REVIEW: Strain #1: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction/ Horror/ Vampires, Pages: 401, Level: Easy

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

“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.”

There are some books that are better read with no information whatsoever regarding the specifics of the book. This is one. So I will not elaborate on the Barnes & Noble description.

All I knew about The Strain when I began to read it is 1) it is written by Guillermo del Toro who is also the creator of the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, a phenomenal movie, 2) The Strain brings vampires back to their scary roots, 3) The Strain has been picked up for television, and 4) it got phenomenal reviews.

That’s it.

I mean I knew it all started with an airplane, but so do a lot of other books. I basically went into this book having no idea what I was getting into. Let me tell you… if you are a Twilight fan and like your vampires all sparkly, this book is not for you. If horror is not your usual genre and you are looking to broaden your horizons and break into horror, I highly recommend you do not begin with this book.

I would like to share with you some of my reactions to this book-

Even though I was in bed with my husband and toddler son, there were a couple of nights I couldn’t take my eyes off the armoire because I was afraid something was behind it.

  1. During those same nights, I couldn’t lie with my head tilted left, because the bedroom door is on my right, and I was afraid my daughter would come into the room in the middle of the night and give me a heart attack. I woke up with a very sore neck.
  2. I got very uncomfortable thinking about having to go outside after dark and was grateful the time had changed; it stays light out later.
  3. I had to calculate how much time there was before my husband’s next out of town trip to make sure I finish the series before he leaves, giving me plenty of time to recover… hopefully.

That is in addition to my usual precautions and preparations I routinely make and maintain due to the fact that I love scary books and movies, but am also a big chicken. I don’t read horror novels too close to bedtime. I spend more time than is probably healthy thinking about escape routes and what to take with me if I should suddenly have to flee the area. When my husband is out of town, both kids sleep with me in bed, in a locked bedroom, with the TV on low all night, the bathroom and closet lights on and something nearby that I can use as a weapon. You think I’m joking? A little advice- don’t try to play any pranks on me when my husband is gone.

The whole point of that is- The Strain is that scary. I’m talking the kind of scary that makes you scared even during the daytime.

I also want to warn you to prepare yourself. There are books, movies and television shows out there in which some things are off limits, for example, children. That is not so with The Strain. Many times, you will automatically have a good idea which characters will make it to the end. Again, don’t expect that. And finally, there is a lot of psychological terror involved in the story, which only makes it worse (in a good way). I am beginning to think Guillermo del Toro is a little bit warped. What is worse is that I found myself thinking, “Yeah, I would have done that too.” Yikes.

On a last note, I would like to say a few thank yous to Guillermo del Toro. Thank you for making vampires scary again. Thank you for making fat vampires. Thank you for being a little bit warped.

Happy reading and happy sleeping.

Reviewed by Christina

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