The Strain (Strain Trilogy #1)

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The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The ...

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The visionary creator of the Academy Award-winning Pan's Labyrinth and a Hammett Award-winning author bring their imaginations to this bold, epic novel about a horrifying battle between man and vampire that threatens all humanity. It is the first installment in a thrilling trilogy and an extraordinary international publishing event.

The Strain

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 . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

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  • Guillermo Del Toro
    Guillermo Del Toro  

Editorial Reviews

in Associated Press - Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh
"A cinematic magician who has never lost his childlike sense of wonder."
Publishers Weekly
An ancient vampire is brought into New York by an immortality-seeking financier and infests the city with bloodthirsty, light-shunning revenants. Can two doctors, an elderly folklore professor, an exterminator and a gang member stem the monstrous tide? The delightfully rumbling voice of Ron Perlman, who has appeared in several of Del Toro's films, does the honors. The listener may quibble with his inconsistent pronunciation of the character name “Ephraim,” but on the whole, Perlman's narration and dialogue are creditable, particularly his convincing, Eastern European–accented portrayal of Professor Setrakian. Del Toro and Hogan favor a discursive style, and their lengthy descriptions and the repetitive nature of many of the vampire attacks mean that the story is somewhat slow to gather steam, but it does get there in the end. A Morrow hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 13). (June)
Library Journal

Pan's Labyrinth director Del Toro and thriller author Hogan (Prince of Thieves) team up to launch the first volume of a modern-day vampire trilogy. The story begins onboard a grounded plane that has just landed at New York's JFK airport. Police and emergency medical crews are called to investigate the possible outbreak of a mysterious disease, which has killed all but four of the plane's passengers. Unknowingly, something more ominous is responsible for the carnage, which now threatens the city and soon the entire country. Unlike the sexy bloodsuckers of paranormal romances and the cuddly vampires of teen fiction, these undead creatures are slick, dark, and frightening. This novel reads like a story made for the big screen, and with writer/director Del Toro, that is entirely possible. Despite the somewhat slow start, the story builds up steam quickly, and fans of horror, vampire fiction, and Del Toro's Hellboy films will line up for this one. Buy multiple copies. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/09; Rayo will publish the simultaneous Spanish-language edition.-Ed.]
—Carolann Lee Curry

Kirkus Reviews
Film director del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006, etc.) and thriller writer Hogan (The Killing Moon, 2007, etc.) treat a vampire outbreak as a massive public-health crisis, with chilling results. When a plane arriving from Berlin goes completely black on the runway at JFK, losing all electrical power and contact with the outside world, authorities expect to find a tense hostage situation on board. Instead, they discover that almost everyone on the plane has mysteriously died, presumably during the very brief interval between the time it landed and the moment a SWAT team stormed the cabin. Suspecting a disease of some kind and fearing its spread, authorities call in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, head of a CDC team set up to deal with just this sort of fast-moving, potentially catastrophic epidemic. What Dr. Goodweather and his team gradually discover, however, is something much stranger and potentially even more dangerous: a species of parasitic worm that gradually turns its host into a bloodthirsty something that very closely resembles a vampire. Soon they are operating well outside the realm of established science, especially after they team up with Abraham Setrakian, a Holocaust survivor and former academic who now operates a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem and has dealt with this sort of thing before. Armed with Setrakian's knowledge and an extensive arsenal of anti-vampire weaponry, the CDC team sets out to control the outbreak by attacking its source. The book boasts a plethora of arresting images and many terrific macabre touches. Del Toro and Hogan also succeed in constructing a driving plot and delivering a gripping conclusion. Great characters, a semi-plausible premise and a flair forstriking scenes get this trilogy off to a first-rate start. Author appearances in Boston, Los Angeles, New York
Entertainment Weekly
“He elevated gothic horror to art. . . . Bilingual, bicultural, multigenre, he has a voice that feels both fresh and ancient.”
New York Times
“[An] amazing writer and director. . . . Pan’s Labyrinth places Mr. del Toro in the first rank of world filmmakers.”
USA Today
“His distinctive creatures and otherwordly parables use the realms of fantasy to explore fundamental human issues such as love, alienation, weakness and, of course, fear… [He is] a master of monsters.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“[One of] the most original and powerful filmmakers working today.”
Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh in Associated Press
“A cinematic magician who has never lost his childlike sense of wonder.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061558238
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Series: Strain Trilogy, #1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 389,591
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Devils in Exile and Prince of Thieves, which won the 2005 Hammett Award , was called one of the ten best novels of the year by Stephen King, and was the basis of the motion picture The Town.

Chuck Hogan es autor de varias aclamadas novelas, entre las cuales se encuentra Prince of Thieves que ganó el Hammett Award 2005 y que fue considerada una de las diez mejores novelas del año por Stephen King.

