The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy

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The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months--the world.

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 vampiric 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.

The Strain: Chapter One

"Once upon a time," said Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother, "there was a giant."

Young Abraham’s eyes brightened, and immediately the cabbage borscht in the wooden bowl got tastier, or at least less garlicky. He was a pale boy, underweight and sickly. His grandmother, intent on fattening him, sat across from him while he ate his soup, entertaining him by spinning a yarn.

A bubbeh meiseh, a "grandmother’s story." A fairy tale. A legend.

"He was the son of a Polish nobleman. And his name was Jusef Sardu. Master Sardu stood taller than any other man. Taller than any roof in the village. He had to bow deeply to enter any door. But his great height, it was a burden. A disease of birth, not a blessing. The young man suffered. His muscles lacked the strength to support his long, heavy bones. At times it was a struggle for him just to walk. He used a cane, a tall stick--taller than you--with a silver handle carved into the shape of a wolf’s head, which was the family crest."

"Yes, Bubbeh?" said Abraham, between spoonfuls.

"This was his lot in life, and it taught him humility, which is a rare thing indeed for a nobleman to possess. He had so much compassion-- for the poor, for the hardworking, for the sick. He was especially dear to the children of the village, and his great, deep pockets--the size of turnip sacks--bulged with trinkets and sweets. He had not much of a childhood himself, matching his father’s height at the age of eight, and surpassing him by a head at age nine. His frailty and his great size were a secret source of shame to his father. But Master Sardu truly was a gentle giant, and much beloved by his people. It was said of him that Master Sardu looked down on everyone, yet looked down on no one."

She nodded at him, reminding him to take another spoonful. He chewed a boiled red beet, known as a "baby heart" because of its color, its shape, its capillary-like strings. "Yes, Bubbeh?"

"He was also a lover of nature, and had no interest in the brutality of the hunt--but, as a nobleman and a man of rank, at the age of fifteen his father and his uncles prevailed upon him to accompany them on a six-week expedition to Romania."

"To here, Bubbeh?" said Abraham. "The giant, he came here?"

"To the north country, kaddishel. The dark forests. The Sardu men, they did not come to hunt wild pig or bear or elk. They came to hunt wolf, the family symbol, the arms of the house of Sardu. They were hunting a hunting animal. Sardu family lore said that eating wolf meat gave Sardu men courage and strength, and the young master’s father believed that this might cure his son’s weak muscles."

"Yes, Bubbeh?"

"Their trek was long and arduous, as well as violently opposed by the weather, and Jusef struggled mightily. He had never before traveled anywhere outside his family’s village, and the looks he received from strangers along the journey shamed him. When they arrived in the dark forest, the woodlands felt alive around him. Packs of animals roamed the woods at night, almost like refugees displaced from their shelters, their dens, nests, and lairs. So many animals that the hunters were unable to sleep at night in their camp. Some wanted to leave, but the elder Sardu’s obsession came before all else. They could hear the wolves, crying in the night, and he wanted one badly for his son, his only son, whose gigantism was a pox upon the Sardu line. He wanted to cleanse the house of Sardu of this curse, to marry off his son, and produce many healthy heirs.

"And so it was that his father, off tracking a wolf, was the first to become separated from the others, just before nightfall on the second evening. The rest waited for him all night, and spread out to search for him after sunrise. And so it was that one of Jusef’s cousins failed to return that evening. And so on, you see."

"Yes, Bubbeh?"

"Until the only one left was Jusef, the boy giant. That next day he set out, and in an area previously searched, discovered the body of his father, and of all his cousins and uncles, laid out at the entrance to an underground cave. Their skulls had been crushed with great force, but their bodies remained uneaten--killed by a beast of tremendous strength, yet not out of hunger or fear. For what reason, he could not guess—though he did feel himself being watched, perhaps even studied, by some being lurking within that dark cave.

"Master Sardu carried each body away from the cave and buried them deep. Of course, this exertion severely weakened him, taking most of his strength. He was spent, he was farmutshet. And yet, alone and scared and exhausted, he returned to the cave that night, to face what evil revealed itself after dark, to avenge his forebears or die trying. This is known from a diary he kept, discovered in the woods many years later. This was his last entry."

Continue Reading The Strain

The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting.Now their time has come.

In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country.

In two months—the world.

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 vampiric 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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Has its problems, but ultimately works.
    Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain (Morrow, 2009)

    For the first hundred pages of The Strain, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. This pained me, because I am a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro's films (or, at least, the ones he makes when he's not in Hollywood--Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.). The main reason for this is that in the first hundred pages of this world that del Toro and Hogan create, everyone is borderline psychic. They're choked with sentences like "This is what the beginning of the end of the world will look like, he thought to himself before returning to the M.E.'s office to assist in the cataloging of the dead." I mean, how much less subtle can you get about your foreshadowing? 90% of the book's (relatively) low rating comes from that aspect of those first hundred pages. But then something happened. There was an almost audible click in my head right around page 100. It's less than twenty-four hours now after I read page 100. I am for too old for the whole staying-up-all-night-reading thing, but I finally turned out the light at quarter to six this morning, having gotten to within one hundred fifty pages of the end. And guess what I did when I woke up?

