Let me start out by saying I attempted to watch The Strain television program when the show first aired on FX back in 2014. After three episodes I deleted the entire first season and never looked back on the program again. This is one of those shows of course where people I know who have seen it either feel the same way I do or they cannot believe I gave up on the series. Upon seeing the book listed as one of the twelve books for the book club I’m apart of this year, I immediately thought Please don’t suck as bad as the television show. Please be awesome. Thankfully, I’m able to say that The Strain is my second favorite book I had the pleasure of reading for our book club this year.
The book focuses on Flight 777 going dark upon arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Immediately a weekend between father and son is put on the back burner as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather goes to investigate the epidemic the people of New York are dealing with ultimately. While the book of course focuses on new age vampire ideology, the book also focuses on family at its heart. This does not just occur with the main character, but from the opening of the book. The importance of family remains a common thread throughout the book. We are reminded that family is what keeps us going when the going gets tough, making some parts of the book harder to read than others.
On the other hand, the book is an overall easy read. This could be because in a lot of ways this book read like a film. Guil Del Toro’s presence was strongly felt in that regard. Upon finding out from a friend that he originally auctioned this idea around and it was passed over for film and television is mind-boggling. The set up is clearly there. And because the set up is so strong throughout the book, the book is a pleasure to read and makes you debate how much longer one can stay up to read just one more chapter. There are also lots of stopping points if one is too tired to finish or has to stop by the way the book is pieced together. I personally appreciated that with the insanity that is the last three months of the year. Though I will admit it made me sad to have to put down the book in the first place because I constantly wanted to know what was going to happen even with the feeling of predictability baked in at times. I yearned for confirmation.
The images within the book are definitely not for the faint of heart and here lies some slight spoilers from here on out. For instance I never need the image of a vampire defecating while feeding and/or turning another human being. To know that is common practice for these vampires is actually quite a disturbing thought. Though I suppose it really makes them big ‘ol babies in the long run who have yet to control their bodily functions. With that said though, there are some other striking images that really stayed with me throughout the book, especially one of the ending images. I refuse to spoil that one for anyone. There is a moment in the Luss homestead where the various people who have been turned are all looking back that seems beyond eerie to me. The other image that stayed with me of course is that of the wife who goes up into the attic because she hears a sound and assumes there are critters and finds her abusive husband instead. Just the thought of having to confront that situation is absolutely heartbreaking to me, as are a couple of other moments in the book as well.
Character wise we quickly begin to care for the supporting characters as much as we do some of the main characters. Though there are some characters that we are introduced to that make me wonder why the set up was so big. Some characters didn’t need as much time spent on them. Then of course there are your plot driven characters. One of my favorites of course turned out to be the character of Setrakian. Between his flashbacks, to establish just how long he has been chasing this evil, to the present day, his character was built up in such a way that I cannot imagine him passing on. Two characters I hope we learn more about ultimately in the sequels are Gus and Nora. While there is backstory on Gus, I would love some more backstory on Nora and to see how Gus handles the plague approaching. I also look forward to the development between Ephriam and Zack Goodweather, but in many ways I feel that goes without saying. Will they end up fighting this army together? Will that father/son bond grow stronger or will it unravel before the readers eyes?
Given these points, the ending of The Strain is predictable. The setup and intrigue between our heroes getting in a few hits on the master and readers discovering that a clan of vampires exist in other various parts of the world, I cannot wait to read The Fall and The Eternal Night. Something tells me they will be two of the library books I make more of a priority this upcoming year, alongside the remainder of The Dark Tower series I have yet to finish on my never ending to be read list. Regardless of a predictably factor, The Strain keeps one entertained and transports readers to another world. Granted, this is a world none of us would want to live in, but a different world nonetheless. By being able to establish this dystopian society here on Earth, the intrigue remains and the yearning to know a utopia is around the corner desired for the people stuck within The Strain, making this the perfect beginning to the trilogy.