The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro
3.5 out of 5 stars
This was probably a 3.5 star read for me. It was good, but it could have been better. I think the writing lacked a certain polish, although I did like some of the imagery. And it definitely was scary!
The vampires in this book were both disgusting and fearsome. I admit that thinking about the vampires and their nasty stinger and how they would excrete their waste products gave me the shivers (both in repulsion and fear). I liked the scientific angle employed in this story, taking an ancient evil, and giving it a scientific explanation. The potential for exponential and catastrophic spread of the vampire plague in this novel gives me the shudders. Books like this make me glad for the light of the sun, which is what a good vampire novel should do. This book touches both on my primal fear of ancient evil and infection, so it really did push my buttons.
There were some characters that were so beautifully written that they spoke to me. Others were too cardboard for me. Abraham Satrakian, the elderly Jewish Shoah survivor was a wonderful character. He was like Van Helsing, with even more credibility, having earned his slayer status deep in the trenches. Hearing about his horrendous time in the Treblinka concentration camp added a deeper sense of horror and anguish to this story. He's one tough old guy, and he's definitely my favorite character in this novel. Ephraim is a pretty good character. At times, his narrative seemed a little half-baked. Over the course of the book, he gained a little more life and authority in my mind. I think his co-worker Nora was woefully under-used. I wondered what the purpose of her character was, other than being a soundboard for him. I felt very badly for Ansel and his situation, with his wife Anne-Marie. I didn't really care for the lawyer woman Luss, although I want to see what happens with her perceptive, Haitian nanny and the kids she saved from their mother. I like Fett, the ratcatcher a lot. He's a smart guy, street smart, intelligent, and resourceful. He knows how to handle himself. He is a huge asset to the small vampire slaying group that Abraham forms with Ephraim. The Master Vampire, well, I'm kind of undecided about. He wasn't in this book enough for him to resonate with me. I think Abraham is a much more powerful, and iconic character. The Master is more like Patient Zero to me, just a disease vector, one who comes around and sneers into the camera. He didn't really establish a lot of credibility with me as the Great Villain or the Big Bad. We'll see if that changes with the other books in the series...
This was a suspenseful, scary book to hear on audio. I was definitely sucked in. My aunt (who was riding with me on Friday) also got sucked in. Unfortunately, I think the characterization could have been more even-handed. There were a bit too many storylines, and I felt like some were dropped prematurely. I know this is a three-part book, so I guess I will have to keep reading to see where things go. As far as being scary and gross and keeping a reader invested, this is a Class A read. I think that work on the characters and the plot would have made it a stronger read over all. Ron Perlman was a really good narrator. He has a great voice, and he did a good job with the accents. I would definitely listen to other audiobooks read by him. If you find this available on audiobooks, and you are a vampire fan, I say check it out.
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