Holy apocalypse, these books scared the pants off of me. And not in a cover-my-eyes-and-scream-in-terror kind of way. They were perfect October reading, they definitely got me into the Halloween spirit. These books are so bleak, so dark and creepy, so hard to put down that I found myself coming up for air and breathing with relief that we weren’t really in the middle of a vampire zombie apocalypse.

Yes. A vampire zombie apocalypse. Because that’s basically what the 1st two books in this new trilogy are about. The Strain, to me, was pure, delicious creepiness (if you like that kind of thing). A plane arrives at JFK and stops suddenly on the runway. The CDC is called in to investigate and finds all but 4 of the people on board dead. With no obvious cause of death. As CDC epidemiologists Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez investigate, they discover a deadly and fast-acting new virus. And the 4 survivors are not as well as they seem. Then Abraham Setrakian, an old Holocaust survivor and NYC pawnbroker, sneaks into their lab and tells them to burn all of the bodies immediately, and this begins the (slow) realization by the scientists that vampires are real and a Master has arrived in New York. They join forces with Setrakian and an exterminator named Vasily Fet to fight the vampire virus.

And these are not glittery, handsome, man-boy vampires made out of chivalry. Nope. These vampires bare a more striking resemblance to zombies than the vampires we know from movies. They have an insatiable hunger, dead expressions, broken bodies, horrible disfigurements, and a neverending violent streak. And they are spreading. It’s up to the mötley crüe of vampire hunters to stop them.

The Fall picks up where the 1st book left off, after a devastating blow leaves some of the team members reeling. The second book terrified me, flat out. The vampires seem to be winning, the infection is spreading at an alarming rate, and the lack of a response becomes extremely suspicious. There is a lot revealed here about the motives behind the vampire plague, and they take turns being too convoluted to be believed and just scary enough to make you cringe. But it’s the descriptions of NYC in flames, streets taken over by monsters, and the seeming hopelessness of the whole situation that scared me. I actually found myself pausing to check in with reality and remind myself it’s a work of fiction. This one really got to me, and when I finished it I was emotionally wrung out. Again, we’re left with a devastating ending that won’t be resolved until the next (and this time final) book. I had to switch gears to something a little sunnier after reading these back to back.

I thought both of these books were exceptional, but The Strain is by far the better of the 2. Isn’t that always the way with trilogies? The Fall felt like it was driving the plot along to get to the last part of the series. And a lot of information is revealed in the 2nd book, but sometimes when you’re faced with a vampire zombie plague that has doomed the entire world, more information is just depressing.

I can’t wait for the last book.