I think that the problem lies with the collaboration itself. Apparently, Del Toro just made a 12-page outline for the novel, which was turned over to Hogan to flesh out into a 400-page horror novel. The result is a work that feels hollow and, even during its horrifying moments, annoying and familiar. We've all known the legend of the Vampyr (called the Strogoi in the novel) and we've read many novels that presented their own theories on how this supernatural creature came about. In The Strain, the head vampire is European, reached Manhattan in an airplane (similar to how Dracula came to the New World in a boat), and spreads his vampire virus/worm among people. Yawn...
The novel's beginning was promising though -- Flight 753 from Berlin mysteriously shuts down after landing, with all its windows closed and no movement whatsoever detected inside it. But when you're 50 pages into the novel and people haven't gone into the plane, you feel frustrated. And when they do discover the bodies, it's anti-climatic.
Del Toro has established a cult following with his movies such as Pan's Labyrinth (very, very good), The Orphanage (even better), and Hellboy (so-so), so you wonder why there's so few of his signature dark touch in The Strain. Was something lost in translation, perhaps? I'm not familiar with Hogan's work though, but his novel Prince of Thieves had good reviews. The narrative, however, reads like a screenplay. At times when Hogan and Del Toro attempt to delve into the minds of their characters, you just wish they didn't. These moments are just cheesy.
Because The Strain is just the first in a trilogy, Del Toro and Hogan definitely need to make the second and third books stand out from the already crowded genre of vampire fiction. There's an interesting future storyline that's hinted in The Strain though, one that involves New World Vampires warring with Old World ones. Finally something new! Let's just hope that this doesn't evolve into something like vampires vs. werewolves, or vegetarian vampires vs. the bloodsucking kind.
Read this book if:
- You haven't read Dracula or any vampire novel.
- You're sick of hearing about vampires that sparkle.
- You have 3 hours to kill.