“ Authors: Guillermo del Toro,Chuck Hogan / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 April 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Thriller / Suspense General / Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers / Title: The Strain / ISBN 13: 9780007311293 / ISBN 10: 0007311293 / Alternative EAN: 9780007310258 „
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I didn't buy this book with particularly high hopes. I bought it because I got a very good price £2.12 delivered from amazon - and spending so much on Christmas right now - I really don't have anything left over for books for myself. But as soon as I opened the first page my hopes began to rise - quite high in fact. The reason for my high hopes is that it very quickly becomes obvious that at least one of the authors seems to have the gift of a storyteller. You may feel that all writers are storytellers, and I'll admit they do tell stories, they may be story tellers, but not storytellers. A storyteller to me, is one who can weave a story with words to a live audience. Someone who passes down the stories of their family as well as making up stories as they go along. I was blessed to have been born into a family of storytellers, but now that we have so many other forms of entertainment - this art is disappearing.
The book begins with a story told by a proper storyteller, the grandmother of one of the main characters, Abraham Setrakian. She tells him a bubbeh meiseh - a grandmother story, and in a time before television, when simple villagers in what I take to be Poland would be unlikely to even have a radio. Stories were the only form of entertainment but is this story true or woven only to entertain a child? The story tells of Sardu the giant , crippled by his own height, who returns from a hunting trip to Romania as something different altogether. The giant Sardu who searches the villages at night with his walking stick making the dreaded tick tick tick sound. As Abraham grows into adulthood - he finds far more human monsters as a prisoner in Treblinka, but he also crosses path with this creature from his grandmothers stories. Many years later, as an elderly pawnbroker, he may represent humanities last hope.
Ephraim Goodweather is a man of science. A top scientist with the C.D.C. , he isn't one to listen to the tales of a crazy of old man at first. But nothing and science can describe what he finds when a 747 jet lands safely at J.F.K., but without a single living soul, barring four comatose and near death survivors. Everything about this event defies scientific logic and things are about to get far worse. Ephraim is accompanied by Nora Martinez, his coworker - whom he also happens to be dating - but he is also desperate to keep his son and ex wife safe once he realises the magnitude of the disaster before them. The higher ups seem to be brushing him off and he becomes powerless to stop a plague that threatens to engulf the entire human race.
Two more characters will feature heavily in this story, and like the first two they are very well crafted, so that each takes on a complete personality. The first is Augustin Elizade, a gang banger recently paroled for manslaughter if I remember correctly, he is simply known as Gus. While Gus appears to be a bit of a thug, he has a tattoo to the effect of I am what I am - which sums his character up well. Growing up as he did - the odds were he would join a gang and the life they live is one of violence. But he has honour as well, and a sense of decency as well as courage that goes well beyond a gang bangers bravado. He is in fact a very like able wee thug. The final character to come into play is Vassily Fet, a huge man with a Russian name who earns his living trapping rats in sewers of New York. Vassily is a born soldier, though he may never has suspected this before. The crisis brings out the best in him and creates a hero of a man who most likely would have lived life unnoticed in a quieter era.
The bad guys are not quite as well rounded, each being pure unadulterated evil. The Master Sardu is evil incarnate, and his henchmen an undead Nazi and former concentration camp commandant, and wealthy American industrialist are completely without any trace of redeeming qualities. These are not cute or romantic vampires in any sense, they are cruel, sadistic and rather more disgusting than most with some fairly graphically written scenes.
I will not go too deeply into the plot. This is billed as vampire trilogy, and it does keep some aspects of vampire lore, but the authors have made a beast truly their own here. Other aspects of this might resemble the more popular zombie apocalypse books which have recently flooded the market, although this is far more expertly written than most of these. There were a few slow parts, and I nearly deducted a star as I felt the authors spent far too much time on the perspective of too many people when the solar eclipse, or occultation as the authors call it. At this point I was growing terribly bored with the book, and there are other sections where it just seems to be lacking something. I appreciate that some of this is setting the scene though, and this book must do most of the work to create the atmosphere and setting for the next two volumes. But after careful consideration, I have gone with 5 stars.
