The Strain

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For other uses, see The Strain (disambiguation).
The Strain
2009 first edition hardback cover
Country United States
Language English
Genre Horror novel
Publisher William Morrow
Publication date
June 2, 2009
Media type Print, audio
Pages 401
ISBN 0061558230
Followed by The Fall

The Strain is a 2009 vampire horror novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It is the first installment in The Strain Trilogy, and was followed by The Fall (2010) and The Night Eternal (2011).

Del Toro first envisioned the story line as a television series, but was unable to find a buyer for the series.[1] An agent then suggested turning the story into a series of books with writer Chuck Hogan.[1] A television adaptation is currently airing on FX.[when?]

Plot Summary[edit]

A Boeing 777 arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport and is taxiing its way across the tarmac when it suddenly stops. All window shades are closed except one, the lights are out, and communication channels have gone silent. An alert is sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, head of the CDC's Canary Project, a rapid-response team that handles biological threats, is sent to investigate. Goodweather and Dr. Nora Martinez board the plane, finding everyone except four people dead.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, former history professor and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian knows something terrible has happened and that an unnatural war is brewing. So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected the passengers begins spilling out onto New York City's streets. Dr. Goodweather, who is joined by Setrakian and a small band of fighters, desperately tries to stop the contagion to save the city, and also his wife and son.



In Romania, the young Abraham Setrakian's grandmother tells him a fairy tale of Jusef Sardu, a Polish nobleman who suffered from gigantism, and was brought to Romania by his father on an expedition to hunt wolves (the symbol of their house). The entire hunting party mysteriously died or disappeared, except for Sardu, who returned to his family home in Poland but was rarely seen by the townspeople, and eventually became the village bogeyman.

Ten years later, the Setrakian family are forced to flee their home by the Nazi occupation.

Part One[edit]


Dr. Ephraim Goodweather[edit]

Head of the CDC's rapid-response team, the Canary Project, Eph is a newly divorced father attempting to balance the custody battle over his son Zack with his duties as an epidemiologist. He and his Canary team are first-responders to the Boeing 767 disaster, and are tasked with solving the mystery of the mass casualty. Unable to reconcile the symptoms of the newly infected airline passengers with standard disease pathology, Eph is convinced of the reality of vampires by Abraham Setrakian. Discredited at the CDC by the vampires' human conspirators, Dr. Goodweather finds himself a fugitive from both the human authorities and the undead. The need to protect his son drives Eph's every action.

Dr. Nora Martinez[edit]

A skilled epidemiologist, Nora is second in command of the Canary Project. She and Eph have been attempting an office romance with mixed success, complicated by their high-stress medical careers and Goodweather's lingering melancholy over his looming divorce. Nora quickly dedicates herself to uncovering the vampire conspiracy, and is determined not to be relegated to doing the "woman's work."

Professor Abraham Setrakian[edit]

As an Armenian Jew who escaped the Treblinka extermination camp during the Second World War, Setrakian became aware of, then unwittingly tied to the Master as a young artisan during his time at the camp. He then dedicated his life to hunting down the Vampiric scourge for more than six decades. Wielding an ancient silver sword with hands nearly crippled from his first encounter with the Master, Setrakian is an expert on vampire biology and destruction, and recruits Eph and Nora to his cause. His determination and will are strong, but his weak heart has become an obstacle to his lifelong quest.

The Master[edit]

As revealed in the trilogy's conclusion, the Master is one of the seven vampire propagators born from the blood of the fallen angel Ozryel. Known as the archangel of death, Ozryel became consumed by bloodlust after being sent to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness before he was punished with his body severed into seven pieces. Ozryel's throat, from which the Master was spawned, was placed somewhere in the Thousand Islands at Lake Ontario. Though he held a truce with the other "Ancient Ones", the Master intended to take over human civilization. By the time of his arrival in New York, having spent nearly a millennia in Europe in various host bodies, the Master inhabited the body of Jusef Sardu, a 19th-century Romanian nobleman afflicted with gigantism who was a "gentle giant" in life. Through the cooperation of Eldritch Palmer, promising the dying billionaire immortality, the Master has gained unlimited financial and political power to ensure the commencement of his "night eternal" by causing a nuclear winter that allows only a few hours of sunlight per day. By the events of The Night Eternal, the Master transferred himself into the body of Gabriel Bolivar, a rock star who was among his initial victims when he arrived in New York. The Master plots to condition Dr. Ephraim Goodweather's son Zack to be his next host. But once the location of Ozryel's throat is revealed, and after the Master's son Mr. Quinlan brings the ashes of the Ancient Ones there, the resistance group destroys the island. The Master's strain is eradicated as a reconstituted Ozryel is allowed to return to Heaven.

Among the Master's undead acolytes is Thomas Eichhorst, a former Nazi commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp that Setrakian was held at.

Vasiliy Fet[edit]

An exterminator of Ukrainian ancestry working for the New York City Bureau of Pest Control, Fet's occupation soon leads to his discovery of the truth about vampires while working in a derelict building. Reaching Eph through a professional connection at the CDC, the exterminator lends both his skills as a vermin hunter and his powerful physique to Setrakian and Goodweather's cause. Loyal and unwaveringly brave, he becomes a surrogate son to the old professor.

Augustin Elizalde[edit]

A Mexican gang member fresh out of prison, Gus is attacked by a newly turned vampire on the streets of Times Square and is subsequently arrested by the police after throwing the creature under a truck. Learning the truth about vampires from a temporarily incarcerated Setrakian, Gus escapes confinement and finds himself to be a natural vampire slayer on the streets of his tenement neighborhood. Recruited by the other Ancients as a "day hunter" against the Master's exponentially spreading hordes, Gus assembles a rag-tag band of fighters, including aged luchador Angel and silver-toothed gangster Alfonso Creem.

