A settling peace envelops you with a body cradling, feel of refuge. It’s sensual and leaves your now prickled skin energized but content. It’s resounding with a need for sleep, it’s unknotting movement in your muscles. Most of all, it’s silence; empty, free of stress, silence. It’s the kind that invades your mind in the pause after not yet realizing you’ve completed something challenging, much like writing a book or finishing a marathon. This peace is followed with your regarding of black walls. Black walls that move till the end of time in every direction to horizons unknown. Then there’s the smell; awakening and entrancing to your senses.
Only, the smell is not one that is delightful. It’s the feverish smell of rotting corpse and stagnant fluids. The black walls are those of a 777 Boeing aircraft; huge, but not nearly till the end of time, huge. The invading silence in your mind is not of accomplishment but of rape. The resounding need for sleep and unknotting of your muscles is death quickly creeping up on you. Finally, the settling peace is not body cradling and it certainly isn’t a feel of refuge. It’s something darker than a long night’s unrest. What is before you is the scene of hundreds of undead passengers staring at you with full of life, lifeless eyes. They stand steadily, come hither, and fear sets in.
Luckily, you aren’t really here. You are somewhere genuinely safe reading here. What is here? Here is the riveting and nerve twanging novel created by the combined minds of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain. When an airport houses a flight of recently turned, contagious vampires and a zombie overlord with a mind to infect, the streets of Manhattan become a playground for chaos. A CDC agent, a computer hacker, an exterminator, and a Holocaust surviving, vampire slayer soon find themselves to be the last line of defense between the world and the end of the world. It is the only thing the reader can do but grip dearly to these characters’ lives as the pages go on to be evermore tumultuous to his or hers emotions. In short, it is absolutely terrifying and terrifyingly absolute with its purpose to make you turn the pages with eyes firmly shut.
Don’t let this stop you though since The Strain holds more for the reader looking for thought stimulating ideals that will either shed light on or make you struggle with your own moral compass than those looking for a horror flick. Del Toro and Hogan create unmaneuverable circumstances where their characters and readers alike must share in hackneyed, but unspeakable, quarrels of euthanasia. The two authors make cliché the new black with themes incorporating wedges of intense darkness, tear jerking moments, and insomnious death. You will question the dependability of your society, baffle with the idea of being dead, and learn more about the innards of yourself than imagined being one of a few novels that actually dig so deep into the sporadic and guarded human mind and heart.
What is truly fulfilling is a rare situation where the exterminator decides to spare those that are infected and search for a cure while the CDC agent loses hope on healing the human race and decides to rid the city of vampires. This change of identity becomes a rewarding read which has left me thinking about my own identity and how the world around me, when it changes, will affect myself. The novel continues to make the reader think this way where they will be forced to put down the book several times just to grapple with what their own interpretations and opinions are on the themes expressed.
Alternatively from writing, David Guillermo had conveyed his creativity in filmography before The Strain. Being the writer and director of several movies such as Pacific Rim, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro knew the risks and futility of converting what can easily be seen on screen in writing and projected into thousands of people’s minds. His style of writing successfully paints a vivid picture of his story in a way where a reader does not even notice they are reading. The second it takes for readers to switch written words into portraits is completely eliminated when words glide so easily into thoughts that reading a Guillermo Del Toro is like mindlessly watching television.
The Strain is the summoning of Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Richard Matheson, and Bram Stoker together for one purpose; to write a novelty epic in which you will revisit the days of under the bed monsters and moving shadows in the dark. There is no where to be protected other than being utterly lost in the pages of this book. Buy it at your local bookstore and begin to read for the experience is not only doubtlessly satisfying but surely worthwhile. The moral roads traveled within the pages are precisely ones you have not met before. After reading The Strain, if you were not before, you will find yourself thirsty for more in your own vampiric way.
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
William Morrow and Company
June 2, 2009