    The Strain, the first book in a projected trilogy, tells the story of the first four days of a vampiric infestation of New York. It starts with a jet touching down at JFK as scheduled, and then going entirely dark while still sitting on the runway. Called into the scene is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, head of the CDC's Canary Project, named for the canaries that used to be carried into coal mines: the earliest early-response system the CDC has. Eph and his partner, Nora Martinez, can't find any traces of whatever killed the plane's passengers, but there's a marked lack of decomposition. While trying to figure out what's going on, they are approached by Abraham Setrakian, a Holocaust survivor who thinks he knows what's going on with the bodies. Eph can't believe what he's hearing from Setrakian, but his faith gets a good kick in the rear when, the second morning after the incident with the plane, the morgues to which the bodies were dispatched all report a theft, and the only thing missing is the bodies of the plane victims...

    I mentioned that 90% of my problem with the book has to do with the graceless foreshadowing in the first hundred pages. The other 10% has to do with the fact that the authors made two big errors here, both of which come from thinking of this as part one of a trilogy rather than as its own novel. The first is with the character of Nora Martinez. They obviously intend her as a main character on down the road, and they set her up the first few times we meet her as a main character, but as no point in this novel do we ever get a sense of Nora as a main character. There's not nearly enough character development here for Nora to work in this novel, which is odd considering how much development we get in the characters of Eph, Setrakian, Eph's ex-wife and son, and a few other characters. Nora's entire presence in this book is set-up, and that kind of annoys me. Not nearly so much, however, as the book's other problem, which cones in the final pages. I obviously don't want to give anything away here (especially since the book doesn't come out for another day and a half as I write this), but let's just say that when it comes to series novels, I have a real, real big problem with series novels that are incapable of standing on their own as novels. Not only because cliffhanger endings are the cheapest possible way to ensure you hook readers into buying the next book in the series, but also because it seems to me that if you're going to write one book in a series without s definitive ending, you should just combine it with the next book into the series and make yourself a doorstop. (And with this one already four hundred pages, and given that authors are usually given more leeway if the first novel is successful, I'm thinking the first two books of this combined will top one thousand pages. A doorstop indeed.)

    Okay, so I've been sitting her for five hundred words droning on about the reasons I took points off in this book's rating. Now let me talk about the good thing here, which is the final three hundred pages of the book. After the inevitable setup (and constant foreshadowing), once del Toro and Hogan actually get it in gear, this book really takes off. It's pretty obvious that King's 'Salem's Lot was used as a template for this, and it's still pretty close, but that makes me wonder why more novels haven't used 'Salem's Lot as a template. After all, it really is just that good. And the reasons del Toro and Hogan are leeching from it are the reasons it works; King's characterization quirks that turn minor characters into fully-fleshed human beings (there are no red-shirted privates in either novel, thankfully) resonate well wherever I find them, and this is no exception. The structure and pacing of the final three-quarters of this book also mirror 'Salem's Lot in many ways, and once again, I don't find this a bad thing at all; after the first hundred pages, I would have despaired had they been left to their own devices when it comes to pacing. There's also a third similarity (though to the film adaptation of 'Salem's Lot, rather than the book--which may actually give it away, and if so, I apologize. That confused me for a bit, but then, del Toro is a filmmaker by trade), but if I tell you what that is, you're probably going to crucify me for handing you a spoiler that, while not a big plot problem, is one of the real pleasures of the book. If you've read 'Salem's Lot, of course. It's the book's most naked homage to, arguably, the best vampire novel of the past fifty years, and when I read it, I almost giggled aloud. (I'm glad I was home alone.)

    Now a lot of people are probably going to read that and say "oh, great, this is derivative crap." Not at all, no more than Jane Smiley's National Book Critics' Circle Award-winning A Thousand Acres is derivative of King Lear, upon which it is directly based. In the same way Smiley took the ingredients of Lear and created something entirely new, so del Toro and Hogan took the ingredients of King and did the same thing. One of the ingredients they were working with was the originality of the thing. King's book is so great because his vampires are not the vampires everyone was used to. To have created something derivative would have been hypocritical at the least. Yes, there are things here you will recognize, but they've been vandalized, burned, broken, twisted, and crushed into something that's recognizable, and yet entirely new. And sometime right around page 100, it will grab you by the throat and throw you up against the wall and try to eat you. Because, you know, I've been reading horror novels for thirty-two years and watching horror films for longer, and there are very, very few things that disturb me any more. But at least a small part of the reason that I waited to go to bed until a quarter to six in the morning is that was when the first light of dawn started filtering through the bedroom window. *** ?
    ...more info
  • Now Boarding
    The time is now...

