Monday, August 3, 2009

The Strain

Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain is the first book of a trilogy. Del Toro is probably best known for the movie Pan's Labyrinth. Which might be the book's biggest problem. The book reads like a movie. They might as well as put "soon to be a major motion picture" right on the cover. I'm sure it will be a good movie, very violent and graphic. I won't watch it because, truth be told, I'm squeamish. I will read horror but I very rarely watch horror movies. I can skip over graphic violence in books but movies seem to leave those scenes etched in my subconscious ready to jump out at me while I sleep.


While I was reading, I kept wondering why the book was written. Why not just write a script? It's going to be a movie anyway. I did learn that a solar eclipse is not actually an eclipse but an occultation. But the whole section called occultation wasn't necessary. It will look good on the screen but it didn't really do anything to move the plot of the book along. For my taste there was too much of that in this book.

The Strain is all about vampirism being spread like a communicable disease. Our modern world is able to deal with epidemics but they've never had to deal with something like this. In a time when almost everyone knows what a disease vector is medical catastrophe stories have become all too common. This one doesn't have anything special to make it stand out.

The book doesn't have any strong women. They are secondary characters, almost after thoughts. And why is it that the male protagonist of disaster movies... um books... is always divorced or on the verge of divorce? And why do they always seem to have rebound affairs with a young co-worker?

The other cliche of the book is the elderly "Van Helsing" character. He's a Polish gypsy who survived a Nazi concentration camp. It was in the camp that he first saw the vampire and he's spent his life learning about the creatures. Of course the protagonist thinks he's a crazy old man but as things get weirder he turns to him for help. There's another similarity between The Strain and Dracula: The protagonist balks at how the problem must be dealt with. The vampires have to be beheaded and/or the bodies destroyed. Del Toro's protagonist is a doctor and sees the vampires as his patients. He can't believe that they can't be saved by some medical intervention. He also hesitates at mutilating corpses.

My overall opinion of the book is that there is nothing special in it. There's very little I hadn't read/seen before. I didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't care whether the rogue vampire was stopped or not. I doubt that I will bother with the two other books in this trilogy.

Time will tell.

The authors seem to know enough about the vampire myth. Both men collaborated in an Op-Ed on vampires that is very readable.

Buy The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy

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Thanks for the comment. I will read it as soon as I can. Sorry I have to say this but I've wasted a lot of time with SPAM lately. If you are posting a link to a site that is not related to books I will not publish it, I'll mark it as SPAM.