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Read an Excerpt

The Strain
Book One of The Strain Trilogy

Chapter One

The Legend of Jusef Sardu

Once upon a time," said Abraham Setrakian's grandmother, "there was a giant."

Young Abraham's eyes brightened, and immediately the cabbage borscht in the wooden bowl got tastier, or at least less garlicky. He was a pale boy, underweight and sickly. His grandmother, intent on fattening him, sat across from him while he ate his soup, entertaining him by spinning a yarn.

A bubbeh meiseh, a "grandmother's story." A fairy tale. A legend.

"He was the son of a Polish nobleman. And his name was Jusef Sardu. Master Sardu stood taller than any other man. Taller than any roof in the village. He had to bow deeply to enter any door. But his great height, it was a burden. A disease of birth, not a blessing. The young man suffered. His muscles lacked the strength to support his long, heavy bones. At times it was a struggle for him just to walk. He used a cane, a tall stick...taller than you...with a silver handle carved into the shape of a wolf's head, which was the family crest."

"Yes, Bubbeh?" said Abraham, between spoonfuls.

"This was his lot in life, and it taught him humility, which is a rare thing indeed for a nobleman to possess. He had so much compassion...for the poor, for the hardworking, for the sick. He was especially dear to the children of the village, and his great, deep pockets...the size of turnip sacks...bulged with trinkets and sweets. He had not much of a childhood himself, matching his father's height at the age of eight, and surpassing him by a head at age nine. His frailty and his great size were a secret source ofshame to his father. But Master Sardu truly was a gentle giant, and much beloved by his people. It was said of him that Master Sardu looked down on everyone, yet looked down on no one."

She nodded at him, reminding him to take another spoonful. He chewed a boiled red beet, known as a "baby heart" because of its color, its shape, its capillary-like strings. "Yes, Bubbeh?"

"He was also a lover of nature, and had no interest in the brutality of the hunt...but, as a nobleman and a man of rank, at the age of fifteen his father and his uncles prevailed upon him to accompany them on a six-week expedition to Romania." "To here, Bubbeh?" said Abraham. "The giant, he came here?"

"To the north country, kaddishel. The dark forests. The Sardu men, they did not come to hunt wild pig or bear or elk. They came to hunt wolf, the family symbol, the arms of the house of Sardu. They were hunting a hunting animal. Sardu family lore said that eating wolf meat gave Sardu men courage and strength, and the young master's father believed that this might cure his son's weak muscles."

"Yes, Bubbeh?"

"Their trek was long and arduous, as well as violently opposed by the weather, and Jusef struggled mightily. He had never before traveled anywhere outside his family's village, and the looks he received from strangers along the journey shamed him. When they arrived in the dark forest, the woodlands felt alive around him. Packs of animals roamed the woods at night, almost like refugees displaced from their shelters, their dens, nests, and lairs. So many animals that the hunters were unable to sleep at night in their camp. Some wanted to leave, but the elder Sardu's obsession came before all else. They could hear the wolves, crying in the night, and he wanted one badly for his son, his only son, whose gigantism was a pox upon the Sardu line. He wanted to cleanse the house of Sardu of this curse, to marry off his son, and produce many healthy heirs.

"And so it was that his father, off tracking a wolf, was the first to become separated from the others, just before nightfall on the second evening. The rest waited for him all night, and spread out to search for him after sunrise. And so it was that one of Jusef's cousins failed to return that evening. And so on, you see."

"Yes, Bubbeh?"

"Until the only one left was Jusef, the boy giant. That next day he set out, and in an area previously searched, discovered the body of his father, and of all his cousins and uncles, laid out at the entrance to an underground cave. Their skulls had been crushed with great force, but their bodies remained uneaten...killed by a beast of tremendous strength, yet not out of hunger or fear. For what reason, he could not guess...though he did feel himself being watched, perhaps even studied, by some being lurking within that dark cave.

"Master Sardu carried each body away from the cave and buried them deep. Of course, this exertion severely weakened him, taking most of his strength. He was spent, he was farmutshet. And yet, alone and scared and exhausted, he returned to the cave that night, to face what evil revealed itself after dark, to avenge his forebears or die trying. This is known from a diary he kept, discovered in the woods many years later. This was his last entry."

Abraham's mouth hung empty and open. "But what happened, Bubbeh?"

