I love the re-telling of a tale. There's a magic to recognizing the familiar amidst the unique and unexpected. I also enjoy the modernizing of a tale: technology and modern sensibilities bring a new perspective to an old story.
Then there's just the coolness of discovering a new way of looking at an old friend.
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's new book, The Strain, does not reinventing the wheel. But it does change the way we look at vampires.
When most people thing of vampires, they think of Bram Stoker's vampires: mysterious, exotic and just a little sexy. There's something almost erotic about their feeding. Oh, a few "slasher porn" movies have challenged that and made vampires into monsters that rip people apart and scare you to death, but what sells — and what people think of — is Bela Lugosi.
Get your romance somewhere else. The Strain is, as David put it, "part CSI, part legend."
One of the lead characters is a physician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ephraim Goodweather leads the Canary project, a group that, much like the name suggests, go into dangerous situations to see just how dangerous it is, disease-wise. When an airplane lands at Kennedy Airport in New York City and, within minutes of touching down, suddenly goes dark and quiet, Eph's people get called in to don their protective gear and test the air, so to speak.
Eph is no romantic. He looks at the slides, the black light, the samples and microbes. He goes cellular.
Neither is Abraham Setrakian. A Holocaust survivor who encountered evil beyond Nazis in Treblinka, the pawnshop owner living in Spanish Harlem knows exactly what is happening. He's rooted in the Old World, but only because of his background as a professor in an Eastern European university. His grandmother's tales open the book, and Bubbeh remains with us as we pick-pick-pick our way through the pages.
The authors introduce us to some interesting characters: Zach, Eph's son and the subject of a bitter custody battle; Gabriel Bolivar, a rock star who is surprised by what he sees when he removes his makeup one day; Joan Luss, a bloodthirsty lawyer (literally) who sees "tort" where others see illness; Fet, an exterminator with a unique perspective.
Hogan and del Toro might have dreamed up what they considered the most inefficient and awkward bureaucracy to respond to this perceived threat, but they weren't too far from the truth. I cringed at the response from the authorities, but it made sense. No one would believe what was happening, not if they were sane.
This is the first of a trilogy. Frankly, I can't wait for the second book, scheduled to be published next year (and the last book will be published in 2011). While reading the novel, I could picture the movie del Toro would direct, and I would be first in line to watch it.
The book was enjoyable, thrilling, compelling and impossible to put down. It is graphic and sad, and there's a scene that will be difficult for pet owners everywhere — but don't let that stop you. Read a new non-romantic vampire book. Expand your mind.