Part of it is because I'm more of a supernatural kind of chick. You can do more with the supernatural. Less stereotypes to play into or to deliberately break. Also, I do confess I'm not really a huge Guillermo del Toro fan. I think his movies are definitely good, but I've never been knocked off my feet. And then to make it worse, you meet the die-hards with their "Oh but man, did you see Pan's Labyrinth? Did you see that?! I mean, whoa! That was totally incredible." Del Toro is a talented director, I will give him credit where it is due, but I found it to be less incredible than something Terry Gilliam would dream up in an afternoon nap. Still good. Just not Gilliam. So that being said, I've been on a bit of a vampire book thing since Twilight came out. Let me explain that statement before you send an assassin to my house:
Ever since the shit-tastic Twilight came out, I had to reassure myself that there was good vampire reading and film out there.
Ok, so yeah. I was insecure. In my lamentation I also watched True Blood for this reassurance and got a lot of manicured people from Hollywood pretending to be dramatic rednecks. I often feel that I need to explain to some people that the word 'vampire' is not synonymous with the word 'hairstyle'. If that were true, every metrosexual in the world would spout fangs.
The Strain gave me some - a glimmer - of hope. One review I read before I bought it said something like "it's a vampire book for boys" or something. I felt sad because I'm not a boy - I'm actually pretty girly (for someone who can neatly beat one's face in), but I guess I fall on the boy side of things when it comes to vampires. I'm not saying they can't be smart, hot, or glamorous. All I'm saying is they need to be scary. If you can't get the scary part right, you are not reading writing watching or filming horror. In actuality: you are reading writing watching or filming A SOAP OPERA. Let's just get those two things distinctly laid out there.
W = 9
T = 7
F = 7
I'll be a Negative Nancy and start with the problems. So you know in advance before you splurge on it in hardcover. It starts out scarier than it ends. That's my main issssssue with it. But, for the sake of the story, I'd say, finish the book. It goes from horror to thriller. And it takes A LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOT to thrill me. It's also very fast-paced which for most of the book is in Hogan/Del Toro's favor. The downside of this is the book seems too deliberately quick in parts "nothin' to see here, move along, move along". The characters are also in some ways your typical characters dealing with a crisis of disastrous proportion. In places their shock and awe at the situation is too stereotypical. In my personal opinion, more people need to shit themselves when watching the dead walk around on streets. Also, I get annoyed when you use a simile in every other sentence, and that seems to be Chuck Hogan's style of writing (because Del Toro couldn't write it himself and needed to ride shotgun, which is also a little weird). But again that's just me. Here is a brief imitation of said writing style:
"I waddled into the bathroom like a penguin, holding my pants as I went like a scared actor from the 50's. As I flicked the lights on like a person flicking lights on I felt the oncoming terror of what was buried in the flabby sack of my ass hit me like a train hitting me at high speeds. I heard a sound like a crash of thunder emerge from my pants and reared my head in a high-pitched scream like a banshee on roids. I'll never eat Indian food again. Like an ass."
Which leads me to the goodies of the book. As you know, I am not of the faith that demands every horror work be filled with flying intestines. BUT! This book is satisfactorily gory in all the right places. These are NOT well-groomed and dressed folk with pale emo faces and beguiling abilities of hypnosis based on their amazing Hollywood looks. The authors made monsters. Me likie. The first half, the detection of the vampire threat - as opposed to a terrorist threat - combined with the initial shout-out to Stoker, I thought, was pretty fabtabulous. I always like it when authors and directors actually try to explain the crazy shit they're writing about. It's an elaborate lie, but that's entertainment. Deal with it. It's not some 'because-god-said-so' why these creatures are burned by the sun and drink blood. The authors got fancy creative with the origins and reasons behind bloodsuckers. Here, vampirism is biological, a predatory parasite. Yummy! Let me tell YOU that I am the first jackass in line to completely agree with your pseudo-science explanation. You don't really have to go far with it, and I'll be like, "Oh, THAT TOTALLY MAKES SENSE!!!!!!" You just have to put a little more effort than Prince of Darkness to float my boat and this novel did that. It gave me enough fake-o-science gobbledygook to get the job done. I also liked two other twisty details Del Toro/Hogan threw in about the vampires.
The first is (whether it was intentional or just an awesome byproduct of the story) a reference to the zombie craze of the late twentieth century. When people are first bitten and turned they are these total mindlessly hungry creatures that will eat their own baby without a second thought. And so you more or less have this walking-dead zombie thing going on for a while. The second thing I like is how the parasite progresses - it gains intelligence after more and more feedings so the host (though it is no longer the person bitten) appears more able to communicate with other vampires and humans. In this sense, Del Toro gets the best of both worlds. He gets the rabid zombie invasion and he gets the cool calculation of a creature that navigates the periphery of the human world, taking as it pleases.
Lastly, you have the setting of New York City and the real fear of what would happen if a seriously serious outbreak of anything lethal happened there. How quickly it would engulf an entire population is just staggering. How quickly those in power would run out of things to say is even more creepy. Del Toro could have picked any city, but picked NYC probably because of its connection to 9-11 where there was this sense of wide-spread panic that he deliberately references (too many times). I've always been fascinated with the catacombs underneath cities, and NYC has another city's worth of tubes and halls underneath its massive body. (A la Ghostbusters II - the ooooooooooooooze! - but more terrifying). I read this thing in two days and I am one slow-ass reader. It has its flaws, but for sure the story will twist and wind and lead you to those dark caverns to confront the masses, and I'll tell you one thing: it ain't no pre-teen emo dance in the high school gym.
Here's a preview for the book...