Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

 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 vampire 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.


If you love vampires, a good thriller, and a book that will scare you so bad you want to put it in the freezer just like Joey from ‘Friends’, then you will be sure to enjoy this book. I will admit, the light has stayed on in my room a little longer than usual after I put this sucker down to go to sleep. Find out why, after the jump…

I recently asked a friend for something scary to read. I’m a fan of the horror genre and it’s been awhile since I’ve read anything without a love story and a happy ending, and I wanted a change. He told me it wasn’t really a horror novel…ummm, yeah. OKAY.

The Strain is the first in a vampire trilogy by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro. I recognized the name but was intrigued even more when I realized that Del Toro is also a film director. He is no stranger to vampires, he brought us Blade II and Cronos…as well as the Hellboy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth. Which explains why this book reads very much like a screenplay, and I was able to visualize each change in scene as I would a movie. This is not a bad thing, however. The story is told in third person, from various points of view, which I like because we know more than any one character in the story.

The story begins with Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, who has planned on a “work-free” weekend with his son, Zach. Of course, his plans are interrupted by a plane that has  landed safely at JFK, but has lost all power on the runway. Not a word is heard from anyone inside and it is discovered that everyone is dead. As head of the CDC’s Canary Project, a response team to biological threats, he is pulled away to investigate.

Local pawnshop owner, Abraham Setrakian, sees the story on the news and he knows that the plane has brought something unholy which is about to devastate New York City.  As a Holocaust survivor, he encountered the ancient evil while in a concentration camp and has since spent his life chasing and learning everything he can about The Master.

The Master, it seems, is not your traditional vampire. Though there are some classic traits, such as the inability to cross large bodies of water without invitation. However, this vampire has a unique way of ‘turning’ others. As Eph soon learns, it is like a virulent virus which takes over its host in mere hours. These new vampires are initially zombie-like and unrelenting for blood. Yet, they are not aimlessly stumbling around. The first place they go after their metamorphosis? Home. Yeah, this book is damn creepy…

What I appreciated about this book; the tension is brutal at times, it is not predictable and doesn’t hold back any punches. I enjoy reading books that take me where I might not want to go. As a student of human anatomy, I enjoyed the detail the book gives on what makes a vampire, the physiology and the transformation from human to vampire. There is a lot of backstory in this book, but keep in mind that it is the first of three. As with any series, there is world-building to be done and characters to learn about. Setrakian, the unlikely, elderly vampire slayer is the most interesting character  by far. Eph is also a very likable character, but there is something lacking which I can’t put my finger on. I am sympathetic with his plight and I’m definitely on his side…I’m just not completely feeling him. Regardless, there are plenty of other fascinating characters and the story itself will have you hanging on tight to this horrifying ride.


2 thoughts on “Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

  1. ChocoMG2112 says:

    Ooooh, I have been wondering about this book. I may need to add this to my loong list!

    Thank you Gina!!


  2. katiebirdie says:

    Gina, this book sounds so totally cool!! I love vampire stories, especially scary ones. I am definitely adding it to my reading list. 🙂


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