclear bomb they somehow know how to repair, obliterating all the whiniest and most dislikable surviving characters, and liberating the lost soul of the wrong 'un angel who somehow ascends into heaven. Which if that was a fix, why wait til all the other stuff, huh? 

Anyhow, thank goodness it's all over because it was absolutely terrible. When the book goes to the charity shop, common decency requires me to put a note into it warning the buyer not to read it.

1 comment:

aearon09 said...

Thank you - I got about 40 pages in and decided I couldn't make myself read the rest of the last book. However, I was marginally interested to find out how it ended; I should have known it would end just as annoyingly and incomprehensibly as it went on. So thanks for saving me the trouble, and doing so in an amusing manner. One can only hope del Toro will hang up his writing hat...