The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro

This may seem absurd to you, since the books are written in English, but I actually have been reading this in Spanish. At least it is consistent with Guillermo del Toro’s mother tongue.

Anyway, The Strain is the first of a homologue vampire trilogy written by mexican movie director and producer Guillermo del Toro, and writer Chuck Hogan – who, I suppose, co-writes the story mainly for English linguistic aspects, although he has some good work as well.

The story starts with and airplane landing in New York City JFK International Airport. Nothing more seemingly trivial. And yet, at some point, this plane literally dies right in the middle of the runway. Lights out, no movement, no signs of anyone alive. And here is why: all the passengers of this flight are dead on their seats. The authorities take a little while before “handling” everything – this will be happening very often during the whole story. The CDC – Centers for Disease Control – is finally called in, which leads us to meet the first of our starring characters: Dr. Ephraim Goodweather.

Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather is the Science Guy of the story, the one who takes longer to realize the unscientific aspect of the events – which in fact end up being scientific after all. He has a son, Zack, who has to deal with his parents’ divorce, and the somehow nontrivial “death” of his mother, who becomes one of the antagonists of the story. But Zack can count on Eph’s “friend”, Nora, who also works for the CDC. To complete this scientific team, there is Vasiliy Fet, an an exterminator with Bureau of Pest Control Services. He is clean, effective, a down-to-earth. Some parts of the story are told through the pages of his blog. And finally, Abraham Setrakian. Setrakian is the equivalent of Van Helsing, in a more modern and yet old fashioned style – they even share their first name. An old man who, after surviving the Jewish Holocaust, devotes his life to haunting Strigoi – Del Toro’s favorite term for vampires.

Now that I have told you the core of the story – not too much, since the aim here is getting you to read the books – I want to give you some of my opinions on this.

So, this is a trilogy – The Strain – of which two books have been released during the summers of 2009 and 2010: The Strain and The Fall. I guess the third – The Night Eternal – is expected for the next summer/fall. Although I enjoy being able to read more than only one tome about the same story, I find trilogies too commercially biased. And, why not, if the trilogy works as expected, release some sort of spin-off about a particular character, of a prequel… There a plenty of possibilities, and all lead to selling more.

What is also deranging about this trilogy is that it actually was written by a movie director – OK, co-written. This obviously means it will be highly likely for Del Toro to make a movie – trilogy? – out of these books, which, now that I think of it, seem quite fit to be transposed into the silver screen. But anyway, I will not lie to you, I would love to see those movies being released, and very soon, if possible.

I have read the two volumes that have been released, and so far, I have been quite pleased with the story, the general environment, and the huge mashup made by Del Toro and Hogan on this novel. You see, I am a big fan of zombies, more than vampires. But here, what the co-authors have succeeded in making is a kind of mix between the two. According to Romanian mythology, Strigoi are some kind of vampire-zombie in-between. And in The Strain and The Fall, the “infected” are exactly that. You do not get a classic Dracula, nor a zombie, but a new creature, something that cannot come from anywhere else but Del Toro’s mind – just remember Pan’s Labyrinth, and the director’s background as a special effects expert. The other important mashup in this novel is the biological hazard aspect. Because Del Toro does not only play with vampires and zombies, he also includes this virus-like zombie infection that has been working since the release 28 Days Later in theaters. And I love that. I am a huge fan of biohazard zombies! If you have not watched the latest TV series on the subject, The Walking Dead, go check the episodes.

Another thing I enjoy about this novel is the way the authors integrate other issues that nowadays cannot be neglected: ethnic minorities in the US, financial crises, and the big – and small – deal we make about public health. They even succeed in integrating the story back up to World War II, where some nazis could have been strigoi. I am not so fond of this thing authors have about always seeding their stories in some historic event, especially WWI and WWII. But the rest of the books are quite good, so I guess it makes it up for the War part.

Well, to finish, I do not think I need to tell you that you must read these books, even the chapter covers make sense in the story, so pay attention to the most insignificant detail! You can have a preview below, Del Toro could not avoid making a production for the book ads. If you hate watching a movie before reading the book, avoid watching this video, it shows some characters that you may prefer to imagine before seeing them as pictured by Del Toro.

Visit The Strain Trilogy official website
Check out The Strain on Wikipedia
Watch other trailers on Del Toro’s YouTube Channel
Learn more about Strigoi on Wikipedia

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