The Strain – a review

I have absolute faith in Guillermo Del Toro‘s abilities as a film director. After all he did resurrect some pretty difficult comic book stars (Hellboy & co.) and completely engaged audiences with Pan’s Labyrinth. And before I forget, yes he is directing one of my all time favourite adventure classics – The Hobbit. When my sister asked me to gethe strain - Guillermo Del Toro - Chuck Hogant a book by Chuck Hogan from Blossom’s, it did take me some time to get through to the book. ‘The Strain‘ was actually listed in Blossoms’ database under Guillermo Del Toro’s name and on checking out the book I realised Del Toro and Chuck Hogan were co-authors here. This should be something. It’s no doubt that I expected the onscreen brilliance of Del Toro to be reflected in the novel. About Chuck Hogan I had not heard much except the fact that he is having one of his books converted into a Ben Affleck movie which does say quite a bit of his skills (I rate Affleck very highly after watching Gone Baby Gone).

The book is sort of a modern retelling of the Dracula story, but the start of this novel really had me hooked. It begins with a legend of a vampire somewhere in Eastern Europe and then moves to present day New York where a plane eerily shuts down completely after landing on the JFK tarmac from Germany. It is creepy and a page turner at this point as security and airport crews try to figure out why no one is making an effort to disembark from the plane. The platform is set for a horror thriller as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tries to ascertain what’s happening here and whether this could be some terrorist biological threat. I love books that start of as scientific challenges and end up with a supernatural twist that break all rules of logic. That’s why X-Files worked and that’s why the show still remains my favourite.

The Strain progresses at a fast pace and every page reflects its share of the action from different points of view. However the central theme of the story revolves around a motley group of New Yorkers who have their own agenda in fighting this strain. I would not like to give away too much, but this I have to say, towards the end, the book did veer into cliched territory at times. But I am not going to take away any credit from the authors. The news is this book is a part of a trilogy and will then be moved to the big screen. The book does read like a vivid big screen portrayal and you can almost imagine the Xbox gaming opportunities in some of the action sequences. Del Toro and Hogan are great storytellers and credit goes to them for rising above the cliches (most of the time) that they could have so easily fallen into while writing this novel. I got a sneaky feeling that whatever cliches were in there, were inserted deliberately as a tribute to the horror genre.

The book plays like a roller-coaster ride into a nightmare thats very real and present. I rate a book by the speed with which I complete it (high marks for a quick completion) and I did finish ‘The Strain’ pretty quickly so it does rate highly on my review radar. The next book in the trilogy is called ‘The Fall‘ and ‘The Strain’ does lay the groundwork for an interesting sequel. Horror fans, Del Toro and Hogan do not disappoint. For the others, its still a great read.

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