    There is a pandemic sweeping through Manhattan like a fire blazes through a dry pine forest. It is an ancient scourge from the old world and it is upon us now...spreading. Is it due to the rare solar eclipse or is it a virus? One man holds the answer and it is terrifying.

    The story begins with a mysterious plane that lands dark on the tarmac. What's even more curious is that all the passengers appear to be dead - or are they?

    While 'The Historian', by Elizabeth Kostova, is a walk in the world of vampires that lead us slowly through the old country full of sights and sounds following the trail of evil in a very tasty literary treat, 'The Strain', by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro, is a full run, whirlwind tale that grips you immediately and takes you on a fast ride through the spoils of Manhattan.

    This book reads quickly, you'll be on page 100 before you realize that you've been swept away by this gripping tale of horror. It's gristly, it's terrible but what fun if you like to imagine the take over of the world by vampires...

    I forbade anyone to sneak up on me while I was reading for fear I would jump right out of my skin.

    Recently, I've been looking for a scary book to read that didn't have to do with any real life horrors. I can't read serial killer books or things like that but spooky and scary, creatures in the night, yes!! This book fit the bill: terrifying, creepy monsters that come out at night in an apocalyptic tale that has the modern day CDC stumped - good stuff.

    What I really enjoyed about this book is it's modern day look at society today - 9/11, virus outbreaks, the economy, divorce, all the stuff that we are living with in modern times vs. an unspeakable evil that is permeating through the streets and turning people into vile, white goo spewing monsters.

    One old man holds the knowledge of the evil and has joined forces with a young doctor to stop the spread of the terror that is gripping the city. While the story weaves in and out of the old man's history, it informs up to the minute on the strange takeover of the city of Manhattan in gripping narrative.

    This is the book that I have been craving. There is no Bela here (or Bella, for that matter), but there are evil, scary creatures that will have you looking over your shoulder should you catch movement out of the corner of your eye, or if you hear a noise of shuffling feet behind you.

    Scary good. Highly recommend!

    ...more info
  • I Love Vampires
    I loved this book! One of the best Vampire thrillers I have ever read....more info
  • How Soon Can We Get Book 2?
    As a horror fan, I've read many vampire novels. This surpasses them all except for Salem's Lot. The story builds so much suspense from the first page that you find you can't stop reading. The plane which has landed with a cargo of dead passengers and crew with no explanation is so creepy and mysterious. It draws you into its dark interior which only leads to more questions as to the reason for their deaths and what is the mysterious black box found in the cargo hold? This book is like having a bag of popcorn or peanuts in front of you when you're watching a totally engrossing movie. You keep reaching for one more bite as the story unfolds until without realizing it you've eaten the whole bag (or in this case, finished the entire book). It was mysterious and scary and full of completely original and relatable characters. I can't think of another horror novel that I have enjoyed as much since perhaps The Stand by Stephen King. My only question is when can we get book 2? ...more info
  • Ages since we fed looking into living eyes
    Everybody now knows of Guillermo del Toro, the genius filmmaker of things dark, grotesque and fantastical.

    So it's no surprise that his first foray into fiction, "The Strain," is a masterpiece of horrific lyricism and ghastly atmosphere. Del Toro's talents mesh seamlessly with those of thriller/mystery author Chuck Hogan, slowly building up a suspenseful story of vampiric infection that threatens to engulf the entire human race. Half gut-clenching horror, half police procedural.

    When Flight 753 lands at JFK, the entire plane goes dead -- and all but four passengers are found pale, bloodless and peacefully dead. And a giant cabinet is missing from the hold.

    While a special disease unit tries to figure out the cause of death, Dr. Eph Goodwater starts investigating the mysterious disappearance of a cabinet from the hold. And strange physical changes begin occurring not only on the four survivors, but on the undecayed corpses in the morgue -- white blood, tracheal growths, enhanced senses, and a growing thirst for blood.

    While ordinary people begin transforming into stinger-tongued horrors, Eph and his assistant Nora find Abraham Setrakian, an elderly pawnbroker who has fought the vampires since World War II. Fortunately he knows their weaknesses... and the ghastly Master who has broken an ancient truce. In just a few days, New York City is swarming with undead horrors, and

    In some ways, "The Strain" initially seems like a 21st century version of "Dracula": a plane full of the dead, a coffin full of soil, and a little old man who knows way too much about vampires. But this book doesn't have a shred of Victorian romanticism or ornateness -- it's an intricate twist of New York City, scientific analysis, and grotesque horrors from darkened corners of the Old World.

    And Del Toro and Hogan's writing styles complement each other beautifully. On one hand, Hogan builds up spooky suspense to hang over the plot, and manages to make the pathology and procedurals interesting. And del Toro embroiders it with moments of lyrical beauty (the occultation that stares "down at the earth with glowing, gossamer-white hair"), but he also splashes it with loads of pure horror (the heart in a jar that sends out suckers to snag blood).