"No one truly knows. Back at home, when six weeks stretched to eight, and ten, with no word, the entire hunting party was feared lost. A search party was formed and found nothing. Then, in the eleventh week, one night a carriage with curtained windows arrived at the Sardu estate. It was the young master. He secluded himself inside the castle, inside a wing of empty bedrooms, and was rarely, if ever, seen again. At that time, only rumors followed him back, about what had happened in the Romanian forest. A few who did claim to see Sardu...if indeed any of these accounts could be believed...insisted that he had been cured of his infirmities. Some even whispered that he had returned possessed of great strength, matching his superhuman size. Yet so deep was Sardu's mourning for his father and his uncles and cousins, that he was never again seen about during work hours, and discharged most of his servants. There was movement about the castle at night...hearth fires could be seen glowing in windows...but over time, the Sardu estate fell into disrepair.

"But at night .?.?. some claimed to hear the giant walking about the village. Children, especially, passed the tale of hearing the pick-pick-pick of his walking stick, which Sardu no longer relied upon but used to call them out of their night beds for trinkets and treats. Disbelievers were directed to holes in the soil, some outside bedroom windows, little poke marks as from his wolf-handled stick."

His bubbeh's eyes darkened. She glanced at his bowl, seeing that most of the soup was gone.

"Then, Abraham, some peasant children began to disappear. Stories went around of children vanishing from surrounding villages as well. Even from my own village. Yes, Abraham, as a girl your bubbeh grew up just a half-day's walk from Sardu's castle. I remember two sisters. Their bodies were found in a clearing of the woods, as white as the snow surrounding them, their open eyes glazed with frost. I myself, one night, heard not too distantly the pick-pick-pick...such a powerful, rhythmic noise...and pulled my blanket fast over my head to block it out, and didn't sleep again for many days."

Abraham gulped down the end of the story with the remains of his soup.

"Much of Sardu's village was eventually abandoned and became an accursed place. The Gypsies, when their carriage train passed through our town, told of strange happenings, of hauntings and apparitions near the castle. Of a giant who prowled the moonlit land like a god of the night. It was they who warned us, 'Eat and grow strong...or else Sardu will get you.' Why it is important, Abraham. Ess gezunterhait! Eat and be strong. Scrape that bowl now. Or else...he will come." She had come back from those few moments of darkness, of remembering. Her eyes came back to their lively selves. "Sardu will come. Pick-pick-pick."

And finish he did, every last remaining beet string. The bowl was empty and the story was over, but his belly and his mind were full. His eating pleased his bubbeh, and her face was, for him, as clear an expression of love that existed. In these private moments at the rickety family table, they communed, the two of them, sharing food of the heart and the soul.

A decade later, the Setrakian family would be driven from their woodwork shop and their village, though not by Sardu. A German officer was billeted in their home, and the man, softened by his hosts' utter humanity, having broken bread with them over that same wobbly table, one evening warned them not to follow the next day's order to assemble at the train station, but to leave their home and their village that very night.

Which they did, the entire extended family together...all eight of them...journeying into the countryside with as much as they could carry. Bubbeh slowed them down. Worse...she knew that she was slowing them down, knew that her presence placed the entire family at risk, and cursed herself and her old, tired legs. The rest of the family eventually went on ahead, all except for a strong young man and full of promise, a master carver at such a young age, a scholar of the Talmud, with a special interest in the Zohar, the secrets of Jewish mysticism...who stayed behind, at her side. When word reached them that the others had been arrested at the next town, and had to board a train for Poland, his bubbeh, wracked with guilt, insisted that, for Abraham's sake, she be allowed to turn herself in.

"Run, Abraham. Run from the Nazi. As from Sardu. Escape."

But he would not have it. He would not be separated from her.

In the morning he found her on the floor of the room they had the house of a sympathetic farmer...having fallen off in the night, her lips charcoal black and peeling and her throat black through her neck, dead from the animal poison she had ingested. With his host family's gracious permission, Abraham Setrakian buried her beneath a flowering silver birch. Patiently, he carved her a beautiful wooden marker, full of flowers and birds and all the things that had made her happiest. And he cried and cried for her...and then run he did.

He ran hard from the Nazis, hearing a pick-pick-pick all the time at his back .?.?. And evil followed closely behind.

The Strain
Book One of The Strain Trilogy
. Copyright © by Guillermo Del Toro. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with the Authors

Q: Guillermo, you've written screenplays and directed numerous movies, just to name a few of your many accomplishments. What motivated you to write a novel?Guillermo del Toro: Well, it's a different challenge, but I've always written short stories and then in my film work when writing storylines for movies, the storyline is a slightly "freer" form than screenplay writing. I have published some of my short stories in the past and it is my secret dream to write shivery tales for young readers. My favorite author in that sense is Roald Dahl, who mixed it freestyle between the grotesque and the magical. I love the short story form as a reader, but if a novel has a terse structure I find it far more immersive and fulfilling. Nevertheless some of my favorite authors -- Jorge Luis Borges, Horatio Quiroga, Saki, among others -- are masters of the short story form. The novel grew out of appetite and scope.

