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 The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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PostSubject: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan   Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:03 pm

I picked this novel up as a curiosity more than anything else. It is yet another take on vampires, but the primary author is listed as Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro is the movie maker who came out with the incredible "Pan's Labyrinth". While I had doubts concerning his ability to write a novel (co-authored by Chuck Hogan, an actual novelist and the one I imagine did much of the heavy lifting), plus my skepticism with another vampire story in a pop culture currently saturated with blood suckers, I decided to give him the benefit of a doubt and give this book a shot.

Right away I saw obvious comparisons to Bram Stoker. The book opens with a passenger jet from Berlin landing in New York City. As soon as the jet lands and stops all the lights go out and nobody responds to radio communication. It turns out all (except for four) of the passengers and crew are dead. Sound familiar? Those who have read Stoker will immediately recognize the scene where the ship pulls into the harbor with a dead crew. There is also an oversized coffin on board the plane, filled with dirt, which "mysteriously" disappears from a high-security warehouse.

This of course is the "Master", the head vampire, with a little help from a multi-billionaire who is this vampire's version of Renfield. Of course all the dead people (and the ones left alive) on the plane will all become vampires, starting a plague of vampirism in Manhattan the Master has planned as part of his plot to take over the world. The only ones that are on to him are a doctor from the Center of Disease Control (with the unfortunate name of Eph Goodweather) and an elderly Jewish man, a survivor of the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka. The Jewish man is this novel's version of Van Helsing, who first ran across the Master in Treblinka and now has an assortment of weapons and knowledge with which to kill the Master and all the vampires he has created.

But the Master is not the only Master. It turns out there are six other Master vampires, scattered throughout the world, who are not happy with what this one is doing. But I guess their actions will not be revealed until the next book, "The Fall", comes out.

Well, all right. I can live with all the above if the novel is well-written. Unfortuantely, it is not. The book is filled with half-finished sentence fragments, which drove me nuts. And then there are the vampires themselves. It seems they do not suck blood by first puncturing their victim's neck with fangs. Instead they have an organ, a stinger of sorts, which shoots out of their mouths and can extend several feet. Wha...? This reminded me of nothing so much as an "Alien" version of a mosquito's proboscis. This is coupled with the fact that their heads have to bend way back for this thing to come out, which leads to this accurate and unintentionally hilarious description from page 498:

Fet said, "Their heads tipped back and their mouths opened up...and it was like that candy, that kids' candy--the one that used to come with 'Star Wars' character heads."

Nora said, after a moment, "A Pez dispenser."

"That's it. You tie up the chin, candy pops out of the neck."

Eph nodded. "Except for the candy part, an apt description."


And yes, this is indicitive of the dialogue throughout the book. GAAAAHHHH!!!!!! Evil or Very Mad

So no, I cannot recommend this. And since this book is the first in a trilogy, there are two more coming. Mr. Del Toro, please, stick to movie making.

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PostSubject: Re: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan   Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:37 am

Although you prefer good books over bad ones, I can honestly say that the reviews you give for the crappy ones are the most amusing. Why you pick up novels that might be terrible is beyond me Wink
Excellent review, though. I laughed several times. As far as vampires go, I'm waiting for the DVD release of Let Me In. Perhaps I'll have more success than you in trying out that genre Wink.
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PostSubject: Re: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan   Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:16 am

Yep, that sounds pretty lame.

First we had the medivael vampires, then Bram Stoker re-invented it a bit for Dracula. Then Anne Rice had her take on it, though not too different from what I heard. Then Stephenie Meyer came up with her rock-hard, glitter-in-the-sunlight, no-noticeable-fangs, vampires. And now we have the alien vampires. I do not even want to think about what they will come up with next.

If someone really wants to do something original with vampires (personally I hate anything with vampires, I just think they're lame.) they should use classical vampires (Stoker or pre-Stoker style) but try writing it in a very different style or context. In other words, stop messing with the physical etc characteristics of the vampires and instead change the characters, personalities, background, etc. It's like these people keep re-inventing the wheel when they should be inventing something new that runs on wheels. That's what I'm trying to say. Though even that isn't such a great idea, IMO. But it would would be better than what they're doing.

Hope I made sense.
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PostSubject: Re: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan   Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:34 pm

You made perfect sense. That's pretty much you stance on everything that has been overused. Keep the good, and throw out the overused or lame (usually two completely different things.) I completely agree.
The most overused genre in my opinion in modern literature is probably fantasy and science fiction. Horror and Spy have been pretty common, but are usually limited to their respective authors (King and Flemming, respectively; I don't class Carre with Flemming;-).
Anyway, the review was hilarious. I love it when Paul is subtly (compared with other reviews) condescending...
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Dictionary Definition : Dictionary Definition: Paul-One of the few male LC creatures known to exist, this specimen is one of the eldest in the LC universe. This specimen is known to work long hours but still makes time to commingle with fellow LC denizens. This being has a peculiar sense of humor and has been observed to shun smilies, although this aversion has been lessening as of late.
Registration date : 2009-02-06

PostSubject: Re: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan   Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:31 pm

Thank you. Smile

As I said, the only reason I gave this book a shot was because Guillermo Del Toro was listed as an author, and I loved his movie "Pan's Labyrinth", which I thought was one of the more original films I have seen in quite some time. I was hoping he would have an original take on this genre as well. Silly, silly me... Razz

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