I feel this story has a freshness to it - the haven't just rehashed all the old cliches, they have created something new and different. I also like the fact that the main characters are very well developed. A good author creates characters in such a way that the reader feels as if they know each one, perhaps have known them most of their life. The authors succeed in this very well with most of the characters, although some like Nora and the Mrs Goodweather are more or less props for other characters. I especially like the charatcer of Abraham Setrakian, I found having the main hero be an elderly man an interesting twist. His main power is in his knowledge - but he gets into a few action hero scenes as well. But the main reason for giving this five stars, it the fact that very often does have something of the air of a storyteller, there is something different here from the rafts of ordinary books I have read, and that alone makes it worth reading. It reminds me of sitting around a table listening to stories.
As mentioned before, this book is part of a trilogy. I have some series where each book can stand on it's own, but this is not the case with this book. It does end with things very much unfinished and unresolved. Reading one book in this series is rather like stopping halfway through, or more accurately one third of the way through on a complete story. I'm not sure I'd be too thrilled with this if I had to wait years for next ones to come out, but as all three have been released, and I have read the second, and will have the third for Christmas, i am happy enough.
Finally - some of you may recognise the lead author's name Guillermo De Toro. Apparently he is famous director best known for Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy. This did not affect my decision to purchase this at all, and I would not automatically assume that because a person could direct he could write, but in this case it has worked out quite well. Of course this may well be due to the talents of the other writer here Chuck Hogan. This is a book I could easily picture as film though, and perhaps De toro has had some influence on that.
When it comes to novels which are co-authored by celebrities or famous names from other fields, I'm always a little cynical. Did they simply attach the name to the project and wait for the royalties to roll in, or were they actively involved in the plotting, characterisation and writing?
Of course, a well-known name can help with publicity and books sales and there's no doubt that this tactic works. When I saw this book on Amazon, it was the name of Guillermo Del Toro's that caught my attention, not the name of co-author Chuck Hogan or the title of the book. I was interested to see how well Del Toro's ideas could make their way from the highly visual medium of film into the written word. The answer, it turns out, is "very well indeed". Del Toro and his writing partner craft a great novel that (mostly) tells an interesting horror story, whist also setting up a trilogy of novels.
This is one of those books that grabs your attention straight from the start. It opens in a deeply mysterious fashion: a plane lands in New York and suddenly goes quiet. Everyone on board is found dead, yet there are no obvious signs of poisoning, terrorist activity or mechanical failure. Dr Ephraim (Eph) Goodweather and his team are called in from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to investigate, but initially are stumped. Slowly, Eph starts to discover that the incident was caused by a very different kind of disease which threatens the very existence of humanity - vampires.
One of the core reasons why The Strain works so well is that straight from the start it establishes an atmosphere of tension and mystery. It's never exactly a scary book, but it is a very atmospheric one. The strong opening instantly raises questions in the reader's mind and makes them curious to find out more. From here, Del Toro and Hogan gradually pile revelation upon revelation so that the plot becomes a little clearer with each passing chapter. The fact that it shifts regularly between different characters also helps keep the reader's attention and ensures that the authors can keep tension levels high by shifting the focus of the plot at crucial moments.
In fact, there are times when you want to shake the characters for not realising the significance of what they are witnessing because, thanks to the well-written narrative, it seems so obvious to you. In fairness, that's because you are aware of all the facts and have the bigger picture, which none of the characters do. Whilst this apparent stupidity of the characters can be mildly frustrating, it's also a real strength, demonstrating how involved you have become in the narrative.
It has to be said that there is not a great deal of originality behind The Strain - it's a fairly standard vampire story and in many respects, is highly reminiscent of Stephen King's Salem's Lot. That again is no bad thing, however. The reader is instantly comfortable with the central idea and the authors don't have to waste lots of time explaining vampire lore or establishing the basic principles. It's assumed that the reader already knows at least something about vampires and that helps move the narrative along at a rapid pace.
The book's single new idea (that newly turned vampires return home to feed upon their loved ones first) adds an extra element of emotion. It makes the book about the characters, rather than the vampires and allows Del Toro and Hogan to introduce a few nice sub-plots that really bring out the impact of this "disease" on family units.
In some ways it's difficult to define what makes The Strain so readable since it not only lacks originality, it also is one of those books where it takes quite a while for nothing much to happen. This is not a book full of set pieces, of mass struggles with vampires or desperate fights for life. Instead, it's a slow burner: elements of the plot are gradually revealed so that the reader becomes more and more aware of what is going on and characters are more important than excitement.