Q: You are one of the most extraordinarily imaginative and creative thinkers working in the arts today. What were some of the influences that have contributed to your success? Do you have a muse?

GDT: Curiously enough I regularly draw more inspiration from painters and books than I do from other films. Painters like Carlos Schwabe, Odilon Redon, Félicien Rops, Arnold Bocklin, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Thomas Cole, and many others never fail to excite me. On the book front there are just as many authors; Charles Dickens does the trick every time as do Oscar Wilde, Juan Rulfo, and Horacio Quiroga, among others.

Q: Many of your movies have centered on fantastical characters. Why did you choose to write your first novel about vampires?

GDT: All of my life I've been fascinated by them but always from a naturalist's point of view. I wanted my first movie, Cronos, to be a rephrasing of the genre -- I love the rephrasing of an old myth. When I tackled Blade II, I approached it with a myriad of ideas about vampire biology but only a few of those made it into the film. Tonally, the movie needed to be an action film and some of the biological stuff was too disturbing already. I love the idea of the biological, the divine, and the evolutionary angles to explain the origin and function of the Vampire genus. Some of my favorite books about vampirism are treatises on vampire "fact," books by Bernard J. Hurwood, Dom Augustin Calmet, and Montague Summers.

Q: There are many stories, movies, and even television shows involving vampires. The Strain uses the idea that vampires are a plague, and that the lead hunter is a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control. What was your inspiration for this twist?

GDT: When I was a kid I loved The Night Stalker and I fell in love with the idea Matheson and Rice posited, of exploring a creature of such powerful stature through the point of view of a common worker, a man used to dealing with things in a procedural way. "Just another day at the job."

Q: How did you and Chuck Hogan come together to write The Strain? How does your collaboration work?

GDT: It was a true collaboration. I had created a "bible" for the book which contained most of the structural ideas and characters. Chuck then took his pass on it and invented new characters and ideas. Fet (one of my favorite characters) was completely invented by him. And then I did my pass, writing new chapters or heavily editing his pass, and then he did a pass on my pass and so on and so forth. This is the way I have co-written in the past. I loved Chuck's style and ideas from reading his books and I specifically wanted him as a partner because he had a strong sense of reality and had never written a horror book. I knew we would complete each other in the creation of this book. What surprised me is that he came up with some gruesome moments all on his own! He revealed himself to be a rather disturbed man!

Q: Chuck, Stephen King hailed your novel Prince of Thieves as one of the ten best novels of 2005. What was that like getting such extraordinary praise from this esteemed cultural icon?

Chuck Hogan: The mere fact that Stephen King had read something I'd written really blew my mind. And then to find out that he liked it -- that I'd gotten inside the head of the man who has been getting inside of all our heads for all these years -- was a unique thrill, and a real morale boost. I wrote him a rambling thank-you letter that probably got tossed in the "crazy fan" file -- but for him to use his position to champion the work of other authors tells you everything you need to know.

Q: What most surprised you about working with Guillermo del Toro? Has working with him impacted your own work? In your former career as a video store clerk, did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine working on a project like this -- with a legend like del Toro?

CH: I'd never coauthored anything, nor had I published a true work of horror before, and here I was embarking on an epic trilogy with a master of the genre. I probably should have been more intimidated -- yet I felt an immediate kinship with the material, as well as true excitement at the challenge of bringing the story to life, both of which carried me through. Guillermo is a daunting first audience, and yet an incredibly generous collaborator. Not to mention an amazing resource: it's just fun to have to ask him a question -- say, about why the vampires run hot instead of cold -- and know that, not only will he take me through their intricate biology, but he will embroider the account with corroborating examples from the field of entomology, marine life, and some arcane fact about the function of human blood platelets.

Q: Your previous novels, Prince of Thieves and The Killing Moon, probe the dark side of human nature. What draws you to this theme and to the genre of suspense?

CH: Crime and horror are both genres of existentialism, and I am drawn to stories of man at his extremes, of people who find themselves tested, haunted, or threatened. I believe a writer should challenge himself in his work just as he challenges the characters in his story -- anything less would be inauthentic and dishonest. What I love about The Strain is that the journey of the story takes this maxim and multiplies it by one thousand.

Q: The Strain is the first novel of a trilogy. Can you give us a hint of what's to come?

GDT: The second novel is rather crepuscular -- mankind loses its advantage and we see what the future holds for the vampiric race while tracking the mythical origins of it all. We revisit familiar memories and learn more about Setrakian, and Gus leads us to an unexpected alliance. New York is under martial law and finding a way out of it becomes a major subplot. The third novel is absolutely enormous both in its implications and its reach. It rephrases vampirism in a completely fresh way.

