The Strain makes vampires monsters again. They aren’t conflicted or sparkly or misunderstood. They are killing machines infected with the vampire virus and they want to take over the world. The entire time I was reading this book I kept thinking I was reading a tv miniseries. You can see Guillermo del Toro’s cinematic stamp all over this book from the transitions to the flashbacks. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I like tv miniseries. And this story was strangely compelling. A plane lands at JFK and is dead; no lights, no radio, no movement. All the people are dead too except for four survivors. The CDC is called in lead by Ephraim Goodweather. He is puzzled and concerned. Then he teams up with pawn shop owner Abraham Sekarian, your typical holocaust surviving, vampire slaying old man. Abraham introduces Ephraim to the world of vampires and vampire slaying. Sure he is skeptical but reality soon makes him a believer.
First the bad: even with the cinematic quality there was a lot of filler in this book and not story filler. I am talking about weird asides about rats and HAZMAT and the eclipse. They were boring and chopped up the storytelling and frankly made the book twice as long as it needed to be. There was also a lot of tell not show. We are told what characters are doing and feeling instead of seeing them do and feel it. Always weak storytelling. The characters are stereotypes and pretty thin. Ephraim is a recently divorced dad going through a custody battle. He didn’t want to break up his marriage and has rearranged his whole life to be with his son Zack. Of course mom is mad and not budging on anything. At one point he misses a custody session because of course he is in the middle of a horrible epidemic and the psychiatrist basically blows him off saying he lost his chances for custody. Really??? The epidemic is on the news and they can’t reschedule? Seriously?? Nora is partner is of course barely mentioned other than she is his partner and he had an affair with her. Then you have the middle part of the book which is basically people turning into vampires and Ephraim being confused…for a couple hundred pages! The pacing in this book is definitely off; a lot could have been trimmed and the book shortened. And what was up with the eclipse; it basically had no point in the story but went on for chapters.
The good: I liked the flashbacks to Abraham’s story. These were interesting, relevant and exciting. I liked Abraham as a character too. He was by far the most interesting one in the whole book. I actually liked the vampires; they are evil and nasty and just want to kill you. That is what vampires are supposed to do. I kind of enjoyed the different take on the vampire tale. They don’t bite you they have giant stingers that cut your throat and suck your blood. There are little worms that invade your body when attacked and transform you (kind of like cancer or a virus). I even liked the vampire/human partnership and the vampire politics (which we just glimpse and I assume are going to be much more relevant in the next book). That all made for some exciting reading; I just wish there wasn’t so much other crap getting in the way.
I didn’t hate this book, but it made me remember why I don’t read a lot of adult books. There is just too much crap in them. This book definitely could have used some editing down to fix the pacing and the length and the characters. But it reads like an exciting move of the week that just hasn’t been edited yet. With editing this could be must see tv.