After including The Strain on my Want Books? list late last year, I went looking for a copy. A friend of mine found one before I did and lent it to me when I went back to the city for the new year. Good, I thought, one thing to cross off my list.
Somehow, though, the book didn't quite live up to my expectations. Did I set them unbelievably high? I don't think so; I only had to look at a website that was already available to the public to whet my appetite. I suppose my biggest discomfort would be the fact that the site already revealed a lot that the book took a hundred pages to get to. Basic premise: Vampirism is a virus, released onto New York via four survivors of a mysterious plane incident. (Also worth noting: vampires in this book are a lot like your Hollywood zombies: mindlessly feeding, clustering in hives, although the book hints that they become smarter as they adapt.) Dr. Eph Goodweather of the Center for Disease Control is the only one who believes something is amiss. Aided by a Holocaust survivor/professor with a vendetta, Dr. Goodweather sets out to uncover the gruesome fate that has befallen New York.
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain reads like an action-packed screenplay though. They don't scrimp on the details, so much so that sometimes I felt as if I was reading an encyclopedia entry in fiction format. (That's no exaggeration: the bit about the eclipse--I'm an astronomy enthusiast so I've done my reading--really feels as if someone had opened an astronomy book and copied every phenomenon that would occur during a solar eclipse.) Can't blame them from trying to put things into proper perspective or giving the reader a very clear picture of the action. It's definitely not lacking in the action department. The thrilling encounters, the chase scenes... they all make the novel very enjoyable. Just take it for what it is: an exciting read with marked bloodthirsty vampiric leanings.
For all the care and precision that the authors placed in setting up the story, I felt that they might have rushed the ending a bit. The climax of The Strain felt more like a TV movie ending to a Hollywood blockbuster. It wasn't bad, really; just more hurried, I suppose, and not as thought-out as the rest of the novel was. I know they're not supposed to get the bad guy right then (this is the first of a trilogy) but I just wish that there had been more of an investment in that confrontation as there had been in the other parts of the book. They meant to kill the Big Bad in the middle of a vampire hive; couldn't three guys find any other cannon fodder to assist them in their quest? Still, despite its faults, The Strain has lured me in enough to want to keep reading more. Time will tell if I'd blame this decision on glamour or just poor judgment, but right now I'd rather blame it on that good old vampire mystique.