Q: Will we see The Strain on the big screen anytime soon?

GDT: No, not film -- far too compressed a form. I believe it would be ideal to create a limited cable series out of it and not to extend it into a network run, where characters die only when the ratings do.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1117 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1122 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Best book I've read in several years!

    I am an avid reader sometimes finishing 6 books a week. I have always loved the thriller genre and was looking forward to this book. I read it in one sitting and was not diappointed in it. I have never taken the time to write a book review until The Strain.. The book pulled me in from the very beginning at the airport and never let up. It reminded me of a conglomerate of the writing of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Robin Cook. Although the plot seems almost preposterous I believe the cental characters made me come to accept the storyline. It is well written and exciting and I cannot wait until Book Two!

    31 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 20, 2009

    THE STRAIN is like Vampire Anatomy 101

    Well, if you're idea of fun includes vampires, biological horror, scary folk tales, and the undead walking the earth, then I have a recommendation for you:

    THE STRAIN - book one of the trilogy of novels from Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

    If you're a big GDT fan (and I assume you are because you're reading this blog), then you are getting some classic, old school Guillermo here. This is his triumphant return to horror in a whole new medium.

    The end result?

    BLADE 2 meets CSI.

    THE STRAIN is not a meditation like PAN'S LABYRINTH, or a metaphorical folk tale like THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. It is an in-your-face horror thriller that is not for the squeamish.

    Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. It is very well written and honestly, I couldn't put it down. For my money, nothing holds my interest like a vampire plague, and this book has some cool new twists to the vampire mythology.

    The premise of a vampire "infecting" its victims with a virus is not completely new: I've seen the idea before. What THE STRAIN does well is explore the infection of the unfortunate victim in great detail. The main character of THE STRAIN is Ephraim Goodweather, epidemiologist for the Center of Disease Control. His investigation as to the nature of this sudden and mysterious plague requires understanding the nature and effects of the virus itself.

    In other words, the entire book is like playing in GDT's sandbox of the scientifically weird and grotesque. It is a medical journal for Guillermo's vision of the ultimate vampire.

    Talk about Gross Anatomy.

    I won't spoil anything about the vampires for you - that's the best part of the book - but I will say that they bare a striking similarity to the Reapers in BLADE 2. I know Guillermo said that he wasn't able to fully realize the Reapers the way he wanted to in that film, so perhaps this is finally his perfect vision of a vampire: grotesque, horrible, thirsty and a perfect evolutionary predator.

    The wonderful part about THE STRAIN is that the novel is the perfect medium for bringing GDT's vampires to life. You understand them inside and out (literally), but also you'll get uncomfortable access to the thoughts and fears of those who are infected...or are being infected.

    And that's stuff you'll never get from a movie, so consider it the ultimate bonus feature.

    17 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    For Non-Stop Action and Creative Monsters, Catch The Strain

    Normally, I'm turned off by novels written by a team of writers. Perhaps that's because I'm a writer myself, and I cannot comprehend how the creative process can be unselfishly shared with another. Had it not been my passion for two of Guillermo Del Toro's film projects, "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Orphanage," I more than likely would not have read The Strain. What a tragedy that would have been, for this novel is one of the most exciting and page-turning stories I have encountered in a very long time.

    The story opens with one of the most uniquely bizarre events ever dreamt. An overseas flight arrives in New York. Upon taxiing to the terminal, the plane stops. All of its electrical functions cease and communication is lost. Upon examination of the plane, all of the passengers and crew (with the exception of four individuals) are found dead. What ensues is an outbreak of a unique blood infection that transforms its victims into blood-thirsty, vicious vampires.

    No, these are not the romantic and handsome vampires of modern fascination. Fans of Sookie Stackhouse or the Twilight series will be mortified if they read The Strain. Nor are these the sophisticated and classy drawing room vampires of Anne Rice of Bram Stoker. Del Toro's and Hogan's vampires are monsters, whose bodies transform into something other than human. Their mouths widen to reveal a long and sharp tongue-like appendage that slashes at their victims' necks to begin the blood flow. Think of the vampires in Matheson's I Am Legend or consider some of the more recent Zombie films like "28 Days Later" or the remake of "Dawn of the Dead." These creates are more comparable to the vampires in The Strain than any of the more traditional vampire roles.

    The Strain takes off from page one and does not stop, even at the end of the story. Before reading the book, consider that it is the first in what is to be a trilogy. Therefore, do not expect any resolution to the major conflicting issues in the book by the end of this installment. Also, I do not recommend reading this book unless you have a significant chunk of time to devote all at once. Its short chapters, non-stop action, and lingering suspense make it a true page-turner, one that is very difficult to put down. It is written perfectly for development into a film. Characterization and internal conflict are lacking, but the descriptive violence and unique nature of the monsters make up for any missing elements. Highly recommended.