    And the vampires del Toro creates are the most horrific I've seen in a long time -- trust me, these are not sexy, romantic angsty immortals. They're corpses possessed by a ghastly virus that reshapes the body into a cancerous husk filled with parasitic worms. Also a stinger-tipped tentacle-tongue in yawning jaws. And while del Toro freaks us out enough with the biological changes, he also infuses the vampires with a genuine sense of evil. It's more than just a disease.

    There's a pretty wide-ranging cast of characters here -- billionaires, housekeepers, doctors, street thugs, lawyers, and even a shock-rock-star in the Marilyn Manson vein. Eph is a likable protagonist -- a kindly genius with family issues and a rocky custody battle. Abraham serves as the Van Helsing of this story, and the authors use flashback chapters to explore how his battle started -- in a concentration camp.

    As for the villain, the Master is a truly spinechilling one, all the more so because he uses the corrupted body of a saintly young man, and now dwells in one of the most horrific spots in New York City.

    "The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy" brings vampires back into the horror fold, and blends the talents of both Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro. Gripping, chilling... and not over....more info
  • I can't wait...
    for this to come out on CD. I do so much reading and writing that I find I can't read books any longer, sob. However, I keep up listening to CD's - in fact, they are an addiction. Still, I couldn't keep myself from scanning the beginning of The Strain because I LOVE both of these authors, each in his own way. (I can't wait to see the film of Prince Of Thieves - it's about time!) Anyway, to make a long story short (literally and figuratively) I got very excited reading the excerpt of The Strain here. Another tour de force from these two artists. I'm already a fan. The thing I love about the writing is the implied humor, the wit. The fact that a dear little old Bubbe is relating what is sure to become a nightmare, horror tale to her innocent witty is that? Great going, guys! Of course, we will all want sequels, and, ta-dah - the labyrinthian film, by guess who?...more info
  • Novel waiting for screenplay
    The Strain by director Del Toro and writer Hogan is a screenplay waiting to happen. This does not mean it's a bad novel - to the contrary it was pretty good. I gave it 4 stars. I just mean that it was particularly easy to see this as the basis for a movie - or three. The Strain is part 1 of a promised 3 part series about the Vamps versus the humans. There is nothing particularly original about it. The vampires are infected with some sort of something - parasite, virus, germ - it's not particularly clear - but they are pretty much your run-of-the-mill vampire as depicted by several dozens of previous authors. There is a little more biology than usual - a couple of the main characters are MDs that work for the CDC- and the set-up, a plane lands at Kennedy with only 4 people alive and all the rest dead of an unknown toxin, poison or disease differ a bit, but silver is still anathema to the undead, they cannot cross running water, and they drink the blood of humans to survive.

    There are a few sort of odd things in the story line. Two smart docs discover that bodies from the plane do not decompose, look like they could have died a minute ago, are drained of blood, generate internal heat and get up and wander off, yet they are shocked, I mean "shocked" when someone finally says "vampire". Haven't they ever read a book or seen a movie?

    But I quibble. There is a rich old man, a tiny coven of ancient vampires, the origin of the species and the way on which the battle for humanity will unfold that are still secret, and great fodder for story. I ripped through the book in 2 days, and had trouble putting it down. In this, which could arguably be called the "Decade of the Vampire", in reference to the millions flocking to Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble et al. for the works of Laurel Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and the other nouveau Vamp authors as well as the old stand-bys, del Toro and Hogan have crafted a sort of new take on the genre that is pretty much guaranteed to be a good selling series as well as a multi-part movie arc.

    Great literature it ain't. Good fun it is....more info
  • A well-told story, nothing more
    This is a tightly-plotted, fast-paced supernatural thriller. But to my mind, that's not enough to make for a satisfying book, one that can justify its full 350-page bulk.

    This modern tale of vampiric apocalypse might make for a great film, or graphic novel, or even a TV series. But when I sit down with a piece of textual fiction, I expect more than a decent story. I expect wit, wisdom, contemplation; in short, I demand that my literature be literary. That spark is missing from this book. This surprised me: What is Pan's Labyrinth if not a "literary" film? Even the two Hellboy films defy the conventions of the genre, faithfully bringing a truly original comic book hero to the screen. In short, I expected more from the brilliant mind of del Toro.

    Instead of this adequate read, I'd recommend Neil Gaiman's American Gods as a book that transcends the supernatural thriller genre with humor, flair and wild originality....more info
    I have to admit that I delved into this book with the full intention of hating every second of it. I normally cringe at the thought of reading a novel co-written by two authors. I usually find the collaborations muddled and confusing-with the lyricism mingling in confusing ways.

    This was not at all the case with The Strain!

    I was VERY impressed with Del Toro and Hogan's incredibly well-meshed vision of a post 9/11 world under threat of a terrifying evil. The suspense is palpable and the storyline is terrifying RIGHT OFF THE BAT! The first few pages, with one of our protagonists being told what you initially think is a village fable by his mindful Bubbeh (grandmother) grips you and keeps you wanting more.

