The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain (Strain Trilogy #1) -

I adjust my expectations when I read genre fiction, but I generally am able to have fun as a reader. Depending on the genre, I do look for certain qualities, but I additionally recognize that I have particular tastes and responses (for example, it's hard to scare me, but I value being disturbed more anyway).


However, some things I'm never going to accept, and one is shoddily drawn female characters and sexism. That's my biggest beef with this book, and it's part of a larger issue that develops near the story's end, which is that it gets more cliche in general as it goes on. One of the reasons I decided to read it when I did (I've had the book for a while) was that I learned it had been adapted into a TV series set to debut this summer. The way the climax is reached and unfolds, it felt more like a summer blockbuster.


The book shifts (third person) perspective between many characters, but in the end, it's three men who team up to fight the Master--Eph, Setrakian, and Fet. Eph's primary motivation is finding his ex-wife, Kelly, who's missing and likely taken by the Master or his vamps. Kelly was one of the characters whose perspective we're given throughout the story; she and Eph have a son, and they've been fighting over his custody. Eph is a CDC doctor who learns that the plague he's fighting is vampirism. He warns Kelly to take their son and leave immediately; however, she doesn't at the behest of her boyfriend, Matt. In other words, Kelly is vindictive and stupid who is then made a damsel in distress; at the end of the book, she is literally demonized.


Then there's Eph's fellow CDC team member, Nora, with whom he also has an ill-defined romance. Nora's along on many adventures but may as well be window dressing for as much as she's characterized or has any agency. She "stays home" with Eph's son during the final confrontation with the Master. Ugh.


My favorite part of this book (because I did actually enjoy some of it!) was the beginning--unraveling the mystery of the plane and its passengers. It was creepy and strange. I also like what one of the book's blurbs points out as a unique take on the vampire, likening it to 28 Days Later in that a virus is involved; there is a biology.


I hope the TV show on FX does a better job fleshing out the female characters.