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2010

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    Are these guys for real?

    I can't for the life of me understand all the positive reviews on this site.

    This book is full of horrible writing, grammatical errors and ideas that have been beaten to death in a hundred other, better written books. Plus the plot is absolutely nonsensical and suffers from continuity problems galore. For example: (Spoiler) vampirism is a purely biological affliction, however, vampires can't cross running water without assistance from living humans. Well, why not? Does that sound like a biological problem to you? The book is filled with little things like this that just don't make any sense.

    Biggest of all, the book NEVER EXPLAINS what the deal is with all the dead people on the plane, which is only the soul focus of practically the entire first half of the book.

    Full of dialog gems such as:

    "She could tell by the look on his face that he was troubled by the look on her face."

    Just flat out horrible writing.

    Del Toro makes great movies, I'll give him that.

    13 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2009

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    Whoa!!! This is one of the best books I have read this year!!!! To say that I LOVED it would be an extreme understatement. From the moment I turned to page one I was hooked. I only stopped in between to get a bit less scared.

    On September 24th 2010 a commercial plane lands at JFK. In the control tower someone notices that the plane never taxied to the final runway to off load its passengers and all contact with the plane has been lost. Efforts to reach the pilot come to naught and even more mystifying is the fact that the plane has gone dark. Is it terrorism? Is it some sort of biological attack? What exactly is going on? Emergency services rush to the scene and find everyone to be seemingly dead. They begin to investigate and cannot understand what has happened. Dr Ephraim Goodweather along with his partner Dr. Nora Martinez, both from the Center for Disease Control, are called in to investigate the disease angle. But nothing in their medical training can prepare them for how this story will unfold. They quickly discover four survivors whose memory of the landing is absent and provide no clues as to what has happened.

    Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan have managed to weave a tale that melds science and myth in a way that I personally have not seen done in a long time. Though they draw on certain long established vampire lore, there is definitely a different slant to the way they lay out the story. The horror that this is taking place in modern times serves to make the story even more terrifying. The way in which scenes are laid out and the masterful descriptiveness will have you on the edge of your seat and almost screaming out loud.

    One of the things that I noticed as I read the book was that it was very much like a movie. I began picturing how this story would appear on screen and maybe even what actor would play what part. It is very possible it seems this way because of Del Toro's contribution to the story(Del Toro directed Pan's Labyrinth). For the most part the authors stayed away from the usual mistake of having their main characters make stupid mistakes that propel them into dangerous situations. Except for one instance where I was forced to roll my eyes at the sheer carelessness of Ephraim, characters found themselves in danger not out of their own making but from the unfolding horror. By writing smart characters, they created people who were believable and sympathetic. There was a refreshing lack of melodrama between the characters and there was no beautiful woman that everyone is trying to save(Thank goodness for that). The vampires are evil, ugly and dank. These are not the sexy vampires of Anne Rice or the clean cut vampires that I hear populate the Twilight series. No, these vampires hate you and want to feast on your blood in a most horrifying way. Gosh I am almost scared to ride the subway home tonight.

    This is book one in a trilogy and I cannot wait to read what comes next.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    Very disappointed

    When I bought this book I was looking forward to a new and inventive take on the vampire genre, I was very wrong. It started off well but soon degenerated into a mix of the stand, salems lot and the virus he penned for the second in the blade trilogy. The lack of originality was evident all through the book and besides a few clever killings it was all very run of the mill.

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2009

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    These Vampires Don't Sparkle

    If you love Vampires and horror, but are tired of the current Twilight trend, this book is for you. In fact, the word Vampire isn't even used until page 215. The Strain follows a team of epidemiologists trying to determine why everyone on a flight from Germany to the US winds up dead for no apparent reason. The mythology of this novel hearkens back to Stoker's Dracula, but adds its own creepy twist to make these bloodsuckers even scarier. Guillermo del Toro's film experience gives the novel a cinematic feel in the way the events are laid out, which adds to the suspense of the story. It's going to be a long wait for the sequel, which doesn't come out until next summer.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

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    I think my expectations were too high

    I finished this book in a few hours, couldn't put it down. I thought it was an interesting spin, however at times it felt too much like a zombie tale. I'm used to my vampires as rather ruthless and intelligent beings, not mindless foaming at the mouth animals/monsters. It was more of horror story which is not a genre I read often. I'm not sure if I would be committed enough to finish the trilogy when the rest of the books come out, however this would make an awesome movie!

