Hogan and Del Toro’s The Strain is a refreshing addition to current vampire fare. Generally, books set in the current day, involving vampires, are things from which I run. I don’t stop running. The difference, for me, with this book was it's internet buzz, as well as the name Guillermo Del Toro.
The Bad: The characterization got me riled on one occasion. The CDC sidekick, Nora, goes from being a physician/epidemiologist to a woman holding a hand over her mouth, stifling a terrified cry and sobbing afterward. Really? Our physician/epidemiologist’s first truly stunning and shocking exposure to the gross, disgusting, hideous, etc., is a newly turned vampire (newly turned = more zombie than vampire)? C’mon. I'm certain that the real article (Nora’s real-life counterpart) would be far more hardened, as a result of career path alone, than that. Other than that one truly glaring error, the characterization was still sub-par, running in the shallow end of the pool.
Something niggles at me concerning the story. It’s not bad, but seems like a road we’ve all been down before. Don’t get me wrong, the story is well executed, for what it is. It’s not daring or stunning in any kind of innovative way. I don’t mean for it to be a criticism, because I liked the story well enough, but it seemed to be an amalgam of books/movies/games I’ve experienced before.
The Good: Newly turned vampire/zombies running rampant through NYC as the first cascading shockwave of a possible extinction level event for humanity. Think I am Legend mixed with Resident Evil, except with vampires. The vampires “mature” in a matter of weeks into rather sentient, cunning and collaborative little buggers it would seem.
I really like how this book shows vampires as they ought to be: horrifying monsters – not the hot boy in high school. They smell disgusting. They relieve themselves while ‘feeding,’ or, pretty much, at any other time with no concern for sanitation or hygiene. These vampires have a hive intellect and no verbal communication, or need for it.
The whole phenomenon becomes more interesting when considered in terms of an epidemic outbreak. The vampires themselves are the vectors. They transmit the blood worms to infected prey. They can be exterminated by ultra-violet irradiation or decapitation. Silver can cause them pain. Otherwise, run! Forget the garlic and holy water.
Also, there seems to be a long standing arrangement concerning the existence of vampires. Prey are customarily beheaded so that no new vampires are created, unless necessary or desired. Among the ancient “Masters” (seven in all), the one central to this story has gone rogue. Moreover, it appears that there is an alliance between the rogue Master and a wealthy financier. The unlikely alliance between an ancient and a human is designed to throw the old arrangement out and boldly initiate a head-on conflict.
Overall, a fun read even though it’s not profound or innovative. For those who can live without owning their reads, wait until it arrives in the library. For those who must own, wait for the mmpb.
Next up: Transformation, by Carol Berg.
P.S. There is a more recent interview of James Maxey, over at FBC, than the one I referenced in an earlier post.