The Strain (The Strain #1) by Guillermo Del Toro
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars
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 . . .
If you are looking for a traditional, supernatural, vampire story then look elsewhere. If, however, you are looking for an entertaining and somewhat scientifically based horror / apocalypse story then this might just be your cup of tea.
The Strain is a fairly modern “vampire” story and, as seems to be the habit of “big screen” authors today, it is fairly apocalyptic (not sure if that is a proper English word but what the heck, I am Swedish so…) one. I cannot really say that I am a outright fan of Guillermo Del Toro but I have generally liked his work. I would say that this book falls into the same category. I like it but I cannot say that I found it wow great.
I think the best parts of the book are the first ones when the basic premises of the story develops. This is more of a viral outbreak with quite a bit of a mystery woven into it kind of story. I found these parts quite entertaining.
After that the story turns more into a traditional apocalypse / end of the world as we know it kind of story. The story is good but it almost feels like it was written for a TV / Movie adaptation from the start. There are the usual elements, a divorce in progress, people behaving stupidly, dumbass lawyers screwing things up, politically “aware” people not wanting to do the right thing in time etc. etc…
Naturally a set of heroes crystallizes out of all the mess, Eph Goodweather of course being one of those. I think my favourite is the former professor. It is a shame that he is well…old and with a deteriorating health since I would really have liked this guy to kick some behinds. He seemed to have the predisposition to do just that.
The story itself, well I cannot say that it is very plausible. The “strain” part and the biological explanation I could have bought. They are not that bad. However, if these “vampires” are that powerful and can so easily spread their infection, why did they not conquer the world ages ago. Yes, yes, I know the book mentions some kind of “agreement” but it just does not make sense. Why live in the shadows when you, apparently, do not need to. This part of the story felt a bit “Hollywoodish” contrived.
But then, what the heck, it is fiction after all and just meant to be entertaining and that, I have to say, this book was.