Not that there is anything particularly original about the characters in The Strain. They are all pretty standard genre archetypes: the intelligent doctor who is willing to accept the fantastical, his faithful sidekick female and the wise old man who has spent his life tracking down vampires. Yet this lack of originality doesn't matter. Just like the plot, it means that the reader can feel instantly comfortable with the characters and just accept them for who they are. The familiarity also means that it's easy to care about them and worry for their safety.
It's a shame that the ending was somewhat anti-climactic. The build-up was fantastic, creating a real sense of tension as the vampire hunters move deep into the creature's lair. Yet, the final confrontation is rather lacklustre and a let-down after the tension of the preceding pages. Not only is it over with too quickly, it leaves lots of loose ends flapping around. This is obviously because this is the first book in a trilogy, so some plot strands are left unresolved so that they can be explored in subsequent books. However, it does leave this first part feeling rather anti-climactic.
For all I enjoyed it, I also felt that The Strain was slightly too long and the authors delayed the (disappointing) climax just a little too much. Towards the end, it became a case of the characters simply doing nothing as a means of avoiding the inevitable final confrontation and this meant that the pace slipped from "slow burner" to just plain slow. There was no question in my mind that the book ended far less strongly than it began.
Overall, I enjoyed The Strain. It might not add anything new to the genre, but it was well-written, (mostly) well-paced and enjoyable. I'm certainly looking forward to reading the next two volumes (The Fall and The Night Eternal) to catch up with the characters and see how they fare in their on-going battle with the vampires of New York.
Available new for around £4 (paperback) or £5 (Kindle edition)
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Harper, 2010 (Reissue)
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months ... the world.
At New York's JFK Airpot and arriving Boeing 777 taxiing along a runway suddenly stops dead. All the shades have been drawn, all communication channels have mysteriously gone quiet. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid-response team investigating biological threats, boards the darkened plane ... and what he finds makes his blood run cold.
A terrifying contagion has come to the unsuspecting city, an unstoppable plague that will spread like an all-consuming wildfire - lethal, merciless, hungry ... vampiric.
And in a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem an aged Holocaust survivor knows that the war he has been dreading his entire life is finally here...
I've been reading quite a lot of YA and Chick lit lately so I was keen to step away (just for a moment) and read something that was a bit different. I do love a good scary movie every now and then and the same goes for a good and scary horror novel, which I hoped The Strain would be. And it absolutely was. It was creepy, tension filled and had me checking over my shoulder while I was reading it, as well as having a pretty good story. My husband even asked at one point if I wanted to 'put it in the freezer'! :D
Right from the beginning I enjoyed this book and it was the writing style that completely drew me in, it was descriptive and really helped to build the tension and horror of the situation unfolding. I am sure some people might think that the beginning was rather slow, but I really liked it. It set the scene and allowed me to get to know the characters before all the real action started and just didn't stop. Having said that there were a few moments when the writing was a little cringe worthy and I found myself almost laughing at some of the sweeping statements about Eph going from a healer to a warrior.
"Eph too had been turned. Not from human to vampire, but from healer to slayer."
The main collection of characters was Ephraim (or Eph) Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid emergency response team as well as his colleague and girlfriend Nora, who played a much smaller role. They were also joined by the enigmatic and worldly Abraham Strakian who was a survivor of the Jewish holocaust and had been hunting 'the evil' for many, many years. Also towards the end of the book there were a few other characters introduced that I can imagine will play a larger role in the subsequent books. I really liked all the main characters and unlike some other horror stories the author didn't skip over letting you get to know them well, I was invested and I found myself screaming at them to run away instead of opening that door...
Although I really enjoyed the story of The Strain, it really isn't anything new to the genre. However, I did like that the vampire 'strain' was like a realistic disease type spread of some other virus as it would occur in a city setting. It read like the authors had done their research and the virus took out whole neighbourhoods and communities, just like a virulent disease might do. I will give a slight warning that this book did have a few gory scenes in it, but it wasn't too bad - I much more prefer the creepy kind of horror to the blood and guts type that can just make your stomach churn.
