The Strain by G. del Toro and C Hogan

Harper | Paperback, 495 pages
Publication Date: April 1st, 2010
Adult Fiction | Horror
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Everything checked out okay upon landing approach of a Boeing 777 at JFK International Airport. But when it stalled prior to reaching the gate, air traffic controllers were stumped. It seems that the plane just died. No humming engines; electrical functions were dead, and attempts to communicate were met with silence. Theories started to circulate: Was it a terror attack? Hijacked? No one could’ve predicted what was lying in wait at the belly of that plane.

Dr. Ephraim Goodweather’s personal life is on a tailspin. He’s fighting for custody of his son; he’s still madly in love with his wife, and he’s been having an affair with a colleague for an undetermined period of time. All those are going to be shoved aside as his career as an epidemiologist will be put to the test with this infection that will sweep New York. While he and his cronies at CDC try to figure out what caused the death of all but four of the passengers of the plane, a former professor and pawnshop owner, Abraham Setrakian is about to have his chance to finally kill a lifetime enemy. Together, they will try to stop the spread of the epidemic.

In the backdrop is a solar eclipse, which is also enough to send a population into a frenzy. No sunlight means, the monsters are free to roam about the country. Although there was very little significance in the first book, I have a feeling that the authors have a grander plan for the mention of this event in book two. Because I hardly read anything of worth in the first book.

I am not a reader of horror. I’m not even a person who could  be paid to sit through an episode of Ghost Hunters (fake as that show is). When I saw the trailer for this series, I was drawn by its allusion to a contagion of sort. See, I can’t get enough of those. I love watching films about a virus that has the potential to wipe out mankind. The Strain is a different beast altogether.

How best to explain this book? Well, if you’ve read novels about the vampire lore, you know that if a vampire bit you, you will go through a change. The monster turns you into its kind. But what happens exactly? What sort of biological change does a human body go through that turns in into a blood sucking predator? This book has its explanation…sort of. But while they are vampiric in nature (sunlight kills them, blood sings to them), they are the worst imaginable monsters. They don’t just suck blood, they are also carnivores. They have the combined appetites of a zombie and a vampire. If that’s not enough to give you nightmares, then the thought that the organism that lives inside them has the capacity to find another host simply by burrowing itself into a skin should do the trick.

So listen, this book is just the beginning of this harrowing tale. People that survived the plane perished one way or another, and the best thing about it is that each one of the gory story was told in their perspectives. You will see a story about a wife with a debilitating dependence on her husband, who unfortunately, was infected. What was she to do now? She can’t even function when he goes away for business. A rock star who’d been known for some really fucked-up antics both on and off the stage; an ambitious lawyer whose grand plans to make partner was stymied by her growing need to eat her kids; a little girl who came home on her own after she was declared dead. And there are other stories. Each one more horrific than the next.

The story unfolds in a slow, deliberate progression that perfectly fits the superior thriller of an ambiance the authors were going for. The burgeoning suspense and the taut tension will have you reading to your heart’s content. My foremost complaint about this series has nothing to do with the book. It’s the tv series that’s starting to drive me mad. None of the characters’ actions were computing, and I’m livid that there seems to be an absence of creative input from the writers regarding the characters’ actions (most specifically, Nora). Regardless, I think this is the first tv series that the husband and I will be following religiously. That’s a big deal because I don’t watch tv and my husband is permanently glued to all 156 (approx.) ESPN channels.

  • Ohh. Great review Joy 😀 I’m glad you liked this book. <3 It sounds creepy. And I love creepy. But I'm still not ready for adult books :p One day, though 😀 Sigh. If only there where more YA horror books. <3 Anyway. Amazing review 🙂 Thank you for sharing. <3 This book sounds creepy yet all kinds of awesome. One day I hope I might be ready for it 🙂

  • I didn’t realize that they had made a TV serious out of this book; I guess I’ve been watching too much Big Brother lately to notice. o_O I find that stories written by multiple authors usually end up being more well-rounded that the solo ones. I’ll keep this one in mind for the next time I’m on a horror kick. Lovely review, Joy!

  • Oh it’s interesting, I didn’t know this one and like you I don’t read a lot of horror stories but from time to time it’s nice to have something different mainly when I see they’re good. Great review lady, it was really interesting to read it.

    • Definitely, Melliane. I used to have an aversion to a lot of tropes but I’m finding that I’m a bit more adventurous as the years go by. 🙂

  • Christy

    I enjoyed this a lot, but the show is kind of dragging for me. I thought it might be because I already know what’s going on, but my son, who hasn’t read it, think it is too. But I mean, I understand they need to spread it out over so many episodes. It’s still good, and they’ve slightly changed it up.

    • I know what you mean! They scramble some of the sequencing of events and Jim Kent seems to have a longer role in the series than in the book (whoops. spoiler alert). I’m also waiting on tenterhooks for the eclipse. But I think it will be playing a more significant factor than what was only glanced over in the book. 🙂 Have you started The Fall? I just picked it up.

  • Yeesh, I was curious about this when it came out but it kind of faded into the background over time, but the ads for the show freaked me out too much even to try watching it. I’m not a horror anything watcher, so I don’t think I could do it, but I can read horror. Things burrowing into the skin just gives me shivers.

  • oh man those things sound really horror worthy. burrowing into the skin…yack

    I never thought i was a big horror reader but i did go through a huge zombie phase so I’ll keep this in mind in case i go on another binger like that.

    • I’m still not over my zombie phase. I don’t think I’ll get over it. Lol. 🙂

  • Such an interesting and unique premise

  • This sounds like a great read and tv series. Crap, I think I will need to read/watch both now!

    • It’s a great book. I’m holding my judgement on the tv series, however. 🙂

  • This one sounds really great! The books sounds more tame than the show, but I’ll check both out!

    Happy Reading Joy!

    • The book is actually more extreme than the show. Uncensored, uncut, unadulterated. 🙂

  • Shweta

    I am an epidemiologist and it is rare that I get to read fiction with epidemiologists in it. So this one is definitely going to be a must read for me. I don’t read much of horror but this one I will.

    • That is a pretty cool career. I can’t say I know of any epidemiologist. But I can recc you another book that features a character in the same line of work: The Silent History written by three authors. I just picked up the book but it sounds interesting. 🙂

      • Shweta

        Added to my reading list! Thank you 🙂