Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm sure glad that Guillermo del Toro makes movies.

I love myself some Guillermo del Toro. I love the Hellboy films (two is better than one, I promise), I love his Spanish historical horrors (Pan's Labyrinth is a breathtaking film), I even love his first dips in to the American horror market (Chronos and the much-maligned Mimic). Guillermo del Toro is a talented filmmaker, a true master if you ask me.

But, really, I think he should probably stick to the film medium.

I recently, quite excitedly, devoured The Strain, the first book in his vampire-trilogy written with Chuck Hogan. And was more than disappointed. I was actually appalled that book so trite and so poorly written was somehow birthed from the mind of one of the greats working today. I was shocked that any publisher would look at this book, written seemingly by a sixteen year old Stephen King after huffing a jar of paint thinner, and be excited to put it on the shelves. I was vocally angry that characters like these (two dimensional and seemingly rented from the Character Warehouse) are still being used today.

The Strain takes place in a New York on the verge of solar eclipse. A commercial airliner lands on a tarmac at JFK filled with dead passengers. Enter Ephram Goodweather and his virtually non-existent assistant Nora, two members of the CDC's Canary group, the folk who try to warn and help the public against widespread epidemics. I'll break the news, this is a book about vampires, and the epidemic spreading across the city of New York is of course, a vampire plague. There's a master vampire, and a older more dangerous vampires, and a slew of individual vampires who's stories we follow as the book progresses, and lets not forget about the group of vampire-hunters who come together to try and battle this unstoppable plague. Each and all barely characters, just shadows of characters that have populated other stories and video games and comic books the world over. An old man who's fought vampires across the world (check), a recently released gang-banger with a heart of gold (check), an erratic genius doctor who kills to save his family (check), and an attractive lady with absolutely nothing to do but be a love interest (check). And sadly, none of these characters are anything more than these one off descriptions.

And that's just the start of the writing mishaps that plague this near awful book.

Lets not start on the plot (literally every vampire book ever written mashed in to one) or the stylistic inability to convey any sort of excitement in the vampire battles or the terrible pacing and plot structure. They are all there and are barely worth my or your time.

A few good things about the book? In typically del Toro fashion, there's an emphasis on the ooey-gooey science bits. The plague and all it's grim effects are meticulously detailed, the way the body is consumed, the bits of disgusting that grow around the jaw, the various colors of spew these zombie-vampires hurl - all of its there, in glistening glory. Aside from that and an interesting take on how we as humans react to our loved ones becoming undead blood drinkers this book is kind of a wash. If you love del Toro or you love vampire stories try this one out, but don't expect the magic that I did. You'll cry yourself to sleep.

No comments: