The Strain (Strain Trilogy #1)

The Strain (Strain Trilogy #1) - Dr. Ephraim Goodweather works for the CDC out of New York where he is determined to stay so he can be near his son over which he is desperately fighting with his wife for custody. It’s difficult to balance his work with being a good father for his son, who is his life.And it’s certainly not made any easier by a plane landing and going silent – with all passengers on board silent and, it turns out dead. Temporarily anyway.Being the local CDC boss when a massive epidemic begins in a major metropolis like New York City is never going to be easy. When said plague is vampirism it becomes a whole new level of complicated. Eph is faced with a sceptical leadership, a conspiracy against him and the sheer impossibility of the walking, predatory dead. And every day that passes, more of New York City is at risk and his only allies are his loyal assistant, an elderly Jewish porn broker, and a rat catcher.This story is so completely new. A combination of vampire story with zombie apocalypse. And it’s also taken from an interesting point of view – a doctor in charge of disease control when the outbreak resembles a disease more than an invasion. It has a very rich history and world setting that is not only fleshed out and fascinating but also hints that there’s a lot more to come.There’s fascinating questions of doctor becoming killer as the only cure for the vampires is to hack off their heads or otherwise kill them. The investigation and discovery of the vampire threat and the full depth of what that means and the implication behind it is really well done. The personal stories carry the dystopian element, of loss and pain – the emotional impact that is so important. As the story goes on, places go dark, the vampires spread and there’s more and more destruction and loss that really gives the full tense feel of a losing battle. Abraham’s memories give us the history as well as the ancient horror of the vampire which creates far more menace than would have been possible without him.Eph’s dealing with the plague is excellently conveyed, the confusion, the denial – and the complete refusal to accept from his colleagues. The powers that be are more worried about causing a panic than responding as they deny what should be impossible. It’s a really well put together tale with a lot of emotional impact, a lot of tension and even a strong sense of the epic as the city falls more and more into shadow.Now for the downside, and I’m afraid it’s something of a down-plummet. The pacing of this book is awful, primarily due to a truly excessive amount of Chekhov’s junkshop going on. And this is especially true in the beginning of the book. When the airplane lands and goes silent we get to see through the eyes of a lot of people. The fire chief, a baggage handler, some people in air-traffic control - all giving us different opinions and insight in order to make things truly eerie. We get the same with the eclipse, lots of people giving us their opinion and experience of the eclipse, looking through their glasses et al. And with all these people we learn something about them, something about their lives, their personality, their history.And absolutely none of it is relevant. At least half the people you meet in that first 25% of the book never show their faces again. They’re irrelevant. Not only was it unnecessary to use them at all – but it was beyond unnecessary to develop them and give them a back story.Things are also overwritten with lots of extremely unnecessary detail. Eph puts on a Haz Mat suit. That’s enough. I don’t need to know exactly how this happens, I don’t need to know that these suits are layered, I don’t need to know about oxygen supplies and special body bags. It shows an immense amount of research which I applaud – but just because you’ve done the research doesn’t mean you should include it all. This kind of writing continues throughout the book, detail we don‘t need, extra information we don’t need.After 30% the story picks up because we’re into the action zone and the story is also very different from most of what we’ve seen. It’s a new take on vampires in a world where the sexy, romantic vampire has become the norm. The story of vampire as a virus and the portrayal of it being closer to what we’ve seen in a zombie apocalypse is exciting, fresh and draws me in happily.But, while the story mitigates the writing, the writing has the same over descriptive scenes and a new cast of unnecessary characters. I can understand including some scenes to show how normal people are dealing with the crisis, how people are dealing with loved ones coming home all vampired, how the survivors are coping – deeply personal, emotional scenes. And yes, they add depth to the world and context to the tragedy. There’s also a lot more of them than necessary. Mrs. Luss, her husband and her nanny all get a scene each, there’s the rock star, there’s Gus the gangster (who I suspect may have a role in a later book), there’s this rich guy who we keep seeing and I’m, sure he plays a very large important villain role but we don’t see it more than the fact he is a villain, there’s a man and his vampire daughter, there’s a depressed woman and her husband and 2 dogs, there’s the rat catcher, Vasily Fet who takes an age to join the main group – there’s just a lot of characters here. On their own each of them adds to the feel of the world and setting but most of them don’t add to the story – and you don’t need this much world and character setting.Read More