Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Rating: 4/5
401 pages
Source: Barnes & Noble

Description: A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city - a city that includes his wife and son - before it is too late. (from the dust jacket)

Review: This is part one of a trilogy and, as such, it doesn't stand alone all that well. It did make me want to read the next book in the series, both other books have been published, but unlike some other trilogies, this volume doesn't resolve anything by the end, it just sets up what's coming.

The setup is good. We're introduced to our main cast of characters, good and bad, and their roles slowly begin to intersect. People's reactions make sense for what they know at the time and the general disbelief in vampires, and vampire like symptoms, comes across as genuine, not just lip service. Some characters come to believe a lot more easily than others, but they're generally seeing rather alarming things up close first.

This is my second time reading this book, and certain things bothered me more on the reread than they did the first time.

The most obvious one is a problem all vampire apocalypse books generally share: How do the vampires expect this to work? Zombies are never presented as long term planners, so it makes sense they'd not think about a future food source. But vampires are generally presented as still intelligent undead, so the plan of "turn everyone into vampires" should generally occur to someone as a poor one. This is especially problematic in this book, since there seems to be no evidence that these vampires can feed without turning or killing their prey.

Which leads me to me next problem, the lack in consistency in vampire intelligence. The head vampire is smart and seems to have  full control, but most of the vampires in the book seem to be operating on an instinctive level. Find food, find shelter, repeat. There is some dialog that suggests there's a difference between vampires that rise after dying and those who are still alive when turned, but the apparent level of control in several vampires turned in the same manner varies widely.

Finally, there's the wise old man who knows about vampires. His knowing about vampires doesn't bother me, its explained well. The ability of a man in his early eighties to decapitate vampires with a single sword stroke, on the other hand, isn't really explained. There's nothing in his description that suggests he posses above average strength. Given that he's using a sword that's described as being made of silver, one would not expect it to hold an edge very well.

I am looking forward to reading the next book, but I'm planning to avoid thinking to hard while reading it.

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