Guillermo Del Toro’s THE STRAIN – A Book Review

by on August 31, 2010

in book reviews, Entertainment

THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

The following is a book review of sorts from “The Strain” is a novel co-authored by Guillermo del Toro (Splice, Quantum of Solace, Hellboy franchise, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II & Mimic) and Chuck Hogan. It’s the first in a trilogy of vampire books and it takes a new daring, detailed look at the vampire mythology. They’ve reimagined vampires without throwing in teen angst or love stories. They’ve tossed out a new way to horrify us. “The Strain” is truly the meshing of “The Andromeda Strain” meets “Night of the Living Dead” and done so well that there’s no stretch of the imagination about these two movies being blended together. If you have an eye for incredible detail and love a great new twist on an old theme, I think this book is for you.

But there are two down-sides to the whole book.

Del Toro loves to flesh out details like there is no tomorrow. Because of this, I felt the 585-page novel could probably have clocked in maybe 300 pages of well detailed prose. It took 150 pages to get the story in motion past the first few events in the story. As a quickie example, it took 40 pages to describe a solar eclipse. He describes the same event from the perspectives of several different characters… of which we could have possibly done with just one description.

Other than that, once the story starts to pick up the development pace at about half-way, it became the riveting novel I expected from the film-maker.

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“The Strain” starts out when a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport. It stops, dead, on the tarmac and upon investigation, officials discover that almost the entire complement of passengers are dead. A strange huge box, a “cabinet” filled with dirt is discovered in the cargo hold but at some point during the investigation, it disappears from holding.

We are introduced to Dr. Ephraim (Eph) Goodweather from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as he’s pulled into this investigation that is first thought to be a lethal, fast-spreading viral infection. But as Eph’s investigation moves forward, he realizes that this mini-plague that hit the plane’s human cargo is much more than that.

There were survivors who are quarantined, but they are classically played out as people who care more for their own status than that of others and demand their release. Much to the chagrin of the CDC’s lead, Dr. Goodweather.

As the corpses first do not decompose, but then start disappearing, is when things get going and the story sucks you in and keeps you up past your bedtime!

As things begin to not add up but actually make less and less sense for our good doctor, an old pawnbroker from Manhattan named Abraham Setrakian inserts himself into Eph’s investigation. Between what Eph had already experienced and the entirely convincing evidence that Abraham shows him, Dr. Goodweather is suddenly thrust into a new world outside the scientifically explainable world he’s dealt with his whole life and is introduced to the secret world of the vampire.

In “The Strain,” vampires have been around for centuries, living smartly amongst us in different parts of the world and stemming from seven original vampires called Ancients. Three Ancients live in the New World while the other four stayed within the confines of what they know, the Old World of Europe and Asia. But then one of the four decides to change things up and comes to the U.S., not hiding his tracks.

The ending to the story is what can be expected of a standard first part in a trilogy… an open ending that can serve as an opening scene for the second part, with no resolution.

– – –

Like I said, it starts slow, but then bam, just when you think you may either only read the first sentence of each paragraph or just put the book down, it gets good. I don’t mind some detail, but the level of detail in this book, was, well, looking much like a screenplay. Hmm. Yet when I started experiencing the transformations of the victims into vampires, my imagination was captured. I’ve never experienced (read) what one might feel when turning into a vampire like and this was a new and unique read for me. Of course, in Del Toro loving to flesh it out, we had to have the same effect described from multiple victims, but I started not caring. It was getting good.

Just when I thought the book couldn’t keep me riveted, I was very wrong.

Guillermo del Toro knows his weaknesses and has admitted (with Wired Magazine) to not being good at forensic type novels but wanted to give the book a hook that pulled the reader into the reality of our world. Thus enters Chuck Hogan, to inject the scientific processes that helps us cement the probability of this reality. Chuck’s previous books include “The Town,” “The Killing Moon,” “Devils in Exile” and more.

“The Strain” was the first of a trilogy. My tendency is to not buy into the next chapter, but sadly, once I’ve started something, I find that I have to finish it. My level of loyalty has been my undoing in the past and is in the midst of being my undoing now as I await “The Fall.” It comes to hardcover in October of 2010 and then a bit after that, I’m sure the paperback will then arrive.

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Amazon Links:

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy)

The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy

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