    The Characterizations created here are relateable and compelling. There are character we instantly feel bonded to that are totally modern and true-to-life. From the aged and battered Abraham, a Holocaust Survivor and expert in all-things Strain-related to the divorced couple battling over custody of there young son. Everyone is there for a reason and they all came across as entirely well-rounded and understandable.

    I loved the pacing of this book and the breath-taking action and suspense. This was one of the most surprising and SCARY reads I have encountered in a while, aside from Jack Kilborn's Afraid recenty which had me sleeping with the lights on for a week! The Vampire creature described in the book is terrifying. It's something VERY fresh yet ancient all at the same time. An evolved creation of every monster in the shadows from your childhood nightmares wrapped into one.

    I am HIGHLY anticipating the next book of this trilogy and am absolutly psyched to see where Del Toro and Hogan go with this. It surpassed my expectations and enthralled me the entire time. I literally read this book in one sitting. This has been my all-time favorite book of the year so far. It had me talking about it with my friends and family non-stop for several days. I can't recommend it highly enough really!

    If you are a sucker (no pun intended) for vampire lit mixed with action-adventure this is a MUST-HAVE for your summer reading collection! TRUST ME!!!...more info
  • Not bad, but I expected more from del Toro
    Guillermo del Toro's first novel, co-written with Chuck Hogan, reads like a cross between Stephen King's The Stand, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    Though it begins with a flashback to the 1930s, The Strain follows Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, a member of the "Canary" team of the CDC who has leveraged his way into his own New York branch to be near his estranged wife and son. When a plane arrives in New York from Berlin and seems to die--passengers, electrical systems, plane and all--Eph and his team are called in to investigate a potential biological attack. All but four of the souls aboard the plane have died with no apparent trauma. A search of the cargo hold turns up an undocumented, casket-like cabinet which promptly disappears. Thanks to the efforts of a Gloria Allred-like trial lawyer, the four survivors are released from quarantine and, the same night, the autopsied bodies of the deceased disappear--or perhaps escape--from the morgue. It is not long before gangs of the undead roam New York City, violently replicating themselves as walking viruses.

    The greatest strengths of the novel are its structure and pacing. Numerous storylines are effortlessly interwoven and most of them tie together neatly at the end, with only a few threads left hanging for the segue into the second book of the proposed trilogy. And while the book starts of a tad slow, the tension builds steadly, methodically, like Eph and his CDC cohorts working the scene of the crime. By the end the plot rushes past at a breathless pace, and the pent-up suspense carries the reader through to the end.

    No fan of horror myself, I am nonetheless a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. He's one of the few truly gifted artists working in the barren wasteland of modern cinema, and I am immediately interested in every new project with which he is involved. But del Toro brings little of his artistic brilliance to this novel, which is a pretty by-the-numbers modern take on vampirism. Del Toro and Hogan pick and choose what elements of vampire lore they're going to keep--crucifixes and holy water no longer work, but silver and sunlight still do. As in I Am Legend, vampirism is simply some kind of virus that must take control of its human host in order to replicate itself, and just as in Matheson's novel, a great deal of time is devoted to explaining the biology of these reconstituted vampires. Like The Stand, the spread of the disease and the ensuing social chaos are among the chief terrors of the story. And like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there's a lot of general creepiness regarding the idea of humans turning into non-humans, and visiting their disease upon loved ones. I could go on, but my point is that the novel feels derivative in a lot of areas.

    Also, the novel is not very well written. I imagine Hogan may be more to blame for this, since I assume del Toro was chiefly responsible for the plot itself but, as a non-native English-speaker, brought in a co-writer. But the fact remains that a great deal of the novel is pretty clumsily written. Previously unannounced characters appear in the middle of scenes, leaving the reader to figure out whether they were already there, and descriptions of places and things are often awkward and illogically ordered. The dialogue is middling, drifting between effortless realism and some pretty hokey cliches, which was disappointing because the characters of del Toro's films usually have very tight, often witty dialogue.

    My two favorite parts of the novel, undoubtedly, were the dynamic between Eph and his son, Zack. This is the relationship that sells the novel for me. Eph clearly cares about his son, and Zack is a believable eleven-year old who looks up to his dad. Zack is worth saving, and that makes Eph's plight compelling. Second, the flashback sections involving Abraham Setrakian--an elderly Armenian Jew, Holocaust survivor, and vampire expert akin to Dr. Van Helsing--are outstanding and easily the most recognizably "del Toro-esque" part of the novel. Setrakian is a colorful intellectual and folklorist, and the novel begins with a fairy tale that sets up the entire plot as a showdown between the chief vampire and Setrakian. Setrakian's time in the Nazi extermination camp at Treblinka is also deeply disturbing and very moving.

