The Strain: Book 1 of The Strain Trilogy
By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
A plane lands at JFK airport and goes dark. No one can raise the pilots and no signs of life exist. The window shades are drawn and there is no movement to be seen. Unsure of what to do and concerned about a deadly infection, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is called in to investigate and asked to find the cause of what is believed to be the simultaneous deaths of all the passengers on board.
Dr. Ephraim (Eph) Goodweather heads up the CDC ‘s Canary Project, a rapid repose team setup to deal primarily with problems of this nature. He gathers his team and heads to the airport and once there finds what appears to be a plane full of dead passengers with no explainable cause of death. There are no visible injuries and the air is clean making an initial diagnosis impossible. While checking individuals for signs of any struggle or sickness, four survivors are found. Also found, a large black box full of dirt in the cargo hold that is not listed on any manifest.
Back at the hospital, Eph is not able to find anything wrong with the few survivors and the coroner is finding more than he can explain in his lab. Not knowing what they are dealing with, Eph makes an attempt to lock down the few survivors and hold bodies in the morgue but is unable. Soon after, bodies go missing from the morgue, and unbeknown to Eph and anyone else at the hospital or the CDC, the four survivors begin to evolve into something dark, sinister, and deadly.
Enter Abraham Setrakian — vampire hunter. His first attempts to plead his case to Eph fail but eventually his is able to convince him with an interesting show and tell display with a one of a kind specimen. With help from Nora, a member of Eph’s Canary team and Fet a city rat exterminator, they move to end the infestation.
Del Toro’s screen writing experience is key to this book. You see and feel exactly what he wants you to — slowly inching up the tension, keeping you in suspense wondering if the noise you heard in the hall is really just the floorboards creaking or something unholy making its way to you. His take on the vampire follows some of the old traditions but he adds enough to make it feel fresh and exciting. If you prefer a vampire story that holds true to the Dracula mythology than this book may not hold your interest but it’s worth the read to experience his take on the vampire mystique.
The first 50 or so pages of the book are intriguing. He holds back a lot, playing only a few cards and slowly building the story. While he does keep the pages turning, the story slows a bit in the middle and feels like too much of a re-telling of each new vampire being born. He quickens the pace at the end and leaves readers creeped out and anxiously waiting the next installment and probably sleeping with the lights on.
As a final note, I loaned this book to two people who both told me it qualifies for read only in daytime status — least they worry someone bite them in the night.