Ron's Reviews > The Strain

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
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's review
Feb 08, 2009

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bookshelves: horror, medical, science-fiction, vampires, trilogy
Read in February, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Slick, very slick. A very efficiently calibrated commercial thriller--imagine a post-9/11 cross between 'Salem's Lot and the first third of The Stand, with liberal borrowings from Bram Stoker's Dracula. The back half in particular becomes a string of violent set-pieces depicting the rapidity with which the vampirism spreads over four of Manhattan's five boroughs. (Staten Island: free!) There's a semi-scientific explanation for the vampirism as a hyper-nasty virus, but like Del Toro's film Mimic that's basically a hook for the gory scenes. (The importance of subway tunnels to the plot may also relevant in this vein.)

The borrowings from Dracula were so liberal, in fact, that it's one of the few things about this novel that I found annoying: Instead of an ship arriving in the harbor with all its crew and passengers dead, here it's a 777 landing at JFK, complete with a giant coffin in the cargo hold... and nobody says, "Hey, this is just like in Dracula!" Sorry, there are just times when I'm not good at suspending my disbelief.

It all ends very much in media res, and it's clear that at some point the ragtag band of human vampire hunters that comes together over the course of the novel (the Van Helsing figure, for example, is a Holocaust survivor who first saw "the Master" feeding on his fellow inmates at Treblinka) is going to intersect with the three ancient super-vampires who appear very fleetingly towards the end, because "the Master" is a renegade kin of theirs... As I say, it's all quite entertaining, and I imagine it'll do quite well.
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