    In the end, The Strain is an enjoyable, fast-paced, tense horror thriller--but with del Toro's involvement, it should be more than that.

    Recommended for a rainy day....more info
  • Awsome new vampyre story
    Mr DelToro and Mr. Hogan have created an epic retelling of the vampyre story in a new setting with mindless creatures excepting for the master.He offers a new setting in the death camp of Treblinka and moves quickly to Manhatten. His principal characters Eph (doctor) Nora, and old pawnbroker Mr Setrakian (who is much more) work to solve the mystery. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but the development of the newly made vampires and the number of them mystify me and I wonder about the purpose of creating so many vampires who are mindless non thinking creatures blindly sucking blood. If the master vampyre is creating a new kingdom why is he making everyone a vampire. What does he have planned. Will Dr Eph, Nora and Mr Setrakian confront the master? Will he capture or kill him or control the minions of death. I can't wait for the sequel. Excellent book, certainly more than the usual summer beach read. This is one you will read at home with the shades drawn. ...more info
  • "My sword sings of silver!" (I swear I'm gonna adopt this as my battle cry)
    - Setrakian (about to face off against the Big Bad): "We split up."
    - Fet: "Are you kidding? Never split up. That's the first rule. I've seen too many movies to ever go out that way."

    I dig the horror genre so much, but I can't deny that there's a lot of trashy stuff out there. Vampires, in particular, have been featured so often in literature that, in my brain, these books have begun to bleed together. It's hard to meet the standards set by Bram Stoker, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, P.N. Elrod, and Brian Lumley. Nowadays it takes an exceptional vampire novel to knock me out of my state of Yeah, whatever-ness. Then along comes filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, obviously evilly bent on conquering all forms of entertainment media and now branching out into horror literature. He and his collaborator, award-winning author Chuck Hogan, have brought it with THE STRAIN, brought the chills, that sense of "Oh, crippitycrap!" and the big-time storytelling. THE STRAIN is the first of three novels, and it grabs the readers by the nape and drags them to some really dark, creepy corners.

    It starts with a just landed Boeing 777 taxi-ing on the JFK tarmac but then abruptly coming to a stop. Sensors in JFK's control tower indicate that the airplane, Flight 753, has incurred gross mechanical failure. The window shades on the plane have all been pulled down. And closer inspection reveals that the onboard crew and passengers are dead. Epidemiologist Ephraim (Eph) Goodweather, head of a rapid-response team for the CDC in New York, is called in to determine the presence of a biological threat. What he and his Canary team stumble upon is incomprehensible and very disturbing. Corpses which refuse to decompose, weird biological residue splattered all over the airplane cabin, an enormous black earth-filled cabinet which mysteriously vanishes... and four survivors, diagnosed and then, against Goodweather's wishes, unleashed into Manhattan. That is how it starts, how the plague of the Strigoi - the Old World name for vampire - comes to consume New York.

    THE STRAIN spins a shivery, old-fashioned, post-apocalyptic horror story, one that should keep you up well into the night. Even as Manhattan goes to hell, as the undead rise and take a bite out of the Big Apple, I can't help but be stoked. I know that this is only the start of an amazing epic trilogy, and by the trilogy's end del Toro has promised to "rephrase vampirism in a completely fresh way." (I'm not entirely sure what that means, but, dammit, I'm on board!) There's a sense of dread and foreshadowing from the very start, and the authors do well with building up the tension. There's an unsettling passage early on centering around a predicted solar eclipse, this event coinciding with the horrific doings in Flight 753. The best of books allows for character growth and the development of personal story arcs, and del Toro and Hogan know this. The book's emotional core revolves around Eph's relationship with his 11-year-old son Zach, and these two are in for some harrowing, heartbreaking times.

    Another key character is the old professor Abraham Setrakian, whose Spanish Harlem pawnshop stores a secret arsenal prepared against the Strigoi (the prof actually introduces this term). Setrakian is an interesting cat, wise and brandishing a silver sword and wielding a battle cry: "My sword sings of silver!" (which is very cool). He's just a bit crazy, a mangled survivor of the Holocaust and harboring his own share of secrets. There are flashback chapters dedicated to his time as a prisoner in a German extermination camp and his first face-to-face confrontation with supernatural evil. For decades Setrakian has pursued this nightmarish thing, and now the day he's been dreading and waiting for has come. I like this old vampire slayer so much that I don't even mind that he smacks a bit of Prof. Van Helsing.

    My favorite character, though, is Vasiliy Fet, the big pest control exterminator. Read the book and see what I mean.

