three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
42-Sept-Oct-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-The StrainAcclaimed director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) and thriller veteran Chuck Hogan (The Prince of Thieves, The Blood Artists) team up for The Strain, the first in a planned vampire trilogy.

The Story: September 2010. A Boeing 777 lands at JFK. Minutes later, the plane goes dark. Once inside, horrified rescuers find only four survivors among a cabin full of dead passengers. Were they the victims of a new, virulent plague? Or did they succumb to something much more sinister? Treated at first as a biological threat by the CDC's Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of the agency's rapid-response team, the incident soon morphs into a battle for New York City-and every life on the planet. Only Goodweather and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian (paging Dr. Van Helsing ...), who recognizes the threat from decades before, can stop the spread of this new-and deadliest-strain.
William Morrow. 416 pages. $26.99. ISBN: 9780061558238

Newsweek 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The best parts of The Strain are the best part of any vampire story-it's a fairy tale for adults. ... The Strain is no Salem's Lot, surely the greatest modern vampire tale, but it's good enough to make us break that vow to swear off vampire stories." Malcolm Jones

Salon 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Strain is shamelessly, gleefully cheesy, like one of those sneakily potent cocktails that includes a dash of everything in the bar. ... [The novel] is part The Andromeda Strain, part Night of the Living Dead, and all B-movie, but despite it air of pastiche, it succeeds on the force of sheer enthusiasm." Laura Miller

Times (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"An arresting start for a topical new take on one of the oldest themes in Hollywood movie-making, and that is surely where The Strain is headed, not least because it comes from two blockbuster merchants. ... The crossfertilisation between myth, science and fantasy makes The Strain a rattling piece of escapism, even if the climax does have a bit too much blockbuster predictability." Peter Millar

Entertainment Weekly 2 of 5 Stars
"It's hard to believe [del Toro] found time for such an ambitious project-and after reading the book, it seems clear he didn't. ... What's missing in The Strain is the idiosyncratic artistry and the alchemical fusion of high and low pop that made Pan's Labyrinth so special." Jeff Jensen

St. Petersburg Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"A host of two-dimensional characters amble 'onscreen' in Vampires Gone Wild vignettes that serve only to show what happens in jail, in suburbia, even, gasp, in tony Bronxville, as the bloodsuckers reign. ... The sequels to The Strain, which are slated to appear in 2010 and 2011, have much ground to make up if the trilogy as a whole is to fulfill the authors' promise of a new take on vampire legend, lore and lit." James Reese

Critical Summary

In The Strain, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, each successful in his own right, try to catch lightning in a bottle with a contemporary update of the well-worn vampire tale. While the authors don't really break any new ground here (though they do work in a couple of clever nods to the godfather of vampire stories, Bram Stoker), the novel is an honest play for an audience as insatiable-even after Stephenie Meyer, Elizabeth Kostova, and a host of others-for vampire tales as the vampires themselves are for a little hemoglobin pick-me-up. Are del Toro and Hogan capitalizing on a brand? Maybe. No surprise that there's a video tie-in supporting the book, a trailer reminding us that we haven't seen the last of The Strain, either on the page or (eventually, one can assume) in theaters.