This week I got back into some vampire fiction by reading The Fall, which is the second book in the Strain trilogy. You are probably aware of the show on FX that starts season 3 in a few days… or may have started already. I can’t keep up.
I have been reading vampire books and watching vampire shows and movies since I was in high school. I have talked about some of the books I have read in the genre in the past, but I haven’t really talked about what it is that I enjoy. It is part of my enjoyment of the horror genre.
What I enjoy about the Strain series is how they treat vampires. Vampire fiction has shifted since Dracula. It has primarily split in 2 directions. One is vampire romance, in which the vampires are considered the love interest of a girl or woman (and in rare cases, boys or men). The other is vampire as disease, in which you are infected and it spreads quickly to devastating results. Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are the former; The Strain and The Passage are the later.
I don’t really care for the vampire romance sub-genre. I far prefer the vampire virus one and it feels more like the natural progression of Dracula. Ann Rice wrote a bit of a mix, but it’s vampire through magic/religion rather than science. Vampire as magic/religion is how we explain things when the science is beyond our conception. The biggest shift with the vampire virus vs. the vampire magic is the chance to survive. When vampire is magic, there is a sense that it can be controlled and even ended. That you can simply destroy the source to save the lot is important because it is magical. Science is still holding on to that concept, but in reality, that shouldn’t be the case. You don’t identify patient zero, cure them, and then it just spreads to everyone else.
The trick is vampire virus spreads quickly and, like our concept of viruses, is completely destructive. In horror genres, this means that, no matter how smart, good, sneaky, clever, or strong you are, you can’t win. You may win a few battles, but everything is working against you and you can’t win the war. Your best bet is to wait it out and fight when the odds are better. That typically doesn’t happen until the last book. I like this element of horror. I like when our protagonist survives, but only by the skin of his/her teeth. What I like far more these days is the inevitable loss for everyone. I like when reality meets the fantasy elements. I like happy endings, but not necessarily the happy ending that is expected.
That’s what I like about this series. If there is going to be a happy ending, it’s probably not going to be for our main characters or, at least, the happy ending they are hoping for.