The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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. [via GoodReads]

The Strain was not really what I expected. I don't mean that in a bad way, it was just unexpected to find more of a thriller than a horror story. It's difficult to explain, since some reviewers are saying horror while others are saying thriller. It was a little bit of both I would say. There was a time or two where I actually had to stop reading because I was terrified, but that wasn't the feeling I had the whole story. Instead, it was more of an edge of your seat thriller.. where you read and read just to see what's going to happen next.

The story opens with a young boy being told a story by his grandmother in order to get him to eat his meal. This story is one of a man named Sardu and what became of him, a young prince, who became a monster that lurks in the dark, waiting and biding his time to lure you, with his telltale sign, the sound of his cane (pick-pick-pick). From there you jump and are on the tarmac at JFK (present day) where Eph and his team are trying to determine what happened to the "dead" plane and its passengers. This definitely sets the mood for the remainder of the book and it is one that definitely had me on edge.

Here are the main things I enjoyed about this book:
Vampires. Yes, I truly did enjoy the idea of a pandemic where humans become vampires. Zombie lovers can definitely appreciate this story as it did have a zombie movie feel to it. There are many characters in this story and, at first, it was a little difficult to decipher who was who, but my confusion didn't last long and I think the authors did a fantastic job of getting you acquainted with each character before too much jumping around happened. For example, the chapters are short and mostly relate to one particular character at a time - whether it be Eph and/or his partner Nora, and their scientific/medical findings, Abraham Setrakian and his lifelong fight against Sardu, the four survivors from the flight, their families, neighbors, and so on. In the end, I found this helpful and I think the main thing that avoided too much confusion. I liked the science aspect of the story as well. I feel that for the first book in a trilogy it gives you enough details about what is going on in the human body after infection to where you really have a grasp of what it means. I found this scientific aspect of the story to be well done - they didn't use big words (at least, not all the time), almost told in layman's terms. Not overly complicated or intricate. I really appreciated that and I found it all to be quite interesting and imaginative. The vampires were monsters - they definitely weren't the type you'd say "bite me" to or much less want to date. They were definitely the scary, run-for-your-life variety, that if you thought twice, you were a goner. It was gory, but not overly gross or anything like that... with a few decapitations and whatnot.

I just had some issues with the story:
For starters, I found it over-descriptive at times. I mean there is only so much you can say about a dark basement without getting too wordy. There were also a few chapters that I just couldn't figure out what the purpose of them was... for instance, the eclipse. There were about two chapters depicting an eclipse which happens in the first half of the book - which to be quite honest, there was no purpose to. It did nothing to move the story along, maybe it was just to build up the creep factor... not sure, I just didn't get it. The science, although interesting, took up a lot of the earlier chapters, so it did take a while before the you-know-what to hit the ceiling and the action to really start, so I'd have to say that it wasn't 'till midway through the book that I "really" got into it. And, one last thing that I found distracting, was that more than once, I noticed that the characters would do something or grab an object and then there would be a pause and a definition of what they were doing or what the object was. It would made me lose my focus and thus take away from the gripping feel of the story.

With all that said, I truly became fascinated with this book. In the end, the story captured me, I even found it credible in a Hollywood movie sort of a way. I found myself contemplating what would happen if something of this nature where to happen... I've always felt that I'd be the one to trip and fall and get eaten by the monster. It was creepy, scary and you have this sense of impending doom from the start, that makes it quite the delicious read. This is the ultimate fight between good and evil - and I for one am glad that I got a front seat to the action. This is the first of the trilogy that will be written by Del Toro and Hogan. With the next title coming out later this year and the conclusion scheduled for 2011. For fans of vampires (and I'm not talking the hott ones), science-fiction and just an all out blood-sucking, head-chopping adventure, this is one that will be a great addition to your collection.


Missie said...

Hey Nely,

I read this book last Sept. And from what I remember, I agree with many of your points. I was so curious as to what the heck happened on that plane, and what it meant when the results indicated waste or something like that. It did have a very scientific/technical feel to it.

I also remember struggling to connect with the characters at the beginning, but towards the end, it finally happened. I was really worried for Eph's son and heartbroken about the mom.

One thing that left me wondering was, and I can't recall the guy's name, the whole scene where that gangster guy is picked up by Vampires?? or Vampire fighters. I know I will pick up the next book, eager for explanation.

But yes, these Vampires have more of a zombie feel to them than anything. And I wasn't a fan of how they drank blood. But that is just me.

Thanks for this review.

Ryan G said...

This book has been on my wish list for a while of these days I'm going to give it a try.

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