Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Strain - Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan - Preliminary Review

The Strain
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
William Morrow
Copyright Date: 2009
978-0061558238

According to Amazon.com's description:
The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months--the world.

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. 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 . . .

This is my preliminary review of The Strain, although it may also be my only one. Currently, I'm just under half way through the book. It's weird, I'm not exactly enjoying the read, but I still can't put the book down for once and for all. I have to know what happens next. I just can't stand to read more than a little bit at a time.

Not because the writing is bad or anything like that, but because the book is a horror novel. And, boy, is horror the right term. From the very first pages, The Strain had me creeped out. Nearly every scene ends with increased tension, before changing to another viewpoint and starting all over again.

The biggest problem I have with the book is that I don't normally read horror (aside from the Laurell K. Hamilton books, which I still dispute being horror).

On the other hand, I was curious about Del Toro's style, given that he's the director in charge of the upcoming Hobbit movies. If horror is his forte, I hope he'll limit himself aside from any scenes in Mirkwood. There, he can have free reign. His background as a movie director shows through in the styling of The Strain: there is scene after scene that I could see being on the theater screen just from the way it was described. I would be very surprised if this book and it's upcoming sequels were not going to be made into movies in the next few years. On the other hand, while it will make a very good movie, I don't think I'd want to see it. The book is creeping me out enough. Having the (vivd) descriptions portrayed visually would be even worse. If you like horror, this book will probably suit you very well. Certainly most of the reviews I've seen on the chapters/indigo site have been very positive, as have the ones on the Amazon.com page.

Some of the people I've talked to have described The Strain as being very Steven King-like, particularly comparing it to his earlier works. Not having read any of those, I can't say for sure either way, but given some of the things I've heard about his books I'd probably agree just on the basis of descriptions.

I'm rather comparing it to what I remember reading of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, which I read years ago, and have more or less forgotten. Still, some things have stuck.

One neat thing is the book itself under the jacket. The cover isn't plain or cloth-covered like so many books are. Instead, the cover is decorated with a foggy red picture. Yet another, minor, layer of creepiness.

Also, given the current trend towards vampires as not evil, especially in teen books and urban fantasy, Del Toro has gone back to the very earliest vampire stories, making the vampires, or at least Mr. Leech, out to be complete evil. I'm still not sure about the rest, but it certainly makes for a very different story.

I have to know what happens, so I'm going to keep reading for a while, but it'll probably be slow going, simply because I also need to be able to sleep at night.
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