The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I’m a big Guillermo Del Toro fan and I haven’t read a horror novel in years so when I heard positive buzz about his new vampire book I had to read it.

This book has one of the creepiest, suspenseful openings I’ve ever read.  sometime after touching down but before taxi-ing to its destination gate, a 747 at JFK goes dark.  Not a single light and no communication with the outside world at all, it just sits there on the runway, malignant and foreboding.  I won’t give any more detail than that except to say that Del Toro handles this setup with a level of detail and realism that lends an air of plausibility to the situation. 

This realism persists through the first half of the novel which chronicles a vampire outbreak through the eyes of the CDC.  It’s an approach that I love.  Fans of Blade II (I think there are three or four of us) will recognize Del Toro’s vampires as the mutant reapers from that film which Del Toro directed.  (Yes, I did just write that sentence.  It’s a good thing I’m already engaged.)  Anyway, they’re not normal vampires is where I was going with that.

I love the concept of this book.  Vampire stories tend to be set it the real world and oddly constrained by reality.  Del Toro had the balls to color outside the lines and bring on a full-blown vampire apocalypse and the first half of the book is handled in a credible manner.  The astute amongst you may have noticed that was my second reference to the first half of the book.  The second half, unfortunately, does not live up to the potential of the first half.  It devolves from a procedural to a straight action story and loses a little of what made it unique in the process.

Which is not to say that the second half is bad.  It’s just a bit of a let down after such a phenomenal start.  It should be noted that this book is the first in a trilogy.  Folks looking for closure should wait for all three books to come out before reading the first.  It remains to be seen if the quality will continue to drop off as the story gets further removed from reality.  I suspect it will but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

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