The second novel in the Strain trilogy was not what I thought it would be. Although it started slow, the first book was engrossing and easily hooked me. But this one felt like a slog sometimes.
The Strain, book 2
Humans have been displaced at the top of the food chain, and now understand – to their outright horror – what it is to be not the consumer, but the consumed.
Ephraim Goodweather, director of the New York office of the Centers for Disease control, is one of the few humans who understands what is really happening. Vampires have arrived in New York City, and their condition is contagious. If they cannot be contained, the entire world is at risk of infection.
As Eph becomes consumed with the battle against the total corruption of humanity, his ex-wife, Kelly, now a vampire herself, is ever-more determined to claim their son, Zack.
As the Biblical origins of the Ancient ones are gradually revealed, Eph learns that there is a greater, more terrible plan in store for the human race – worse even than annihilation… (Goodreads)
My thoughts: (some spoilers)
I enjoyed the TV series (well, just the first and second seasons) and the first novel, so I thought I’d like this one too. But that didn’t happen. The narration felt different. It was still in omniscient third-person, but sometimes felt closer to the characters compared to how cold and removed it felt in the first book, where it was as if the narrator was just presenting the facts of what was occurring: the spread of the vampiric epidemic and how it affects the characters’ lives. We got notes from Eph’s diary in the first book, which makes sense to me since he is a scientist studying the course of the disease. However, in The Fall, we get posts from Fet’s blog, which didn’t make sense to me because Fet doesn’t strike me as a guy who blogs. He seems more like a guy who would run a podcast or something similar. I’m most likely wrong since I’m not the one who created the character, but that’s how I built him up in my head.
My knowledge of the TV show intruded on my experience with this book. I guess it’s because the show stuck pretty closely to the first book, so I expected something similar with this one. Much of what happens in the book pops up in the show (like the bid on the Occido Lumen, which was done a bit differently in the book; Eichorst losing the bid; the blind children who were turned), but there were a few twists. For example, the bid on the Occido Lumen, the book all about the Ancients (the vampires), was done at Sotheby’s in the book, but in the show it’s more of a black-market business deal done in a church or something. Of the two, I prefer the show’s setup, although it’s probably less realistic; but as I read that scene in the book, I wondered why the vampires need to observe this aspect of society — of making a bid on the book and walking away in disgrace when they lose. Why not just use their might and number and human allies to take the book by force when they lose the bid or even before the auction even starts? It didn’t make much sense to me, but I liked the drama and intensity of the scene.
Eichorst and Palmer are also different in the book. Let’s start with Eichorst first, who, although he’s a horrible person, is one of my favorite characters in the TV show. He’s so enigmatic and is one of the reasons why I enjoyed watching the show. But I guess that’s more because the actor (Richard Sammel) did such a great job: soft voice, delicate gestures, lots of pomp, always prim in a sharp suit to disguise that he’s a monster playing at being a human and so has to wear makeup, a wig, and a fake noise. The scene where we see him put on his “costume” for human mocking is one of my favs. Anyway, he’s not that interesting in the book and doesn’t even show up until halfway through The Fall. However, we still understand that there is much history between Eichorst and Setrakian, and I actually liked the moment in the book where Setrakian notices Eichorst at the auction and fear overwhelms him as he thinks back to his experiences at the concentration camp. Despite the many reminders, I sometimes forget that Setrakian is a frail, old man. His spirit and drive is so great that he has a powerful presence in the book, and the show.
Palmer was not what I expected either. I think I prefer him in the book than the show. We are able to more clearly see how much his poor health, selfish, and drive to achieve immortality at any cost has made him more vampire-like than human. I mean, this dude was harvesting organs, or rather people, in case he needed a new organ. I guess he got that idea from the vampires’ plan to raise humans like cattle for food, or rather blood. The Palmer in the book also makes more sense to me. He comes across as silly sometimes in the show and weak in influence. Whereas in the book, it’s quickly understood and maintained throughout that he is a man who has tremendous influence and control. The most surprising difference is that Palmer dies pretty early in the book (early compared to the show and unexpectedly because I watched the show first). I thought he’d stick around until the end. But this, too, makes more sense because Palmer fucked up a major deal for the Master (getting the Lumen), so of course the Master ripped him apart. The many second chances the Master gives Palmer for his disrespect and disobedience in the show didn’t make sense to me, even if the Master punished him by withholding temporary cure for Palmer’s ailments.
Setrakian’s death was also a surprise. Actually, not really his death but his confrontation with the Master because the Master turned him and if the place hadn’t blown up, there probably would have been a vampire Setrakian running around. I forgot how he dies in the show, but it shocked me in the book. I had to read that part twice, and then I wondered if he really died.
Other unexpected stuff: Quinlan is not the badass I saw in the show although he is a great fighter. Nora is still alive (why?).
I was hoping that the female characters would be stronger and more influential in the book, but that didn’t happen. Since the story is about guys and is told with an obvious male perspective, Kelly is often portrayed as the bad one, even before she became a vampire. There was a part where the omniscient narrator observes that Kelly was secretly thrilled by Eph’s drinking because it was so hard being his wife and him drinking would probably knock this genius down a peg or two (summin like that), and I was like “Whaaat?? Really?” That turned me off. It could be true, but that’s just really salty of her.
Nora isn’t portrayed much better in the book. She’s a super smart scientist who works for the CDC. When the world threatens to end by vampire invasion, she wants to fight to defend her city, but instead of doing that Eph threw his kid at her and told her to run while babysitting and because she loooves Eph and cares for Zack, she does it. I was hoping for something different. This character doesn’t affect much in the show other than to make Eph’s vampire wife jealous. It’s the same in the book. I was really hoping she would do more, have more influence, in the book.
Thank god there’s no Dutch. Then again, there’s one more book to go so she could pop up there. (I hope not.)
Some other stuff: Gus isn’t as awesome as he is in the show. Fet is one of my favs in the book and the show. Hate Eph.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
It wasn’t as good a read as the first book. I was even bored sometimes. Also considering where the show went and where this book hints at going (forcing women into pregnancy to harvest humans for vampire meals) and that my fav character (Setrakian) is no longer around, I’m not enthused to read the last book. I just don’t care anymore. The show ended on a lame note and started to suck badly after the first or second season. I have a feeling that it’s the same situation here.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Quotes from the book:
“There are men who bloom in chaos. You call them heroes or villains, depending on which side wins the war, but until the battle call they are but normal men who long for action, who lust for the opportunity to throw off the routine of their normal lives like a cocoon and come into their own. They sense a destiny larger than themselves, but only when structures collapse around them do these men become warriors.”