I am really looking forward to reading the next one in the series when I get round to buying it. I completely recommend The Strain if you are in the mood for a creepy, tension building horror. I know The Strain is not everyone's cup of tea but I do like a good scary read every so often, as long as my doors are locked and my puupies are on guard duty - not that they'd be much help, unless the monsters are allergic to puppy saliva :)
Genre - Adult, horror
Published by Harper Collins (April 2010)
Paperback -495 pages (£6.99)
1) The Strain (April 2010- paperback)
2) The Fall (June 2011 - paperback)
3) Eternal night (Oct 2011 - Hardback)
This is a very interesting take on age old horror stories and at first it's hard to see where the book is going. Why has the plane turned up with everyone dead on board? It starts like an episode of The X Files or Fringe, but then makes the turn into the more macabre and traditional horror.
When browsing the book shop I happened upon this book merely due to the name Guillermo Del Toro. It intrigued me as to what a book by him would be like as I've seen many films that he has directed. I was a bit cautious though due to there being two co-writers but thankfully there was no interruption of flow or difference in prose noticeable.
To sum up, it's a terrific, modern day yet faithful horror story that goes in a new direction and I will definitely be reading the sequel too as soon as I can..
Am I alone in thinking that this novel is a success merely because of its own hype? That the only reason it has sold bucket loads is because Guillermo Del Toro's name is associated it? Judging from the other reviews here, this could well be the case!
I set out really wanting to like this (and those who have read my reviews in the past will know this sounds the death knell) but found myself continually disappointed! At its most basic, it is the tale of a Vampiric virus set loose on the streets of New York after an airplane descends at JFK with all of its crew and passengers seemingly dead on landing. In fact, there are four survivors as it turns out and they are soon being used to spread the virus amongst the living almost like the vampire equivalent of typhoid mary! Of course, there is a Master vampire behind it all and a human counterpart who wants nothing more than to see the whole world overrun but at the same time, there is also an emminent disease scientist, his colleague and a mysterious old man who stand tall willing to face off against these new creatures of the night and perserve humanity from possible extinction!
There is nothing much here that we haven't seen before and the book uses several plot devices and ideas that have been done before and better in other novels and books before this! The use of the location of Ground Zero in the story (the site where the Twin Towers once stood) seems exploitative and unnessecary and almost a desperate bid to make the book seem up to date with current events in our own world and so didn't quite vgel for me and though there were bits of the book I really enjoyed, on the whole I was plagued with the concept that this book really wasn't as original or as ground-breaking as either it thought it was or tried to be!
I love Pan's Labyrinth and think it an excellent film but really, this book just doesn't work for me on so many levels and unfortunately that is why ultimately I can only give it an exceedingly low score!
I first heard of The Strain when I came across a poster on the London Undergound early this year. An extract from the book referring to the surreal occurrence of an aeroplane full of corpses landing at JFK airport as well as Guillermo Del Toro's name written in big chunky letters got me intrigued. The heralded Mexican movie director responsible for two of my favourite fantastical films Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and Blade II (2002) had teamed up with the more experienced author Chuck Hogan to release his debut novel. The Strain is the genesis of a fresh new vampiric horror trilogy that breeds fear from its modern take on an old formula.
Flight 753's unprecedented landing serves as The Strain's curtain raiser. When this arrival from Berlin suddenly dies for no apparent reason and after an undisturbed flight, the mystery compounds as it is understood that all the passengers are dead...at least at the time. Dr Ephraim Goodweather, head of the Canary Project, a biological threats response team is drafted in to investigate. He finds four survivors but this seemingly good piece of news soon takes a dark twist. The survivors go awol, corpses begin to disappear and a mysterious coffin found onboard the aeroplane also vanishes. Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian has been preparing for as well as dreading this moment all his life - the return of an ancient evil ready to raise hell in the present. Fully aware of what is happening, Setrakian finds Goodweather and explains how a terrible virus is spreading. One which will transform all the people of Manhattan into blood-thirsty vampires within one week with the country and the world to follow suit soon after. The horror show begins and a thrilling race against time commences as these two men battle to save the human race.
