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REVIEW “The Strain: Book One” (2009, book)

 DSC00102     AuthorsGuillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Flight 753 arrives at JFK International Airport. All communications are dead, the window shades on the plane have all been pulled down and all lights are out. Epidemiologist Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of a rapid-response team for the CDC in New York, is called in to determine the presence of a biological threat. What he finds is a disturbing scenery, all the passengers are dead in their seats. And so begins a race against the clock to eradicate a mysterious vampiric virus and stop the contagion.

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Anyone familiar with Guillermo Del Toro’s “Blade II” gruesome vampires, will immediately notice the similarities between those and the creatures described in this book. In an e-mail interview with the Deseret News, Guillermo de Toro explained how the movie influenced the book story:

“The thing with ‘The Strain,’ is I took all the ideas that I posited on ‘Blade II’ but (that) wouldn’t fit (David) Goyer’s story line. All these ideas were really annotations on vampire biology I had made over the years: How long does it take to change? What organs are affected? How? What’s the viral/organic way?”

The result, is a new approach to vampires that examines the science behind this monsters and their mythology. Del Toro first envisioned the story line as a television series, but was unable to find a buyer for the series. An agent then suggested turning the story into a series of books with writer Chuck Hogan.

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There is a lot to like about this book and it is written in a very cinematically style. Eph, the main character is interesting enough, and his heartwarming relationship with his 11-year-old son Zach is the focal point of his motivations. The other support characters are well written and likable, such as the old and tough, professor Abraham Setrakian, a “Van Helsing” type of character. On the other side, the Master Vampire, well, was kind of weak and underdeveloped.

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At times the book plot gets tangled within its own complex ramifications, and the narrative wears thin long before the conclusion of this tale. The scientific take on the vampires is one of the most interesting points shading new light over the vampire mythology. Overall, this is a great start to a trilogy, and will keep most hearts racing. There some evident issues with the plot and the writing, but as new characters are infected with the vampiric virus the book gets more brutal and suspenseful.

Followed by a comic book adaptation and an upcoming television series that will premiere on FX on July 13.

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