Friday, July 10, 2009

The Strain

When I heard Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Blade 2, and the Hellboy movies, was going to be co-authoring a horror novel with Chuck Hogan, I was pretty skeptical. Everybody thinks they can write, and almost everybody is wrong. Now that I’ve read The Strain, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

The book has one of the creepier opening scenes. A jetliner arrives at JFK airport in New York from Germany, in the middle of the night. Once down, it stops in the runway, and all power goes down. Efforts to contact the plane fail. When a CDC team finally manages to enter the aircraft, they find all but four of the 210 passengers and crew are sitting dead in their seats, with no sign of violence, poison, or infection. A later autopsy reveals the bodies bleed a white fluid. And there’s something alive in that fluid.

A very old vampire has arrived from Europe, and plans to raise a large vampire army, starting in New York. He has human confederates, and soon only two members of the CDC team, a stockbroker, and an exterminator (!) are standing in his way.

The vampires of The Strain aren’t your sparkly emo vamps of modern fiction. They are ugly and disgusting (they look a lot like del Toro’s super-vampires from Blade 2), feeding through a long stinger underneath their tongue – which can extend as much as six feet. Due to their simplified systems, they excrete the unneeded parts of the blood they ingest, so the scene of their attacks is strewn with an ammonia compound. They are instinctively drawn back to the homes they lived in before their death, so frequently their first victims are their own former loved ones.

The Strain is the first book in a proposed trilogy. Part two will be published in 2010, and the story will wrap up in 2011. I’m sold.

Trivia: The books were originally intended to be a three year-long television series, a vampire story in the style of The Wire, but network executives wanted them to mellow out the vampires. That series would have been something to see.


The Doctor said...

I'm a bit wary of vampire novels, but this sounds like it has potential. Especially if the vampires are the non-emo kind.

KentAllard said...

They're definitely not the type you want to sleep with. At one point, their skin is compared to a pickled fetal pig.