The Strain borrows elements from vampire tradition namely from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Many comparisons can be made. Aeroplane Flight 753 serves as the Demeter, while the heroic Setrakian plays Van Helsing and the books main antagonist, The Master is the obvious choice for Count Dracula. The inspiration is quite clear. However, The Strain offers enough freshness to breathe new life into an aging formula. A mesh of history, science and horror see the novel triumph. Vampires are no longer classy caped Goths but zombie-like beings infected by 'blood worms' who develop grotesque retractable 'stingers' in their mouths to feed with (Blade II style). The Strain is meticulous. It uses this skill to full effect when implanting gory macabre imagery in the reader's mind. Del Toro's knack for creating memorable netherworld creatures doesn't fail to come to play here. The book runs at a superb Hollywood blockbuster pace also, despite its scrupulous storytelling. What starts with ominous mystery ends in full blown horror and as soon as the ball gets rolling you find yourself accelerating through the increasingly terrifying events faced by The Strain's protagonists. You just can't put it down.
Del Toro and Hogan have taken the best bits of traditional vampire tales, evolved them and added nice touches of their own to create this believable modern day horror show. Through gory description, pulsating pace and mounting tension to a point of impending doom, The Strain shows readers a world of fear and trepidation. The ending wasn't quite perfect (I won't reveal why) but its open end has definitely left me wanting more and sets the scene nicely for the sequel (which should be with us this September). Vampires have enjoyed the limelight throughout fictional history - The Strain ensures that their future is also equally bright.
Having been a fan of Del Toro and his work i was curious to see what this book was all about. The basic premise about a city undergoing a viral outbreak with vampiric twist was intriguing so while waiting on a train one day last week i saw the book and decided to pick it up (i paid for it by the way, didn't just find it lying on the ground).
You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is just another survival horror book as that is essentially what it is however the story is just so well written with excellent twists that sets it apart. I've always enjoyed reading ever since i was young and as such have read a variety of books but very rarely have i had one this easy to read. I thought i would just have a read of the first few pages to get a feel for it before starting it properly. When i next checked i was 50 pages in and hooked.
I can't explain too much of the story without plot spoilers and the like but i recommend it to all fans of the horror genre. Hogan's writing is superb and Del Toro just has a way with the horror/fantasy genre that very few come close to. Cannot wait for the next book!!
Guillermo del Toro is one of the great modern day film makers. His stylish eye for design and amazing imagination have lead to him being behind the release of some of the most stand out films we've seen in recent years. From his debut, Cronos (1993), a vampiric thriller with an original twist to his most recent Hellboy II (2008), and all that has fallen in between; he has always provided us cinema fans with something different, something truly unique. There's a reason why he has been employed, trusted even, to direct the upcoming Hobbit films, it's that del Toro does horror and fantasy like no other.
Somewhere during del Toro's crammed schedule he has found the time to write his debut novel, co-authored with the American novelist Chuck Hogan, who I presume acted very much as his aid into unfamiliar territory. The Strain is the first of a trilogy of books, which will subsequently be released over the next two summers, so right from the start you know that things aren't going to be wrapped up come the end of the book, there will be cliff hangers and a sense that this is only just the introduction to a much greater story.
The Strain is a horror novel, a vampire story mainly set in the present day. Vampires have very much been the flavour of the month over the last few years, with them appearing in all aspects of media, I'm guessing largely triggered but the popularity of the Twilight books and then films, but there's more to it than that. Vampires have always been a popular favourite amongst horror writers, and as is the case with all works of fiction key ideas are basically recycled as the decades go by. What is Twilight for example but a modern day Dracula/Romeo & Juliet hybrid.
Where del Toro has been clever with The Strain though is in his representation of the vampire itself. As a whole vampires in fiction have been written as romantic, lonely, mysterious creatures of the night, taking advantage of busty maidens and the like. We've seen them romanticized, idolised and softened down quite a bit, there's also been that terrible cliché that all the 80's and 90's vampire fiction was actually a metaphor for the spread of HIV and AIDS. What we get with The Strain though is not any of this, vampires are not handsome European aristocrats, or troubled heart throbs from the other side of the tracks, they are brutal, mindless, killers. Guillermo del Toro himself stated that his vampires are "as romantic as colon cancer", a pretty strong endorsement for them.
The fact is these blood suckers would probably be more at home in a George A Romero zombie movie than anything many of us are used to seeing vampires as. Once killed, they rise up as the living dead, with an unrelenting thirst for blood. They probably reminded me most of the onscreen representation in the recent film I Am Legend, a plague which spreads and infects its victims in the most horrific way.
The novel reads like the screenplay to a Hollywood film, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact del Toro apparently pitched the plot to the Fox television channel with the view to making it into three mini seasons, but they declined, stating that maybe it would be better as a comedy...make of that as you will.
