Book Review: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Strain headerIf you read Zac and my review of Pacific Rim recently then you know that Guillermo del Toro and I don’t always have the most consistent  relationship, yet there’s something about him that always has me coming back for more.  Must be the mutual creature love.  So it should be no surprise that when he chooses vampires as he dives into the written word, I will dive in right behind him.

One of the main characters of this book is someone who works for the CDC, so it’s of no surprise that they decided to take on the vampires from a more scientific angle of plagues and epidemic like occurrences, as opposed to the romanticized creatures of the night.  With that said, there is still a mythology and history to these creatures that makes them more than just brainless blood-drainers, I’m just not quite sure what it is.  Though we see a range of intelligence among the vampires, whether they are at the top of the totem poll or newly changed, it is never really clarified why there are these variations.  I have some assumptions for now about puppets and puppet masters, but I’m still confused about the in between, and I’m hoping there will be a little more explanation about some of the mysteries in the following books that will close out the trilogy.

To elaborate on that last paragraph, the mystery that needs focus is what really happened on the plane that started it all.  In the beginning of the book, a plane lands carrying nothing but dead passengers.  Or so it seems.  This occurrence is explained to a point, but I am still waiting for an explanation as to why four “survivors” were left among the dead considering their fates seem to be no different from the rest.  Maybe this puts them somewhere in the middle of the intelligent to brainless spectrum, but what I’ve seen so far still leaves this unclear.

Other than that, my only other complaint in this story is with the writing itself.  The first 90 pages are full of characters explaining the foreboding feelings that are creeping into their minds for no known reason, and this explanation of telling us that people feel something is coming gets old fast.  Instead of telling us how to feel, just find your inner Stephen King and make us feel that way with your writing.  Other than that, the story is still entertaining and well written on the whole.

If that’s the majority of the negative I can come up with (that, and the quickness of the digestive/excretory system of the vampires), then The Strain doesn’t have much to worry about.  The chapters are sectioned off with different pages dictating what is happening to certain characters involved in some way with what is happening in New York, and it is actually the most seemingly extraneous that I am most looking forward to spending more time with.  Especially in how one of the characters will become involved in the resistance, as well as how this connects with the history of the vampires dating back long past the first events of this story.

The first book of this trilogy seems to be focusing on the smaller picture of this vampire plague that has come to the States, so as it continues its spread the hope is that the story should also fill out in a way that builds a much bigger world and story than that which we have mostly just experience in New York.  Come on del Toro, don’t let me down!

Final Grade:  4 out of 5     

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