Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CR3 #8: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain is the first book in a trilogy. It begins with a giant jet airplane landing at JFK and then going inexplicably dark. When the authorities finally board it, they discover every single passenger is dead--or so it appears, anyway.

This is a book about vampires, although their vampires more closely resemble the Reapers of Blade II than they do the traditional Bram Stoker style living dead. They're fast, creepy, gross, and dangerously close to taking over New York City.

Up against these bloodsuckers is a small group of concerned citizens. First there is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an epidemiologist from the CDC. (Mostly unrelated note: from the moment I read the name, all I could think of was Dr. Stanley Goodspeed from The Rock. Therefore, I read Eph as Nicolas Cage.) He is accompanied by his on-again-off-again girlfriend/colleague Nora Martinez. There is also Abraham Setrakian, a Holocaust survivor and the group's Van Helsing, a man who has been preparing for this "incursion" since his youth at Treblinka. In other parts of the city, a young Mexican gang banger and an exterminator have their own parts to play. To complicate matters, there is Eph's ex-wife Kelly and their son Zach. All of these characters are watching the world fall apart and trying to figure out how to cope, let alone fight back.

I find that this book very closely resembles another old favorite, Salem's Lot by Stephen King. From the arrival of the master vampire to the small band of slayers trying not to be overwhelmed, there are some definite similarities. In fact, there is a very definite parallel between what happens to the female lead in Salem's Lot and what happens to Kelly here. To be honest, I found it almost distracting how alike the two stories are, though The Strain plays out on a larger stage, and being a trilogy will have more room to spread out.

I definitely enjoyed the book, and I also found it pretty spooky--walking home from work last night, I saw someone sort of staggering along from the opposite direction, backlit by the street light, and had a moment of panic. Although this is not a genre-changing novel, it's certainly a good read, and I intend to invest in the sequels.

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