It starts with the arrival of Flight 753 at JFK International airport in New York, its short snappy chapters jumping around the different characters, giving us different perspectives like an episode of 24. It's this high concept fast paced action which makes you not help but think what a great movie it would make, and you never know maybe one day it will.
This mysterious airplane has gone dark moments previously but landed without a hitch, just failing to go any further than sit patiently on the run way. As the authorities are scrambled and the tension builds around what exactly is happening on board its true horrors are revealed bit by bit. In homage to Dracula arriving on the shores of Whitby bay, we find out that a vampire was on board, bringing with it its desire to spread its disease and trigger a war amongst the vampire elders who want to remain living in the shadows.
Our main character Dr. Ephraim is a scientist from the Center for Disease Control, called in to investigate what is originally presumed to be a virus spreading amongst people. But his investigations and alignment with the well travelled Abraham Setrakian, our Van Helsing figure, lead them to realise what they are now facing is much much worse.
This amalgamation of zombie and vampire fiction reminded me at times of an episode of CSI, it's like CSI: Bloodsuckers. The writers, and I'm sure Chuck Hogan has had a bigger role in this than I have credited him for, provide us the reader with great detail in regards to crime scenes and autopsies, everything they tell you seems legit, like a load of effort has gone into researching even the little things, like the tricks of the trade in catching New York city rats. It's this strong attention to detail which gives the book some depth, something which is often difficult to come by in horror fiction.
The Strain isn't a perfect piece of fiction but it's an extremely good read which has left me wanting more. Del Toro and Hogan have tried their hardest to give us something fresh, and on the most part have. No idea is truly original but they make it entertaining enough to keep us reading. I was really surprised how much horror can actually be induced purely through words, as I skipped through the pages I literally felt my heartbeat changing as the tension was built up, it was a great experience.
The book is violent, bloody and riddled with bad language so if you're the sort who is easily offended you might want to give it a pass. It is a tremendous story though and one which sets the scene nicely for hopefully even better things to come. One last point, the books design is a thing of beauty, the 400 page hardback has a lovely sense of style running throughout, its chapter headings set apart of bold black pages, with nice little sub headings. Effort and time have clearly been put into making it feel like something special, and it sure has the desired effect.
I have not found a book that has caught my interest as much as this book did in a long time. I picked it up from wh smith at 12.99 on the recommendation of a close friend who said it was right up my alley! And he was right.
It is produced by two giants in the entertainment field (in my opinion) Guillermo Del toro who directed great films as pans labyrinth, blade and hellboy and Chuck Hogan author of the standoff and Prince of thieves.
As soon as I started reading I was gripped!
Its the first in a trilogy, starts with a mysterious abandoned plane in an air field with no explantation of its being there, everyone on board is dead.. except a few who have no explanation of how they got there or what happened... it starts going pear shaped from there for these poor survivors who probably start wishing they had missed that particular flight!
I dont want to give any plot away but if you enjoy vampire novels, films and games I would recommend this book, I very much enjoyed it, its not all blood guts and gore, it lets you in to the characters person lives aswell, keeping it real. I finished the 401 pages in three days because I could not put it down!
I was slightly disappointed to discover the next book in this trilogy does not come out until June of 2010, but I am just impatient!
A modern day vampire novel that is so much more
There is also a web site to go with the Strain trilogy www.thestraintrilogy.com with some handy info and reviews about the book and also it keeps you upto date on the next book release.
The last chapter left me wanting more and I cannot wait for the next release!
This sci-fi thriller is the first of a planned trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I read it straight through and don't want to wait a whole year for the sequel!
Set firmly in the present day, the book races through an imaginative 400-page scenario in which a secret strain of blood-sucking creatures makes itself suddenly, and dramatically, known. Although the creatures have been around for centuries, they now threaten the human race with extinction. The residents of New York City are turning into voracious zombies, each spreading the 'strain' as they drain the blood from their family and friends. Can it be stopped in time?
The novel introduces misunderstood medical genius, Ephraim Goodweather, spearheading a small team against the vampires. He is in the middle of a custody battle over his eleven-year-old son Zack, and has had a small fling with his professional partner Nora. The similarities with Jack Bauer of "24" are hard to miss. Like Bauer, he's appointed to take care of the problem but finds himself unsupported by the authorities.
