A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK with all windows shades pulled down and not sign of power. When all the passengers seem to have died a call goes out to the CDC and Eph Goodweather arrives to try and determine what happened.
The Strain by Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan is an incredibly strong book in places, but looses focus regularly. Del Torro and Hogan create vivid atmospheres and addressing the idea of vampirism as a disease that can be studied is a unique tact for such a well used monster. Eph Goodweather, Nora Martinez and Abraham Settrakian are terrific and well developed characters. A sense of danger surrounds them and it is always good to see characters in a horror novel not taking every action to ensure they are monster fodder.
That being said a number of characters are introduced for this purpose only and there are long drawn out sequences where I was simply waiting for a character to be killed off or turned. These sequences could have worked well in a film, because they could have been shorter with clear jump points. They break any building tension in this novel. In the written form theses sequences just do not work.
The story is intricate with a few great reveal moments as the outbreak moves through the city.
For anyone familiar with De Torro’s film works, Blade 2, Cronos or Mimic they are some very familiar elements that the vampires possess. While I still appreciate this style I am a tad concerned Del Torro may be turning into Tim Burton. While I still consider myself a fan of Burton, his unique and revolutionary visual elements are being recycled with very few new ideas being introduced.
In the end;
Del Torro and Hogan have created a very strong first novel in their Strain trilogy. When they keep their focus on the intricate plotting and well developed characters the novel moves forward at an addictively lighting pace. However this is often broken up by overly long sequences where we wade through to the inevitable demise of third and fourth tier characters.