Okay. So I finished reading The Strain last week. I tried reading its follow-up, book two of three in the series by horror legend Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I picked up The Strain to begin with because I saw teasers for a new vampire show on FX and I do love vampire TV shows: Dark Shadows, Buffy, Angel, True Blood, Blood Ties, Being Human (UK version)…. I could probably go on about the episodes of regular shows that feature vampires too and it’s probably another post where I could go into all about my love for vampires (they’re fascinating as hell), but today I’m here to talk about The Strain.
I haven’t watched the show yet, but it looks promising to me. The book was exhilarating and strung me along to the very end. But it was midway through that I realized I have a huge freakin’ problem with it. There are some fascinating, fairly well fleshed out characters, like Abraham Setrakian, Eph Goodweather, and Vasiliy Fet — and they’re all men. The two main, or at least secondary, female characters are as interesting and engaging as a piece of cardboard. They’re flat and are only there to “pretty” up the background.
Nora Martinez, Eph’s coworker and one-time lover, could be so amazing and badass if the writers just thought about her history more than hot squeeze for the book’s hero. She adds nothing to her part. There are moments when she, as a top scientist, should be questioning Eph and challenging the other (male) characters (because, other than Kelly, she is around so very few fellow females), but at every moment when I want her to stand up and do her job as a skeptic, she goes along for the ride. That doesn’t sound like a strong-minded, smart female. It sounds like a doormat. And it’s not that the character is written to be a doormat; it seems she’s just badly written to be a strong female character. The authors give her nothing; in the climax of The Strain, her job is to babysit Eph’s son.
And then there’s Kelly Goodweather, Eph’s ex-wife. (See the pattern? The females can only exist if they circulate in Eph’s world as a current or former love interest). She’s a single mom with a steady (if somewhat lame) boyfriend. She loves her son, and she divorced her hubby because his career was too much for her. Now she’s taking the boy out of Eph’s life and doesn’t care that it will hurt their father-son dynamic; oh, and she still holds a torch for her old flame.She plays the part of every bland, one-dimensional mom you see on TV.
All the other women are (un)dead and inconsequential.
So when I say I tried to read book two, I really tried. And I’m not saying that I can’t relate to the male characters in a novel. It’s just that a book where vampires are coming in hard and taking over the planet, well, I guess I’m just used to reading and watching situations where the women are the ones to come in and kick all the undead asses. And now that book two starts at the beginning of a completely different world (or just about), I wanted Nora to be more than a cardboard cutout. I wanted even another female to come in and mix things up (as villain or hero, or even secondary character with a personality).
And I know, that even in an apocalyptic version of New York, there are more than two freakin’ women.
(I also couldn’t get past all the obvious rehashing of what happened in the last book, but that could really be my problem. I don’t typically read series books, and having just read the first one, I felt like the authors were just beating me over the head with what happened last time, when I’m trying to engage with the new story and new action. Not their fault, I guess — there was a two-year gap between the books being published, so I’m sure they just wanted the 2010 readers to catch up with the earlier readers.)
Maybe I’ll skip ahead to book three, The Night Eternal, just to see how this thing wraps up and hoping the authors remedy their poor job of writing women.