    I don't know how the workload was parceled out, how much of it from del Toro and how much of it, Chuck Hogan. Part of why del Toro chose to collaborate with Hogan is brought to light in del Toro's interview with Wired magazine: "I'm not good at forensic novels. I'm not good at HazMat language and that CSI-style precision. When [Bram] Stoker wrote Dracula, it was very modern, a CSI sort of novel. I wanted to give THE STRAIN a procedural feel, where everything seems real." We all know del Toro's feverish imagination and his credentials, his directing of Cronos and Blade II (New Line Platinum Series) (there's that vampire connection), Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage. But fewer people might be aware that Chuck Hogan wrote the very good The Blood Artists: A Novel, which tells of another out-of-control epidemic, albeit a more conventional one. Hogan is credited with injecting the medical/scientific content, which adds another layer of realism. Much of the story is chronicled from Eph and his colleagues' perspectives, so this horror book does have that procedural feel to it - so, mission accomplished, for del Toro. It makes for a fascinating read, how these doctors and scientists break down the vampire genus in technical terms. This, however, doesn't take away from the atmospheric tone, the creeping horror and the occasional moments of the grotesque. The Strigoi have been around for a very, very long time, and they are everywhere. The following novels in the series will involve an all-out war between the ancient vampires, with humanity as an afterthought. To quote Setrakian: "It will take this thing less than one week to finish off all of Manhattan, and fewer than three months to overtake the country. In six months - the world." Oboy, I can't wait.

    SPOILER in this next paragraph.

    This being the first of three, I'm not surprised it ends on a troubling note. I'd like to end this in the same spirit, with one nitpick. There is a sequence near the end in which Eph and his tiny ragtag crew of vampire hunters have finally cornered the Big Bad and is about to apply a whuppin' of the permanent sort. What I don't buy into is that in the midst of that, when one in his group suffers an ailment, Eph instantly leaves off putting the finishing touch on the Big Bad to tend to his fallen comrade. The authors obviously mean to illustrate Eph's humanity, but, still, here's the grim apocalypse about to go down, dude, if you don't kill off the Big Bad... I can't remember Spock's famous quote word for word, but it's something about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few......more info
  • Mr. Leech Is Here
    First released as Nocturna (La Trilogia De La Nocturna) (Spanish Edition), The Strain begins with a grandmother telling her grandson a boogey-man type of story, in order to make him eat more. A decade later, they are fleeing from the Nazis, and something much worse than a boogey-man. A great start, not only because the grandmother's tale was interesting, but I was eager to find out how Abraham Setrakian (the boy from the beginning) fits into the story.

    I have never read a more intense build-up in all my years. The different reactions of the characters when the Regis 777 blacks out on the taxiway, the bizarre details of what they find inside the plane -- all of it just sucked me in. I was surprised that a book with so little action in the first half could have me on the edge of my nerves.

    The organization of the book in general, as well as the transitions between POVs, was incredibly well-done. Abraham's recollections, the explanation of "occultation" rather than "solar eclipse," and the off-handed zombie remarks brought me to the precipice of an apocalyptic nightmare descending upon the characters and the world as they know it:

    (from The Strain) "His lower jaw descended and out wriggled something pink and fleshy that was not his tongue. It was longer, more muscular and complex...and squirming."

    This is not another vampire tale; this is not a blood and gore trail of zombies. This is a horror story -- the first of a trilogy -- the way horror should be: mind-numbingly frightening. Pay attention, horror fans and authors, because Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil's Backbone (Special Edition)) and Chuck Hogan (Standoff, The) have just raised the standards for the genre....more info
  • Interesting Twist on Vampires
    In the beginning of the book I was a little annoyed feeling it was drawn out even though the book is only over the span of 3 or 4 days. This is not to say that I didn't think it was good at the beginning. I guess I was being overly impatient. As the book continues the action increases & it's harder and harder to put it down. It is even kinda creepy. I don't spook to easy, but the few times at night after reading I was a bit jumpy!
    The author creates characters that you care about & root for. You feel their pain, fear, hope, and uncertainties. You meet families, doctors, criminals, the elderly etc. You're preconcieved notions are wiped away as you delve into their world with most humans in the end all rooting for the same cause. Most humans.
    You have many of your classic vampire themes that the author decided to stick with. Yet he changes the expected appearance and gives them an interesting label. A much different twist to the typical vampire stories.
    I look forward to reading the 2nd and 3rd books when they are released. Who knows, this might be made into movies. Wouldn't surprise me one bit!...more info
  • Exciting & Action-Packed Dark Fantasy
    When I first read the synopsis of Guillermo del Toro's and Chuck Hogan's "The Strain", I actually got excited! Normally vampire-oriented stories give me a case of the yawns because most of them are so..."been there, done that, got the t-shirt". Add the fact that many authors also make the vamps somewhat "metrosexual" into the mix & you've pretty much got the usual vamp tale. Not so with "The Strain". Our intrepid authors aimed for a new twist to a worn-out genre - having the vampirism be caused by some sort of intelligent yet biological virus. Guess what? Hogan and del Toro succeeded! From page one, "The Strain" moves ahead fast...building up steam and suspense with each new chapter. All of the lead protagonists are appealing, their individual goals and purpose fitting together with each other like pieces of a puzzle. Even THE big bad guy...the immortal leader of the "strigoi"...fits into this ever complex and changing story.