The two main characters helping Ephraim Goodweather in his lonely battle are Nora Martinez, a biochemist, and an elderly Armenian professor called Abraham Setrakian.
We also meet his other colleagues, his wife and son, and a dozen additional characters I can't tell you about without spoiling the plot. They are well-drawn and varied. I found all of the people (and the vampires) completely believable and felt very involved in what happened to them.
* Plot outline
In the short prelude, we meet Abraham Setrakian as a young boy in Armenia. His grandmother tells him the legend of Sardu: a giant who eats children.
A 777 airliner lands safely at JFK international airport, New York, but its systems are off. The passengers and crew are all dead. Ephraim and Nora are tasked with identifying the cause of this tragedy, in order to contain any further outbreaks.
Autopsies on corpses from the airliner reveal some puzzling characteristics. Four of the victims make an astonishing recovery. The strain begins to spread.
After meeting Professor Setrakian, Ephraim and Nora realise what they are up against: unsurprisingly, nobody believes them until it's too late. Over the course of a week, New York gradually breaks down. It becomes apparent the vampires have friends in high places - their plague looks set to extend worldwide.
* Vampires & Zombies
These vampires do not fly; they're uninterested in young virgins and unaffected by garlic. They could be described as a kind of humanoid louse - you'll have to read the book to find out just how repulsive that is!
The authors have re-interpreted the vampire myth as a highly evolved virus, transmitted by parasites. They have clearly researched into parasite and vermin behaviour, which informs the plot development as well as their descriptions.
* Thrill & Scare factor
I wouldn't call "The Strain" a horror story. It's a thriller. The tale moves at a cracking pace, is very effectively woven together, and makes the threat of a vampire epidemic seem realistic.
It's not scary in the usual sense - I'm not sleeping with the light on! It spooked me a different way: I couldn't eat while reading it. I still feel extra nervous about keeping wounds clean ...
"The Strain" is a well-written, involved thriller with plenty of intrigue. It has a mild supernatural slant, so those who cannot suspend their disbelief would probably dislike it.
This novel should appeal to fans of "24" and "Lost", as well as readers of science fiction adventures. Good for mid-teens upwards.
* Product information
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: £8.99 at Amazon (hardback)
I had a paperback preview copy. The cover is as illustrated here, but with yellow text instead of red.
I'm sure that many fans of Pan's Labyrinth will, like me, be intrigued to find out that the director of this amazing film, Guillermo del Toro, has teamed up with crime writer Chuck Hogan and produced this, the first in a new trilogy of vampire novels. In the wake of 'Twilight' and del Toro's success as a director I'm sure that this new horror will be a popular release and there will be many eager readers ready to discover something new. I know that I was expecting a lot from it (and I'm don't usually read horror) and opened it up with eager anticipation of something new and different.
Different it was, and very promising at the beginning. It starts with a very strange scenario - an airplane lands as usual except that it appears totally 'dead'. No light, no movement, nothing. Until it is opened and the entire crew and passengers are found inexplicably dead. Not your usual vampire story then! The actual spread of the 'vampires' in this book is treated as a virus and the man called in to deal with it is main character Ephrain, an expert in disease control (I know, hardly an original idea!). However, the spread and effects of the disease are certainly different and in the description of the victims some of the 'horror' of the book seems to be revealed (though I'm a total baby and I didn't find it all that scary!).
The characters are ok, though I didn't find them all that interesting to be honest and found Eph's relationship with his ex-wife and son a quite irritating distraction. There are some more elements of what I think of as a 'classic' vampire story in an ancient mythology and an old man whose childhood memories have led him to a life of studying the 'Master' who he believes is the root of all the problems. There seem to be a couple of interesting 'threads' of story which will presumably be drawn together later in the series and some very well written and fairly gripping scenes. But, for me at least, it didn't really pull together enough to hold my interest - it took me quite a long time to get through this one and I'm not sure I'll bother with the next, by the time it's released I may have forgotten all about it!
I'm always a little nervous about starting a horror book and usually end up disappointed - maybe it just isn't my genre... I'll be looking forward to seeing other opinions on this one.
It will be released in June 2009, in hardback at £12.99 (no doubt discounted at various retailers).My copy has just over 400 pages.