THE STRAIN Book Review

     May 31, 2009

The Strain book cover.jpgNormally literature doesn’t fall into my realm of reviews, but when the director of the Oscar winning film Pan’s Labyrinth and the comic book movies Hellboy 1 and 2 says he’s written a vampire novel, you reconsider. Guillermo del Toro, the premiere modern guru of visual effects, teamed with accomplished fiction writer Chuck Hogan, and they have released the first in a trilogy of thriller novels.

The first book in The Strain Trilogy, aptly titled The Strain, sets the stage by playing on the fears of the modern age mixed with classic figures from horror’s lengthy mythology.

A plane suddenly stops working on a runway after a perfect flight from overseas. After the plane is pried open since it was locked from the inside, and almost all of the passengers are found dead, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is called in and the head of their early response “Canary” team, Dr. Eph Goodweather, is baffled by the strange findings in the plane. After examining the situation, he is left with a feeling of dread that chills him to the bone as he tries to implement his scientific methods to a situation that clearly does not follow the rules of modern science.

Del_Toro_Guillermo_250.jpgMeanwhile, on the Upper East Side, a pawnbroker from the old world realizes that there is an even older evil at work and it is a race against time to contain this ancient force before it spreads outside the city limits.

As events unfold to bring these unusual allies together to contain this viral invasion of immense implications, other forces behind the scenes begin to work against them in the hopes of seeing a grander plot come to fruition.

The Strain is a tremendous, thrilling read. I had to keep putting the book down after every few pages because I was so creeped out by the amazingly descriptive passages. If you can work up the courage to finish the book, you’ll be clamoring for the second and third installment of this trilogy in no time.

This story will redefine how you look at vampires; del Toro mixes science and mythology like some mad chemist. Bela Lugosi doesn’t hold a candle to the vampires depicted in this book. There are a few clichés thrown in as well which probably comes from del Toro’s previous vampire works (he directed Blade II) like a “day walker” or “chosen one” they refer to as “Sun Hunter”, but aside from these necessary stereotypes for the vampire novel, this is an experience unto itself.


This will especially appeal to anyone from or familiar with New York City. The story carries you from JFK Airport to the Bronx and Queens to Vesey St. down in Tribeca or the very heart of Times Square. The thought of vampires emerging in these familiar settings, ready to prey on unsuspecting tourists (although I wouldn’t mind a few less tourists in the area) as the lights of Broadway flash over their pale, almost transparent flesh is a terrific mental image. Even if you are a stranger to New York City, del Toro and Hogan paint such a vibrant picture with their words that it shouldn’t take away from this phenomenal read.

With the culture flooded with media that aggrandizes these classic horror figures (Twilight and True Blood just to name a couple), it was refreshing to see someone represent vampires in the way they were meant to: scaring us into leaving a light on at night. If you like a good thrill and aren’t apt to nightmares (and even if you are), The Strain is a must read for any horror fan.

The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, will be on bookshelves this coming Tuesday, June 2nd. If you want a little bit more information on the book, be sure to check out The Strain’s website at

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