Part 1 of a trilogy, The Strain has all the characteristics of the first film in a series of movies. It introduces all of the characters, and the overall world, and the good and evil present. Then it features a climactic battle, followed by some resolution, but also new storylines to be continued in part two. That it seems cinematic is to be expected, not just because del Toro is a movie writer and director, but because The Strain began as a plot for a Fox show that was rejected, and then used anyway as the pilot of Fringe.
I highly expect book 2, The Fall, to be The Empire Strikes Back part of thestory, in which everything goes bad (well, worse) for the heroes of the story, and probably mankind as a whole, as the vampire virus breaks loose upon the world. Then, of course, book 3, The Night Eternal, will somehow feature a ultimate showdown between man and vampire evil, that probably will result in man winning (though I bet there will have to be some sort of truce or alliance between man and the rest of vampire-dom in order to defeat the big baddie).
Despite its overly movie-like feel, or perhaps because of it, The Strain was a blast to read. It’s set up in short bursts of chapters, serialized almost, cutting from one scene to the next like an episode of Law and Order (CHUNG CHUNG). It’s conception of vampires, and the plot overall, is not necessarily original, but instead draws from everything else ever done. It’s a melange of modern and classic vampirism. Viruses and weird beasts like the reapers in Blade II shaken and stirred with the coffins and dirt of Stoker.
Sure, some of the plot is a bit forced, and I think unnecessary, but like the movies it feels like (Resident Evil combined with Underworld and Crash), that doesn’t matter. This isn’t trying to be high brow by any means. You can easily suspend all annoyance with plot holes and gimmickry for the sheer bloody nonsensical fun of it all.
Maybe there doesn’t need to be secret cabals of vampires lead by seven ancients that have formed a tenuous truce with one another. Maybe it’s a little too easy that the old professor has a fully stocked vampire hunting weapons lab (yeah, that is a UV light bomb, baby!) in the basement under his pawn shop. Maybe the Russian American pest control agent accepts vampires a bit too easily before (almost) gleefully jumping at the chance to become a vampire exterminator.
Personally, I hope to find out that the parasitic blood worms that infect people are actually extraterrestrial in origin and an alien plot to take over the planet.
And I can’t wait for book 2, and, of course, the inevitable movie.