Boy, was I shocked to discovered that "The Strain," the first novel by "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo del Toro and not the first novel by his co-author Chuck Hogan, was not at all about a terrible hamstring pull but instead about vampires! As you know, I'm all about the vampires these days what with watching
In my 20 pages, I was able to read a very intriguing prologue and one full chapter. The thing pulls you in from paragraph one, starting off with a sort of fairytale told by a grandmother to her soup-guzzling grandson. It's pre-World War II Eastern Europe and the grandmother is telling the boy a story about a gentle giant who loved children but who was turned into a crazy, not-so-gentle giant who loved to maybe eat children after a bad episode in the woods with some wolves. And then, sadly, we later see the child all grown up running from the Nazis with his grandmother. And then more bad stuff happens and I'm assuming we'll see this young man again later in the story.
Then we flash forward to present-day New York when a plane lands and immediately goes dark on the runway. Cue up all sorts of airport staff frantically trying to figure out what happened inside the plane. They approach it and get ready to open its doors and I'm standing there thinking, no, don't open the doors. Just run! It's vampires! The only character who even remotely listened to me was the nervous nelly luggage cart driver who thinks to herself, "Something's going to eat me in there." Exactly. So run!
And that was 20 pages...
My ham-fisted descriptions do not do justice to the genuinely eerie vibe that del Toro and Hogan inject into this story. I was getting nervous just standing there in a crowded B&N. I'd be huddled under the blankets already if I'd cracked this thing open on a dark and stormy night. "The Strain" is not great literature, but it is a great read -- a perfect summer confection to be enjoyed and consumed in one or two sittings.
You can definitely see del Toro's movie-maker tendencies in this book. Everything is choppy and filled with prose jump-cuts from scene to scene. It works well as a fictional devise, though, building a nice bit of tension and unease. I would have kept turning pages if I'd had more time and if the girl behind the counter would have stopped looking at me like I was going to stuff the book down my pants and run. I only steal hearts, lady, not hardcovers!
Overall grade for first 20 pages: A-
Would I buy this book if I were employed? Yes