Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Strain The Strain
by Guillermo Del Toro And Chuck Hogan
Harper Collins

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Lee Pletzers

The Strain is book one in a three book series planned. Most books about writing will tell the learner to never, never, never use "Once upon a time" to open a story. And that’s exactly how this book opens. Del Toro takes us straight in to the fantasy aspect of the story by introducing us to our first main character, who becomes the one with all the information.

Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother used to tell him of tales surrounding a giant, Jusef Sardu, who becomes a monster. Many years later, Abraham meets this monster face to face in a POW camp. Strigoi, AKA The Master, is a vampire centuries old. Abraham decides to kill the monster and it becomes his life long pursuit.

Sixty years later, he is an old man, a pawnbroker in the Spanish Bronx. One afternoon, watch TV he sees a plane land. It doesn’t move off the tarmac. The plane is dark and all electronics and coms are dead. Boarding the plane, authorities find everyone dead, save five.

The CDC are sent in to investigate. Eph Goodweather is called, but he doesn’t want to answer the phone and tries to ignore it. He is spending time with his son and in the middle of a custody battle with his Ex. There are other things going on as well, giving the character depth -- but, I never felt for Eph. The other minor characters are so well drawn with just enough to gives a hint of whom they are. I liked them better, especially the exterminator, Fet, who starts noticing a difference in Rats behaviour in the underground (unused) tunnels running under NYC; and Gus is a great character as well.

The start of the book is a little slow as the vampire virus gets free, starting with the dead passengers on the plane, who go to their homes and kill family members and neighbours, turning them all into vampires.

The five uninjured passengers are released from hospital via a lawyer (one of the passengers) and guess what they do... (see above paragraph)

Abraham meets up with Eph, who naturally doesn’t believe him and Abraham gets arrested. In jail he meets Gus and Gus’s friend who was attacked by a vampire. He tells Gus to kill his friend. His friend is turning. Gus can’t.

Eph gets Abraham out of jail as the virus has him and everyone baffled. Only Abraham seems to have any idea of what’s going on. He tells them the story of Strigoi, The Master, and takes them to his pawn shop. In a hidden basement, he shows them proof of the vampire virus. And in the course of a week, Eph goes from healer to slayer.

And yes, they do run into Strigoi.

There are a lot of sub plots going on at the same time that all tie in near the end of book one, but there are other plots that I am sure will link in to the next book: The Fall.

A great undertaking, this book has moments of greatness and moments of bored horror. Some of the first attacks are filled with way too much detail that the killings are--yes--boring. But all that changes once the virus is fully understood; the reactions of those turning are realised and how these vampires feed is awesome.

As mentioned there is a bit too much explanation going on but the last 200+ pages fly past and before you know it, the sun is rising, the book is done and it’s time to start the day.

Looking forward to The Fall.

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