The Strain Book Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Vampires have taken quite a beating in recent years. Writers like Ann Rice and Charlaine Harris and films like “Twilight” have taken this blood-sucking predator and turned him into a creature of seduction and sensuality. It’s become so bad that people dress up to play vampire at Goth parties. Thankfully, the vampire as a true monster is back thanks to Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s new novel “The Strain”, the first of a trilogy.
It all begins as a passenger jet with over 200 passengers and crew, lands at JFK Airport in New York. However shortly after touching down, the control tower loses all communication with the plane. There it sits on the tarmac…no lights, no movement, no communication at all, seemingly dead to the world. Fearing a terrorist attack or an infectious disease out break, Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control are mobilized.
Heading up an early response team for the CDC is Doctor Ephraim Goodweather. He is the first to board the plane, ready for any contingency but not ready for finding everyone dead but for four survivors. What killed the passengers is a mystery, but what is keeping them from decomposing is a bigger mystery. The bodies are taken to various morgues throughout the city for examination and yet one by one the bodies begin to disappear as if they’ve gotten up and walked away.
Goodweather and his team are finding strange biological changes going on within the bodies they examine as if they are completely rearranging their bodily functions. There is one many who seems to know what going on. An elderly Jewish man named Abraham Setrakian. He knows exactly what’s happening to the bodies and what will happen to all of New York if the creature he’s been hunting since the end of World War II is not destroyed. Sardu, the Master has come to New York!
Del Toro and Hogan give us a unique take on the vampire. These are not creatures who are going to seduce you with smoldering blue eyes but rather they are going to attack and devour you, or turn you into one of their kind. They are a nod to ancient myths about vampires but with a Sci-Fi edge to them in the way that the writers explain how the vampire virus breaks down and reshapes the body and how the strain will multiply exponentially if not stopped very soon.
The Strain moves at breakneck speed like a runaway locomotive with the entire novel taking place over a span of just a couple of days. It reads like a good movie with its fast action and diverse characters. You won’t even mind that it doesn’t slow down long enough to develop some of the secondary characters. Best of all, Hogan and Del Toro hold their Master vampire close to the vest. For most of the book he hovers in the background casting a dark pall over everything without actually revealing himself. You strain to know more about this terrifying creature but they deftly keep you in the dark for most of the book.
The rest of the trilogy will be hard-pressed to match the first book because “The Strain” is the best Vampire Novel since Dan Simmons’ “Children of the Night” and perhaps even the best since “Salem’s Lot”. Best of all, these are not Vampires you want to date or bring home to mom…
Mania Grade: A
Novel: The Strain
Authors: Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Publisher: William Morrow