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The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061558238
Date: 02 June 2009 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Countdown has begun for the end of the human race. With the aid of a vindictive human, Eldritch Palmer, the world's most powerful, most evil vampire, Master Sardu, has arrived in New York. He was stowed aboard a jumbo jet that landed at JFK Airport. All but four passengers were found dead, their throats slashed and their blood drained. The survivors begin to mutate, serving as a distraction while the corpses were transported to various morgues throughout the five boroughs.

On the second night after the jet's landing, the corpses arise, breaking out of their freezers, and walk home where they feed on relatives, neighbors, and friends, turning them into vampires. In The Strain, vampirism is a virus incarnate, a deadly new strain that rages through Manhattan, threatening to destroy New York and the world beyond. Mankind's only hope consists of two CDC epidemiologists, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, a rat exterminator, and an eleven-year-old boy.

Two creative geniuses, Guillermo Del Toro (director of Hell Boy and Blade II) and Chuck Hogan (author of The Blood Artists and The Killing Moon), have united to create The Strain - an apocalyptic vision of modern horror. If Del Toro's name is associated with a project, you know it must be a bizarre, mythical, and creepy concoction of supernatural terror. The reader is immediately yanked into the novel's fast-moving plot by the mysterious landing of the plane containing so many dead passengers. Gruesome murders and supernatural events occur in rapid-fire succession.

Del Toro has created unique vampires that are of a different breed than the stereotypical vampire. Though they are not harmed by crucifixes and holy water, they can be destroyed by sunlight and decapitation. Also, these vampires are grimy, filthy, stinking beasts that are highly mutative. Chuck Hogan has lent his knowledge of medicine and police procedures to give The Strain a sense of plausibility. The reader is provided a realistic explanation for how vampirism is spread.

The main character is charming, attractive Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, a CDC epidemiologist; he is having a romantic relationship with his coworker, Nora Martinez, while still carrying a torch for his ex-wife, Kelly. He is determined to be a good father to his highly intelligent son, Zack. He is approached by Abraham Setrakian, an elderly Holocaust survivor who has studied vampires and amassed a secret armory of weapons specifically designed to destroy them. His main goal is to locate and eliminate the diabolical Sardu. The Strain is the classic tale of good versus evil. You will cheer for Dr. Goodweather and his companions and you will detest, despise and fear the cruel Sardu.

The Strain is extremely eerie and one of the few novels Iíve read that actually frightened me. There are many tense scenes of graphic violence. Difficult to lay aside, this novel is a highly imaginative, fast-paced car ride through a haunted fun house. The first in a trilogy, The Strain sets the stage for the nightmarish horror that will soon engulf our country and the rest of the world. It reminded me of Stephen King's novels Salem's Lot and The Stand because the world is coming to an end, not by war or natural calamity, but by a contagion of vampirism. While reading the medical procedures in this novel, I kept thinking: "If Robin Cook had been hired to novelize a plague of vampires ravaging our country, The Strain would be it."

Thanks to the release of the blockbuster film Twilight and the publication of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, vampires are extremely popular this Summer. Horror fans, especially those of the vampire subgenre, will want to read The Strain. If the sequels, The Fall and The Night Eternal (due to be published in 2010 and 2011, respectively), are half as good as the first one, then I can't wait to sink my fangs into them.

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