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Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Book 1)
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction, Thriller/Horror, Sci Fi
Paperback, 585 pages
Book Source: the library
My Rating: 95/100

From Goodreads:

The Strain They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come. In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months—the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

My Thoughts:

Although this is a story about vampires these are not the sparkly, pretty, emo kind.  Oh no, these vamps are the creepy, insidious, scary kind, worse than any of the Big Bads Buffy ever faced.

This is the first book of of the trilogy and as such sets up the story.  Characters are introduced, background, historical information provided, and the set up for book two.  The Strain doesn't end on a cliffhanger but the story is far from over; not by a long shot.  Think more like, "Ha-ha-ha...Catch me if you can."

DelToro and Hogan have created a story that pulled me in many emotional directions.  I felt sad for the victims and their families.  As disgusting as the infected were, I still felt pity for them because they were no longer themselves.  They had become something else by shedding their humanity.  Then the feed, and again become icky and scary to the point that I felt freaked out.  I'm not saying I had nightmares, but I went to the bathroom in the dark I freaked myself out.  Just saying.

As for the victim's families, their road was equally tough.  They have no idea what's about to happen to them.  They are like lambs being led to slaughter.  The American public is being led to slaughter too.

With respect to Dr. Eph Goodweather he knows something's not right with this situation, but he is ignored.  His beliefs in medicine and science become compromised and his struggles to rationalize these events endeared him to me.  He tries to use reason, but when faced with believe or die, well you believe.  By the end of the book, a band of survivors and their back stories are known as well as portents of what's to come in books, The Fall.  Pretty ominous, huh.

Here are the story threads that I am curious to find out about:  (Contains spoilers, highlight to read)

*Do tunnels under water circumvent the traveling over water rule?  If so, the can of worms has exploded.  Literally.
*Hidden band of U.S. vamps that seem to be fighting against this rogue Ancient Master.  What is up with them and what did they kidnap that one guy for?
*Zack and how he handles things.  For a young kid he is quite mature and I liked him very much.

With the way this story is set you could compare it to a zombie story, with the act of vampire transmission, band of survivors, eventual downfall of society.  However, there are rules, guidelines, ancient myths, and organization with these vamps.  They are not completely mindless.

Yes, this review has been chock full of praise, but I did have two quibbles:

1. There was a lot of following individual victims and seeing what happened.  Although it provides for emotional investment and drives home how quick this thing spread, it became old and repetitive.  Each story was more heart breaking than the last though.

2. If you ever come across a big black box, that looks like a coffin, AND  is full of dirt...BURN IT!!  Chances are vamps are involved.  Everyone knows that when they see a coffin like box full of dirt.  I don't care how scientific you are, there is a kernel of truth in every legend.

So overall, LOVED this book!  Creepy, makes you think, and reminds me to keep up my cardio and take a few self-defense classes too.

For more information on the trilogy, cool videos, and interactive stuff, please visit the website:

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library

Yes, this was left over from 2010.  Oops!