BY NICO VREELAND

[“Read This, Not That” is an occasional column in which we unmask an overhyped book and recommend a similar, better book to read instead. You can follow it here, or browse all our ongoing features here.]

Do not read: The Fall, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I like Del Toro’s movies, I think he’s a talented guy, but he simply has no business writing novels, let alone an overhyped, unreadable mess like The Strain Trilogy. The first book in the series, The Strain, was cliched and horribly written (see my review for more details). To simulate the experience of reading it, imagine you’re in a class you hate with a professor who loves the sound of his own voice. He plays a bad movie for the class—say, Repo Men—and then keeps pausing it in the middle of action sequences in order to explain what combat boots are, or how a carburetor works, or the history of forks. That’s a lot like The Strain: a bunch of boring details cluttering up the action of an uninspired story. The big selling point for this series is that the vampires in it are mean. So… just like all the other pre-Twilight vampire stories? Sorry, Del Toro, that’s just not enough.

Instead read this: The Passage, by Justin Cronin

The Passage also got more than its fair share of media hype this year, and it’s also about vampires, and those vampires are also mean. I haven’t been able to read it myself, but I also haven’t seen less than a glowing review. For instance, here’s Ron Charles raving about it, and Ron Charles doesn’t pass out the good candy to every kid who knocks on his door.

In that review, Charles acknowledges our skepticism about yet another vampire novel, but then he calls Cronin “a really talented novelist”—the last legitimately talented novelist who wrote a vampire novel was probably Bram Stoker. There are sure to be some cliches and hackneyed elements (vampires, after all, are a cliche), but if Cronin knows where they are, and he’s as funny as Charles says, this book could be pretty good. It’s a much better bet, certainly, than The Fall.

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