The End of the World As We Know It

10 Jan

Christmas morning at the Bindrim household brought with it many surprises this year, chief among them a conspicuously shaped package that turned out to be the item I’ve simultaneously dreaded and anticipated recieving for months now: my very first Kindle.

I should say right off the bat—lest I come across as spoiled or ungrateful—that not even a prolonged resistance to e-readers could lessen my appreciation for my mom’s gift-giving. Whether or not I was ready to fork over my own money to join the reading revolution is beside the point. Which is to say that I don’t know if I could successfully identify a gift horse (like, scientifically speaking), but word is you’re not supposed to look them in the mouth.

To my mom’s credit, the Kindle I received is also lacking all the bells and whistles of the newer versions. It’s pretty much just books on a screen, with acess to the Amazon store. Also, no ads (thanks Mom!) As technological transitions go, she took it easy on me.

So before I get into the pros and cons of pressing buttons to turn pages, this week’s read was The Night Eternal, the third and final book in the vampire/plague trilogy co-written by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) and Chuck Hogan (The Town, book version.) Considering this is the first book I read on Kindle, it’s kind of fitting that The Fall, the second book in the trilogy, was the first book I reviewed on this site. It stands to reason that next year, Twilight 5: Winter Solstice will be the first book I read from the comfort of a flying car. It better be.

To the extent that one can review the third book in a trilogy, The Night Eternal was a fitting end to an enjoyable series, and I am woefully disappointed to discover that there are no immediate plans for a movie or television adaptation. The book opens two years after a “plague” of vampirism has hit the world; most countries are decimated (I think at one point they say a third of the world’s population is gone), others have quarantined themselves (England, those dicks) and the few humans that remain in New York City are either ruled over by a vampire dictator, or imprisoned in one of many “blood camps,” which I assume are kind of self-explanatory.

One thing I’ve loved about this trilogoy is Guillermo/Hogan’s (Guillermogan’s) interpretation of a vampire tale, which in this case includes elements of science fiction, fantasy, mythology and, in this most recent book, the dystopian post-apocalyptic world I imagine would result from a global takeover by the undead. A world so blighted by pollution and nuclear waste that the sun is only visible for a few hours a day, and a world where people would rather exist under the thumb of a mutant dictator than risk death through resistance. The environment of The Night Eternal has as much in common with I Am Legend or The Hunger Games as it does Interview with the Vampire. For me at least, it was a refreshing take.

That said, The Night Eternal doesn’t quite manage to stack up to The Strain, the first book in the series, and I wish Guillermogan had spent more time on the parts of this book that separated it from the other two—the blood camps, the structure of a vampire-ruled world where certain humans are complicit in their subjugation, the realities of a life with three hours of sunlight. To the authors’ credit, there was a rather significant narrative to resolve, so I understand the book’s focus on tying up loose ends. I just wish there had been a little more exposition (by the way, it just took me ten minutes to think of that word.)

So, vampires aside, how was it giving up the printed page? Not…entirely…awful. The Kindle is phenomenal for train reading (holding a book and turning pages with one hand), and hangover reading (laying immobile on your couch with the device propped up on a pillow). The Night Eternal wasn’t too long, but I’m also already sold on the Kindle as a preferable alternative for 1,000-page monstrosities like Stephen King’s The Stand or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. And more than anything, I was surprised to find the whole e-reading experience kind of …novel (no pun intended.)

But the Kindle has its downsides, not least of which is the fact that I found myself repeatedly reaching to turn a page before remembering there wasn’t one. For one, most books don’t have page numbers, so one must be content with knowing the percentage of a book they’ve finished (for me, this is somehow depressingly sterile). It’s also hard to flip back to passages you’ve already read, and I still don’t really understand the difference between “off” and “screensaver.” But my biggest gripe with Kindle isn’t its treatment of reading (which is, for the most part, comparable to print), but its integration with Amazon. What I expected was complete access to the Amazon environment I’ve spent years (literally, years) experiencing online. What I got was a sweet gadget with cursory access to pretty much only e-books.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Kindle’s integration with Amazon’s Wishlist. Having started my own Wishlist in 2005, the vast majority of things I’ve saved are print books. Now, wouldn’t it make sense to still include these books on the Wishlist I can view from my Kindle?! Might it even make sense to let me use the e-reader (even the bell- and whistle-less version I have) for all manner of Amazon.com shopping? Methinks yes. It’s ironic that the company whose smartphone app is notorious for scanning barcodes (ostensibly on non-digital products) somehow failed to integrate those same products with its e-reader.

Anyway, long story short (or I suppose needlessly long), Kindle Experience No. 1 went okay. My eyes didn’t melt, my brain didn’t explode and my sense of loyalty to printed books didn’t cause a spontaneous paperback fire in my apartment. Basically the world didn’t end. Which is good, because I hate giving blood.

THE FACTS:
——————————————————
TITLE: The Night Eternal
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AUTHOR: Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan
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PAGES: No freaking idea!
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ALSO WROTE: The Strain, The Fall
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SORTA LIKE: The StrainThe Fall
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FIRST LINE: “On the second day of darkness they rounded them up.”

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