AWESOME-tober-fest 2011: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Day 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2011’s Dracula/vampire book week. Today I’m looking at another series of books that don’t star Dracula, but have vampires as the main character. I’m talking about The Strain books by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
Director Guillermo Del Toro conceived of this story while trying to develop a vampire television show. When he couldn’t get the show made he contacted Chuck Hogan about writing the story as a trilogy of novels. Del Toro picked crime writer Hogan because he wanted the books to have a basis in science like CSI. The first book in the Strain trilogy, The Strain (official website), was released in Summer 2009. The second book, The Fall, was released in Fall 2010. I got my copy of the first book off paperbackswap.com in Oct 2010 right after The Fall was released in hardback. I really wanted to read it due to Del Toro’s involvement, but Chuck Hogan had also written the book Prince of Thieves from which the movie The Town was based, so I was also excited about that. But, in the back of my mind, I was thinking that vampires have become tired the last few years (Thank you, Mrs Meyer). Could this book actually be any good?
The short answer so far is YES. Suddenly vampires are horrifying again. Del Toro and Hogan have crafted a masterful vampire tale that brings vampires back into the realm of truly terrifying. To date I’ve read Book 1 (The Strain) and Book 2 (The Fall) in the trilogy. Book 3 (The Night Eternal) is being released on Oct 25 (in 2 weeks!).
The first book starts off with a bang. A 747 lands at JFK airport and goes completely dark. No communication, no running lights, no cabin lights. A first response CDC team is called in led by Dr Ephraim Goodweather (Eph). Eph and his team discover a deadly virus strain that takes over the human body and transforms the host into what can only be described as a “vampire”. The first book is all about the discovery of the virus and the initial infection of New York. We also begin to learn the history of the virus with the introduction of Professor Abraham, a holocaust survivor. Abraham has committed his life to destroying vampires and recruits Eph and his team to his cause. Professor Abraham has encountered vampires before, even meeting one of the “Ancients”, one of the first 7 vampires. It is actually one of these Ancients that has “gone rogue” and set this infection into motion to further his own agenda.
The book is full of action, great dialogue and depicts vampirism like a virus. That’s the most fascinating thing about this book is the exhaustive detail it reveals about how the vampire virus overtakes and remakes the human biological system. The book talks about a “stinger” that forms under the host’s tongue that is used for feeding. The vampire unhinges its jaw to use the stinger. Human organs are also shut down and rerouted into sacks of fluid to store and use eaten blood. Any unneeded human traits are shed; hair, fingernails and reproductive genitalia. The vampires are all connected to their maker, the rogue Ancient vampire, through a “hive mind” that will relay information to and from him. These new vampires are very sensitive to sunlight (UVC light) and silver and can be killed by severing their heads. They are also inhumanly agile and fast. A truly scary monster.
Book 1 ends with an encounter between Professor Abraham and the Ancient. Book 2 picks up hours after the encounter.
Book 2 was released in paperback in Summer 2011. I rushed out to a brick and mortar store to buy it so I could read it. It absolutely ratchets up the horror even further and takes the story in a much darker direction. It honestly feels like the Empire Strikes Back or the Godfather Part II of this epic vampire tale. I for one can’t wait to read Book 3.
As I mentioned, Book 3, The Night Eternal, will be released in hardback two weeks from today (Oct 25). I’m seriously considering buying the hardback off the shelf and finishing the story. And that alone says something because all my books come from used paperback stores, paperbackswap.com or as gifts. I can’t remember the last time I bought a hardback book, off the shelf, from a brick and mortar.
So yes, I can recommend these books without reservation to anyone that loves a good horror or vampire story. Hopefully the authors won’t sh*t the bed when the last book is released but I have the utmost confidence in Del Toro and Hogan. I think the last book will be the best yet.
There were three different trailers released for The Strain. Each with a different scene from the story.
Watch them here:
Trailer 2 – Jail Scene
Trailer 3 – Dog Shed Scene
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.