I’ve spent the last few days passing through the 400-something pages of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s 2009 novel “The Strain”. The beginning of a trilogy which was followed by “The Fall” and “The Night Eternal”, catchy titles I must say. The reason I’ve spent my time treading through this horror novel is, of course, the serial premiering this season on its respective channel (FX if I should say). The same-titled “The Strain”, which was obviously based by those trilogy of novels (previously also adapted into a graphic novel).
So where should I start. I’m not really thinking of reviewing the books thouroughly, nor do I want to compare it pieces by pieces with its adaptation. Considering a friend mentioned the latter I think I’ll go with that. Hopefully this’ll be a walk in the park. For a quick disclaimer, I’m not really into the horror genre although I enjoy some. As for the serial itself, which already ran 4 episodes as of the writing of this passage, I do quite enjoy it but still not in the degree to say it’s great or a must-watch. The 4th episode title explains the serial for in a nutshell, “It’s Not for Everyone”.
Last but not least, Spoiler alert for those who still cares about it.
A quick summary for the novel:
An aircraft lands on JFK with all its intrument went off, no communication, and all people aboard dead. This rings the bell for Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, a CDC officer for the Canary Project based on NYC, to prevents any possibilities of a suspected outbreak. What he finds are much more unsettling than a simple flu. Joined by a Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian and later pest-controller Vasily Fet they find themselves battling an outbreak of ancient origin. A vampire that is nothing like the romaticist play, a vampire that takes form as a viral mutation vesseled by a parasitic worm.
I did take some liberties on writing the summary. Basically the plot for the first books writes itself in the first half. As for the adaptation, judging from the statement regarding the adaptation work, I would say the rest of the season (past episode 4) should be pretty neat. Even though there are indeed some changes in the details such as the character details of Jim Kent and, surprisingly the odd turn of character of Nora Martinez in the 4th episode. The Nora in the novel are much more faithful, in consequences much more irrelevant, to Eph for following him until the end of the book.
The first half of the novel is good. Some description for the jet event are quite dull but we can skip that. The chain of events that leads to the middle of the book is the best part I guess. I find myself enjoying the details of the transformation through the eyes of the four survivor, with Ansel’s part being the best of all. Each of the four survivor tells the transformation story from four different sides and cosequences. Ansel’s part giving the drama and the tragedy, Joan’s part the much more “scientific” approach of an outbreak, and Gabe’s is the “mystical” part. Redfern is a plot device.
As the form of the writing. Still, the best part is the first-half of the book where much of its writing were invested on character building and with so much characters involved, primary, secondary, even the cannon fodder, the writings handles itself neatly. With much of the gap were filled with a jump between sets, seriously a few passage or pages with this one set piece and we’re somewhere else in the next one, it gives the hook of making me to read even further. Unfortunately this may be odd but with such treatment I found myself not reading a book but watching through a program. I must say maybe I’m biased from watching the series before touching the book but the treatment of jumping between sets just make it, sometimes, hard to focus on what’s going on exactly.
That’s the problem with the second half. As the plot thickens and the climax approaching the story went limp. It gets bland when they’ve reached the vampire-busting part and I felt like I’m already reading the next book already. The first half and the second half feels like two different books taped into one. It may be my personal preferences that makes it hard to stuck into reading when the action sequences begin.
This is where the adaptation gets better, or I should say tries to distinct itself. Few changes from the books makes the adaptation quite dull. Like Jim being overly dramatic cliche-ridden characters, yet the adaptation redeems itself by altering his fate (the book is a little bit meaner but with fewer drama and cliche). Yet in another character alteration, Matt is much more likeable in the adaptation than the jerkass he is in the book. The case for Nora which is quite inconsistent in the adaptation while being pretty much useless in the book.
As for the action sequence, up to the third episode we’re finally getting some actions before bringing the “true” action of vampire slaying in the next. I must say I’d rather watch the adaptation if I want some action. Some may say the action is bland and nothing in comparison with, let’s say “Walking Dead” maybe, but to compare it with the book. I’d choose the adaptation.
I won’t say it’s a worthy read. But let’s say you’re curious after picking up the series, or just plainly curious of how del Toro handles vampire outbreak in his trademark style, it’s still pays a bit. Much of the attention falls on the dealing of vampire biology which is not bad and a nice deal of feast. Although I find it odd imagining a vampire that acts more like a zombie than a vampire as it’s so commonly depicted, at least that Nosferatu thing is still charming. The closest thing I can imagine is the thing on Will Smith’s “I Am Legend”. It’s still fascinating though, reading throuh the pseudo-sciences of vampire biology. Imagining whether such creature could really exists.
I hope the adaptation did well, the rating especially, as it will open up the chance for full coverage of the trilogy. Which del Toro said he had vision for at least 5 season to cover the three books. Two seasons for the first two books and three seasons for the third. As for the adaptation work, with the things I mentioned earlier, I’m open with any changes made. I think a faithfully blind adaptation would turn the adaptation into a dull vampire TV series that tries to cater the audiences of “True Blood” and “Walking Dead”. Which is despicable if they ever did it.
Some things are good, some things are average. I haven’t spent much time covering all the characters. Reading the book I’m quite excited with Gus as he’s the secondary character which was worth of attention in the book. Vasily Fet turns into a badass that is already badass with no room left for development. Setrakian is the wise old guy mixed with a little bit of baddassery. I won’t bother myself with Eph and his family. The best scream should goes to Neeva in the book and I’m also excited of seeing her in the small screen.
The book and the adaptation, pick it or leave it. It won’t hurt to pick both. If you want to become a hipster but didn’t have the urge to read George R Martin’s series of novels because “Game of Thrones” is already too mainstream. Come on, the hype of “The Strain” should be just in its pupa stage right now.
I should really buy a hipster glasses.