    I found myself enthralled with "The Strain" from the first page and cannot wait for the next two installments of this very well-written dark fantasy!...more info
  • A blood sucking good time
    When Abraham Setrakian was just a little boy, his grandmother told him about a story of a man named Jusef Sardu. Jusef was born with a disease that left him weak and having to rely on a cane to walk. You could tell when Jusef was near as you could hear the pick-pick-pick of his cane. While out hunting, Jusef's father vanishes. A search party is formed and slowly one by one of Jusef's cousins and uncles also disappear till only Jusef is left.

    Jusef finds his father's body as well as all of his cousins and uncles bodies, near a cave. Jusef vows to kill the monster. That was eleven weeks ago. No one has heard or seen from Jusef since then. Till one day Jusef reappears, a changed man. He no longer requires the use of a cane and has become nocturnal. Abraham once had an encounter with Jusef. Now many years later, Abraham still can't get the sound of the pick-pick-pick out of his head.

    Present Day

    Something has happened at JFK airport. A huge Regis 777 has landed and is just sitting on the runway. All of the lights have been turned off as well as the shades and doors locked. A group of airport officials gather by the aircraft. As they are trying to figure out how to enter the plane, the rear door opens. They enter and what they find is cause enough to call the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team arrive. Inside the aircraft, it seems all two hundred passengers have dead but as Dr. Goodweather and his team are about to start removing the bodies, they find four survivors.

    The survivors have no clue about what transpired. The only clue Dr. Goodweather has at this time lies in the cargo area of the plane. There he finds what looks to be a coffin. All of the bodies have now been transported to area morgues. Before Dr. Goodweather can check out the coffin in more detail, it disappears. When Abraham hears about what has took in place at JFK, he closes up his shop and heads to Dr. Goodweather. He has something to tell him that he believes Dr. Goodweather will be very interested to hear about.

    For anyone who loves vampires, then you have got to get your hands on a copy of this book. Dr. Goodweather may seem like the silent quiet type but he is very intelligent and has a fighting spirit in him. Also beware old men who walk with a cane or you will find yourself at the business end of a very sharp sword. I dare you not to get sucked in. Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan are a dynamic duo. The Strain will leave you craving more. My only regret is that I finished this book so quickly and now I have to wait till next year for book two in this trilogy. The Strain is the classic story of good vs. evil. ...more info
  • Del Toro and Hogan Dynamic Duo: Re-invigorating Vampire Lore One Neck At a Time!
    Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro have deftly carved out a horror story which pits the frailty of man against a superior predator that could spell the end of humanity. The duo cunningly cut to the heart with scalpel-like precision, perhaps too emphatically shaping the initial outbreak of a lethal strain in New York City as it arrives in the form of a "dead" plane at JFK.

    The mystery surrounding non-responsive Regis Flight 753 gains momentum as government officials wrestle with an emerging pandemic they do not understand. The moment the hatch is cracked, they realize Regis Flight 753 and its virulent passenger manifest carries something more sinister and deadly than they are equipped to handle. But this particular "strain" and its mislaid Patient Zero resemble nothing that the government and CDC have ever faced before.

    Channeling Stephen King, George Romero and Richard Matheson, the dynamic duo scribe the story of a lone band simultaneously unearthing the truth and engaging in battle. On many levels, the plot contours the age-old dichotomy of wisdom vs. youth, lore vs. science, good vs. evil. As the "strain" spreads turning New York City from an urban metropolis to a parasitic miasma, the duo capitalize on human vulnerabilities: mistaken trust in the system, pitting infected family members against each other, and salvation that will never come. It's every man for himself, boiled down and spit out like so many entrails.

    Del Toro and Hogan are not romanticizing the genre but taking it back its birthplace-to an esteemed lineage where monsters and their prey paid heed to the age-old rules: When claws and teeth come out, you RUN-where frail mortals warded off the evil eye, perhaps realizing after the fact, they are outgunned and outmanned. This particular parasitic organism thrives in this fresh take, re-animated into a fervent blood machine consuming and expelling its human banquet.

    Abraham Setrakian is by far the most engaging character of the troupe, an aged Van-Helsing-type that guides the collective through the fight, armed with a venerable history seeded in the dark territory of Treblinka. Joined by Vasiliy Fet, the Manhattan "rat catcher", Ephraim Goodweather, the CDC epidemiologist on-the-run, and two others, the unlikely band plumb the depths of the Manhattan underground to track the Master. But it's not enough. Setrakian's spectre of the outcome is both chilling and overwhelming: a war is being unleashed and won't be restricted to the borders of New York but will encompass the world. More than one Master is in play, and what will be the ultimate endgame for humanity? Will human spirit and intelligence be sufficient enough to combat these ancient enemies? We shall see. The Strain re-invigorates vampire mythology once again with visual red gore aplenty.

    ...more info


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