2009 Horror Recommended books Thriller

The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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< ?php echo amazon('0007310250','The Strain’); ?> begins with a plane arriving in JFK airport, New York. The landing proceeds normally, but shortly after touch down all contact is lost. Confused and frightened the airport employees approach the plane to discover what has happened. What they discover is beyond their worst imagination….

This initial section is one of the most chilling pieces of writing I have ever read. I was genuinely scared, my heart rate racing as the story unfolded. The tension was built perfectly – just as the climax was approaching the scene would switch, leading to the  tension mounting all over again.

Unfortunately the book did not manage to maintain the level of fear throughout. Once the cause of the disaster had been identified the book lost much of its appeal to me. I won’t reveal what happens, but I’ll just say that it isn’t very likely to occur and therefore I didn’t find it scary any more. There were still moments of tension, but they were nothing compared to the first few chapters.

This book is very well written and the scientific analysis was accurate and intriguing. I found the descriptions to be very cinematic, but that isn’t surprising given the fact that Guillermo del Toro is the Oscar winning creator of Pan’s Labyrinth. I can picture this book being made into a film without the need to change anything.

One big drawback was that the source of the problem, when it was explained in detail later in the book, did not bare any relation to the events in the plane. This is just nit picking though. The Strain is an amazing book. Perfectly paced, chilling and intelligently written – a perfect choice for Halloween, (or the RIP Challenge!).




NB. This is the first book in a trilogy. It worked as a stand alone novel though, and I can’t imagine how they will make the next in the series as good as this one. I’ll be interested to find out though!!

Are you a fan of scary books?

If you’ve read it – did you think that the events on the plane were related to the rest of the book?

31 replies on “The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan”

First, as you know, I LOVE scarey books. I was raised on Stephen King, and this sounds a bit King-ish. Second, I have all kinds of admiration for the author. I was curious if he could make the transition from directing (not only is Pan’s Labrynth a masterpiece, we love Hell Boy) to writing. His movies are an amazing VISUAL feast – if he loses the ability to entertain our eyes, will he stumble? Apparently not! Isn’t the book a chunkster? This is my only reservation right now. I have had too many chunksters and am ready for something less than 400 pages!

Sandy, I’m afraid that this just scrapes into your definition of a chunkster – it is 401 pages long! It doesn’t feel like a chunsker though – the pages fly by! It is a very visual book. I am sure you will love it!

I read this a couple of months ago and agree with you that the first part was ridiculously scary and then the fear dissipated as the book went on—although some of the accounts of people suffering from the effects of what happened were chilling. Overall, I ended up having mixed feelings about the book. I think it just needed a little more polish.

I’m not sure what you mean about the events on the plane not linking up to the source of the problem. Isn’t the plane how they all got there? Is it that the plane wasn’t necessary for them to get there? Or that what the investigators found on the plane was not the kind of thing that occurred later? Or is there some point about the events on the plane that I’m forgetting? At any rate, if there was a plot hole there, I missed it.


Teresa, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

The problem I had was that everyone on the plane died together, peacefully. The rest of the book contained violent, individual deaths. How did the people on the plane die? It didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the book.

I’m glad you enjoyed it even though you felt like some of the tension drained away. I can’t disagree with you on that, though by the time that happened I was so involved with the main characters that I was really more interested in what was happening with them than I was in being scared, per se.

And you are dead on about that opening chapter, it was chilling. Given the choice between the two I would love to see a whole story written in that time period and written just like that. It was an amazing piece of writing.

I’m not sure what they’ll do with the second or third book either and despite really enjoying it I am still not sure that I am anxious to rush out and read book two. I imagine I’ll do so when the time comes, however.

Carl, My criticisms were minor really. I loved this book – you are right, the character development was excellent.

I’m sure I’ll read the rest of the trilogy too, although I’m not anxiously awaiting them as I have been with other follow up books.

The perfect start to the RIP challenge!

anothercookiecrumbles, I wouldn’t say that it is gimmicky, but it does contain a few story elements that have been very popular recently. The writing is amazing though, so I think you’d like it.

I think I’ll be reading this for the RIP challenge as well. Glad you enjoyed it, I hope I do too! I’m not that into being scared, but Stephen King never managed it so I don’t know if this book will. For some reason books rarely scare me.

Meghan, I am too scared to read a Stephen King book! I am tempted to try one sometime soon, as I think that less things scare me now I’m older. I’d be interested to hear if this one manages to frighten you at all.

rhapsodyinbooks, perhaps it is good that it didn’t keep the scariness up – I may not have been able to cope with the stress!

I love scary books, although I haven’t read any for a while, now – I think Val McDermid was the last (does she count as scary?). I’ve been waiting for your review of this having spied it on your TBR pile and being a Del Toro fan. Your review makes it sund highly appealing.

Intrigued by your comment on the disconnectedness of the opening from the rest of the plot. That’s a very filmic device – a wonderful, suspenseful, frightening opening that dissipates into something that actually bears no relation to it. Two classic examples to check out (I’m sure people will have hundreds more) are The White Room and Mute Witness.

Dan, I haven’t read any Val McDermid, so not sure if she is scary. Probably!

I’m not very knowledgeable about films, so I’ll take your word for it. The whole book is very filmic, so it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve used that sort of devise.

I haven’t read too much about this one thus far, but your review does make it sound intriguing. I generally shy away from “horror” books, I guess it’s just one of my prejudices, but sometimes you do want a spooky read. How was the writing? Was it at all literary, or mostly just serviceable, in order to get you from point A to point B?

Steph, The writing was a very high quality. I’m not sure you’d call it literary, as I don’t think there were symbols buried beneath the text, but it was intelligent. The science was accurate and I did learn a bit about biology. If you are after a spooky book then this is a great choice.

When picking up my RIP books from the library I saw this one on display at the counter. I thought about checking it out– looked like a good addition to my RIP list. Now I wish I did!


I just finished the book and saw your link on the RIP reviews blog. I definitely agree that the first part of the book was so delightfully creepy. And yeah, it did kinda lag a bit after. But what intrigued me was that band of vampire vampire-hunters that were introduced towards the end of the book. I’m hoping there’ll be more of them in the next book!

olduvai. Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

I am interested to find out what happens in the next book, but I struggle to see how it is going to make it into a trilogy. I hope it is as creepy as the first section in the Strain.

I read The Strain as my first book in the R.I.P. Challenge – I really liked it, but wanted to know more about what actually happened on the plane as well … how did he get alllll those people? Great review 🙂


justkatie, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I don’t think it is possible for a vampire to kill lots of people at the same time – peacefully. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about them, but it didn’t add up for me.

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