“Those of us who are still alive but have not joined the system…
we have become the anomaly… We are the vermin.”
– The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The Strain trilogy is arguably the biggest blockbuster vampire saga to hit the shelves in decades – it’s audaciously plotted, saturated with nightmarish concepts and imagery, stunningly multi-layered, and relentlessly paced. It is, ultimately, existential and spiritual horror of the highest order. This isn’t just some clichéd grand scale end-of-the-world thriller with vampires; del Toro and Hogan have woven into the narrative tapestry provocative threads dealing with Christian mythology, Algonquian and Mesopotamian folklore, Darwinian theory applied to the Vampire genus, etc.
There are only a handful of people left who have the courage – and arcane knowledge – to fight back… but can a few humans really take back an entire planet ruled by a race of predatory monsters?
• “His new circulatory system was complete, his arteries now delivering sustenance to the chambers of his torso. His digestive system had become simplified, waste departing his body through one single hole. His flesh had become entirely hairless and glass-smooth. His extended middle fingers were thickened, talon-like digits with stone-hard nails, while the rest of his fingernails had molted away, as unnecessary to his current state as hair and genitals. His eyes were all pupil, save for a red ring that eclipsed the human white. He perceived heat in grayscale, and his auditory function – an interior organ, distinct from the useless cartilage clinging to the sides of his smooth head – was greatly enhanced: he could hear the insects squirming in the dirt walls…”
• “The soft cartilage of her nose and ears had collapsed into mere vestigial lumps. Loose, ragged flesh hung from her neck, and an incipient, crimson wattle, undulating when she turned her head.”
But it’s the “human element” that powers this story. The soul-crushing loneliness and existential angst that Ephraim Goodweather, former director of the New York office of the Centers for Disease Control, feels when his wife is turned and his young son is abducted is simply heartrending. When he finds out that his son is living inside of the Master’s stronghold at Belvedere Castle in Central Park, he vows to get his son back – no matter the cost.
And while some spineless humans decide to work with the vampires for their own personal gain, others like New York City exterminator Vasily Fet and Mexican gangbanger Augustin “Gus” Elizade become unlikely heroes in humankind’s fight for survival…
The bottom line is this: del Toro and Hogan’s Strain trilogy is addictively entertaining, wildly innovative vampire fiction that will appeal to science fiction, horror, and apocalyptic fiction fans alike. Mark my words: The Strain trilogy will go down as one of the best vampire epics ever written.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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