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2009

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    A cinematic, fresh, and gripping Vampire yarn

    Have you seen Hellboy 2? I know, one could easily dismiss that movie as comic book drivel. But it's really quite entertaining, and beautifully stunning, due in large part to Del Toro's eye and skill with storytelling. I bring this up for two reason. The first, and obvious, is that Del Toro had a hand in both that movie and this novel. The second, and more evident if you've seen the movie, is the introduction to the book. The first chapter alone brought to mind a direct corellation to the opening sequence of the Hellboy sequel. In the Strain's case, it is a grandmother telling her grandson a story while he eats his supper. In Hellboy, it was a father telling his son a bedtime story. The way the two introductions set the stage for the story that follows is what ties the two works together. The Strain opens, as I said, with a grandmother telling her grandson a tale of the local "giant," a towering man whose height nearly crippled him, but allowed him to both look down at everyone, but never look down at anyone. As the story goes, the man accompanies his family on a hunting trip, hunting not game, but wolf. On said trip, the entire group goes missing, save the giant (Sardo, as he's called), who returns home and locks himself in his estate. As the years go by, children start going missing in the night. The only sign of anything amiss is the "pick-pick-pick" noise of a cane hitting the ground as the families sleep in their homes. Sardo, essentially, becomes a boogeyman, allowing elders like the boys grandmother to use his strange case as a bargaining chip against rebellious children. Eat your food/do your chores/obey your elders or Sardo will get you. Flash forward to present day, and a plane lands at JFK. After touchdown, all of it's electronics shut off, and there is no sign of movement, distress...anything from the plane. The CDC is called in, only to find that all the passengers on the plane are dead, save four survivors, with no clue alluding to the cause of death. No traces of gas or poisons. No wounds. No nothing. They all died suddenly and without any recognition of what was happening. Shortly, the investigation is in full swing. The corpses show no signs of decomposition, even though they've been dead for nearly 24 hours. The survivors are quaranteened, though no one remembers anything about landing. No clues, no leads, no nothing. Then, while rooting through the cargo, a container is found. A large, 8 foot long container, with strange symbols on it. When opened, it is found to be filled with dirt. After removing the cargo and getting an inventory, the carton literally vanishes. Reviewing the security tapes, the box is there, and then isnt. Closer inspection shows an impossibly fast shadow darting away from where the crate was sitting. Again, no clues, but an impossible situation. From there, the story really begins to shift into high gear. With a perspective shifting narrative, we learn the whole story. There's the CDC workers. The boy who heard the story of Sardo in the beginning, now an old pawn shop owner. There is the mystery investor, who ordered the container to be shipped. But for what purpose? And is this Sardo? Or is something else happening here? Ultimately the story plays out. And the whole time, this cloud of anxiety and suspense looms over the reader. It's powerful, engrossing, and hard to put down. If I could write more, I would, but I've sadly reached t

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2009

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    2 1/2 stars.

    The Strain was very interesting at the beginning. I felt the story was a little predictable and boring toward the end. There was one part of the book I found to be abhorrent, when the man ate his dogs he loved! Horrible, disgusting, and I did not want to hear of such. I will not buy the next book in the series.

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2009

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    Strained my patience...

    Looking for a read comparable to World War Z, a realistic and enjoyable horror read, I was directed to this novel. The best thing I can say about it is that I bought it with my discount card.

    The plot is predictable, the characters are one dimensional. The overwhelming feeling I had was that it should have been a trashy horror film. Would probably have been more enjoyable.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

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    Ever since I knew of this book I was expecting something great. And the reality couldn´t be closer to my expectations. It actually exceeded them. Gillermo´s experienced storytelling together with Hogan´s give the reader a one of a lifetime experience. Well actually and fortunately we will have two more books so two more one of a life time experiences.
    The first thing I managed to think of after finishing the book and procesing all the information received in the last 10 days, of which I only slept 8 because of some noises in my bedroom caused by the vampire in my head, was to start it all over again and recomend it to everyone I know. Specially to the "Twilight" fans: "Dude, these are real vampires".
    There is no doubt that Guillermo del Toro is one of the great minds of his time, one of those that come only every 50 years or so. And there is much more to come. Of that I am sure.
    Gracias Maestro!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Wavers from storyline too often

    Leaves story and dwells on too many technical details. Appreciate descriptions but there is such thing as overkill...leads to boredom and a lot of skipping over. Had high hopes...disappointed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2009

    Not very good!!

    Didn't really enjoy it that much. It was recommended by a friend but I just couldn't get into the story. I had to force myself to finish it.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

    To PdEW - Go back to twilight.

