strain_cover

Guillermo Del Toro / Chuck Hogan
Harper
2009

At New York’s JFK Airport an arriving Boeing 777 taxiing along a runway suddenly stops dead.  All the shades have been drawn, all communication channels have mysteriously gone quiet.  Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid-response team investigating biological threats, boards the darkened plane…and what he finds makes his blood run cold.  A terrifying contagion has come to the unsuspecting city, an unstoppable plague that will spread like an all-consuming wildfire – lethal, merciless, hungry…vampiric.  And in a pawnshop in a Spanish Harlem an aged Holocaust survivor knows that the war he has been dreading his entire life is finally here…

In this day and age, it’s hard not to find a vampire novel that isn’t merely someone’s glorified slash/fic, no more than softcore porn, where the vampires are broody, hunky ponces that may or may not sparkle, and whom women always swoon over, because…I couldn’t tell you, really.  Please forgive me for not giving two craps about that.

Rare indeed is the modern horror novel that depicts the vampire as truly a frightening and lethal bloodthirsty creature, bereft of any of that “emotional” nonsense.  Rarer still is the novel that doesn’t have that vampire bitch and moan about the “curse”, going on like a whiny emo kid.

Sorry, I just get so tired of this kind of glut in pop vampire literature.  So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when a novel like The Strain comes along.

The vampires featured in The Strain are what vampires are supposed to be: cold, intelligent, and lethal.  Vampires who consider humans to be nothing more than cattle.  None of this sentimentality and romanticism going on; these things are ruthless, highly intelligent, and, in a word, scary.

I’m not really familiar with Chuck Hogan’s work beyond this collaboration, so I’m not certain what genre he normally writes.  I might want to check that out in the future.  Guillermo Del Toro, on the other hand, is the movie maker responsible for many of my favorite nightmare fuel.  His prose here retains the dark and creepy, very visual-based with the horror side to the tale.  Matter of fact, a lot of the vampire descriptions sound a lot like the Reaper vamps from Blade II.  And vampires don’t get much more anti-romanticized than that.

Overall, The Strain is a great first book in a trilogy.  The story moved quickly without sacrificing quality.  The vampirism is given something of a medically scientific explanation, but that doesn’t take away from the menace whatsoever.  Tense, suspenseful,and downright scary, The Strain was completely satisfying, and a welcome alternative to all of those Twi-Tards out there.

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