    To people like pdew, go back to reading twilight. This book does not join the bandwagon of vampire romantics and walking in day light. This goes back to the roots of them being evil creatures who crave human blood. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. Pdew is a moron and should not be allowed to review books, as they've been glamored by the twilight series. Twilight is a good tale, but its for teens. This here is a good adult vampire read with a great addictive storyline. MUST READ!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

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    Cannot wait for second book

    I was waiting for this book since three months ago when I saw Guillermo del Toro's name on the book. I am not really a fan of vampire books because they are normally just the same old terrible story lines or they are cheesy like the Twilight series. This has a great story line and if you read this book with the lights and a candle like I did when the storm knocked out the electricity you will be FREAKED OUT!! Cannot wait for the second one in the series!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    A Ghastly Disappointment

    As another reviewer said, I am extremely confused as to why this book has garnered such glowing reviews. It reads like it was written by a tenth grader on a Dracula/28 Days Later fanfic binge. The characters are overly simplistic troupes, easily discarded after you set the book down. Every plot device is DOA, having been already beaten to death in a host of better written horror and sci fi novels & movies. Sure, many scenes were "gross" and that might titilate some readers, but it wears thin after the same description is regurgitated the sixth time over. I love Del Toro's work in cinema, with his attentive and nuanced use of folklore, but that attention seems to have been spent elsewhere; the application of traditional vampric folklore mixes badly here, with little end purpose.

    I honestly wish I hadn't purchased this. I will not be satisfied until I have bought a used copy of this book, and purified the land by heaving it's maligned binding into a bonfire. It'll make me feel better.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2012

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    High expectations = a letdown. The Strain starts on a high note

    High expectations = a letdown.

    The Strain starts on a high note with an airplane landing at JFK—only something goes horribly wrong. Mid-landing the plane ceases all movement. No lights, no noise, no nothing. After several failed attempts at raising the flight crew, the CDC is called to the scene under the leadership of Ephraim Goodweather. On boarding the doomed flight, he finds that all of the passengers, save four, have died under mysterious circumstances. Eph and his team investigate the cause of these deaths, fearing a viral outbreak could be to blame. The supernatural answers he finds cause him to question science, God and life as he knows it. Eph eventually teams up with a rag-tag band of misfits, including an old man who has previously encountered this strain, desperate to stop the ancient evil that's plaguing their city.

    Sounds promising, right? I thought so. I picked up this book with high hopes, expecting nothing but the best from my man, Guillermo del Toro. I mean, with a repertoire that consists of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hell Boy and Mimic, how could you possibly mess it up? So then why was it so hard for me to finish reading it? Why was I left feeling so completely malcontented? Let me break it down for you. When you’re a die-hard fan of someone’s work, there is a certain caliber of quality that you come to expect from them. I picked this book up for the simple fact that I wanted to be thoroughly creeped out. Del Toro is a master at the creep-factor. And don’t get me wrong; there were parts in this book that did just that. But that’s also the problem—the scary parts were too far and few between. The pacing was all wrong and in those down moments, I was completely bored. The beginning is so strong and then, all too quickly, it falls flat and it’s this way throughout the duration of the novel. What little action we’re left with is interspersed with really random tangents and it does nothing but detract from the actual story. I think the other big issue was the schizophrenic jumps in POV making it a challenge to follow. We’re given the story from a multitude of perspectives yet I found it hard to really connect or care about any one of them. It’s difficult to discern who’s a main character and who’s playing a supporting role because one is particularly memorable.

    Bad as it was, I must, however, give Hogan and del Toro their due credit. When they get it right, they really nail it. There were parts where I was gripping the armrests of my seat, anxiously waiting to find out what happens next. There were also parts where the suspense builds just enough tension to keep you hooked and wanting for more. The opening and closing chapters do this particularly well. I also really enjoyed their updated take on the vampire myth. These aren’t your usual sensationalized, overly-sexed vamps. They are ruthless, ugly and monstrous; not something we see very much of in today's entertainment. And what I really appreciated was the sci-fi spin woven through the book, making vampirism a plague of sorts. The lines between science and the supernatural are blurred in a way that feels very much like something out of a Michael Crichton novel, and that pleases the super geek in me. I know it sounds like I hated this novel, but really, I think I was just really let down. That’s what happens when your expectations are too high. Hogan and del Toro have some pretty fresh ideas, only they fail in their execution.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2012

    Admit. Read b/c it's Guillermo Del Toro and I love Pan's Labyrin

    Admit. Read b/c it's Guillermo Del Toro and I love Pan's Labyrinth and the Devils Spine. An interesting take on vampires. Makes them less romantic and human and more clinical. The vampire persona makes more sense in this book than in most others. Book was entertaining and spooky but hardly a masterpiece.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012


    Not a bad story, but beware if you plan to read the second and third book. They are way bad.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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