In the television adaption, Gus's motives are altered to having played an unknowing role in the Master's arrival in New York with the promise of his criminal record erased and his mother not be deported. But after witnessing his mother and brother turned into vampires, Gus became a vampire hunter.

Eldritch Palmer[edit]

One of the richest men in the world, Eldritch Palmer craves the one thing that all his money cannot buy: immortality. The elderly tycoon's fear of death leads him to make a pact with the Master, trading his vast fortune, political influence, and the fate of the human race in exchange for an undead place at the vampire king's side. (His name is an in-joke reference to the 1965 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick)[citation needed].

Dr. Everett Barnes[edit]

As the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, Barnes is Eph and Nora's direct superior. Skilled in the politics and media aspects of the medical industry, he is a shrewd bureaucrat who carefully maintains a quaint, "country doctor" image. His insistence upon wearing a Navy style Public Health Service uniform, combined with his white goatee, make him resemble a combat-decorated Colonel Sanders (although, his dialogue makes him sound like a cross between Fred Dalton Thompson and C. Everett Koop).

Kelly Goodweather[edit]

Eph's estranged wife and current opponent in a drawn-out custody battle over their only son, Kelly is a public school teacher and fiercely protective mother, pulling no punches in her attempt to paint her husband as the less suitable parent. Eph constantly worries about the growing influence of her milquetoast live-in boyfriend, Matt, on their son Zack. But when the Master begins sending out his followers, Kelly ends up becoming infected and becoming a means for the Master to track down Goodweather and the resistance.

Mr. Quinlan[edit]

Known as "the Born", Mr. Quinlan is a rare human/vampire hybrid and the son of the Master who is the Ancients' chief hunter and bodyguard. He is efficient and loyal, recruiting Gus Elizalde to help him and his squad in their mission to kill his father. Mr Quinlan is disgusted by his father's actions, and is determined to stop him at all costs.



The Times Literary Supplement carried a review by Peter Millar dated 23 May 2009. The review praises the novel's "arresting start" and frequently alludes to Guillermo del Toro's career as a film director by comparing the novel to a Hollywood movie. The implication may be that del Toro intends to direct the film version of the novel. The review closes by calling The Strain a "rattling piece of escapism" with a "predictable" blockbuster ending.[2] Xan Brooks of The Guardian calls the novel "a pulpy, apocalyptic fable" and a "fast-paced, high-concept outing that seems tailor-made for either a big-screen adaptation or - as Hogan has enthused - 'a long-form, cable-type TV series'. And yet at the same time this opening salvo also looks to the past; doffing its cap to an illustrious ancestor."[3] He calls the vampires "mindless, undead leeches."

Zack Handlen, writing for The A.V. Club, was less enthusiastic, concluding that

"the result is a predictable but generally engaging thriller. The chapters come in short bursts, mimicking the editing of a big-budget epic. It makes for a fast read, but the rapid-fire parade of characters means that few make an impact. The world-building works best when it's distracting from cliché, instead of trying to inspire honest emotion. Del Toro fans will recognize certain familiar tropes — the quest for immortality, the vampiric physiognomy, and the ever-popular things in jars — but those motifs are muted on the page."[4]

Similarly, Deirdre Crimmins described the novel as "an imperfect vampire book" marred by "some very awkwardly worded phrases and poorly described scenarios scattered throughout the book" and some "terribly clichéd" characters.[5] Jeff Jensen, reviewing The Strain for Entertainment Weekly, wished for more evidence of del Toro's participation, saying, "It's hard to believe he found time for such an ambitious project — and after reading the book, it seems clear he didn't. ... The Strain is a competently constructed piece of entertainment, and I'll give it bonus points for shaking up some vampire clichés. ... The novel could have used a little less Hogan and little more del Toro."[6]


Comic books[edit]

In 2011 production began on a comic book adaptation of the book trilogy with Dark Horse Comics.[7] Writer David Lapham and artist Mike Huddleston were announced as working on the project,[8] with the series as a whole spanning an estimated 24 issues.[9] The first issue of The Strain was released in November 2011 to mostly positive reviews.[10][11]


  • The Strain Volume 1 TPB - Collects issues #1-#6.
  • The Strain Volume 2 TPB - Collects issues #7-#11.
  • The Strain Volume 3: The Fall TPB - Collects issues #1-#4.
  • The Strain Volume 4: The Fall TPB - Collects issues #5-#9.
  • The Strain Book One HC - Collects issues #1-#11.
  • The Strain Book Two: The Fall HC - Collects issues #1-#9.
  • The Strain Volume 5: The Night Eternal TPB - Collects issues #1-#6.

Television series[edit]

In 2012 it was announced that FX had ordered a pilot episode of The Strain with the intention of creating a limited television series based on the books.[12] Before writing the book trilogy, del Toro had initially planned the books as a television series and stated that if picked up, the series would span three to five seasons.[1][13] He also commented that he and Hogan would co-write the script for the pilot episode and that as of November 2012 he had already begun casting.[14] Del Toro further commented that he planned to also direct the pilot episode, with a full season airing in 2014 if the show was picked up.[14] It was later announced that a second full season was ordered by FX to air in 2015.


  1. ^ a b c "‘The Strain’ Drama From Guillermo Del Toro And Carlton Cuse Gets Pilot Order At FX". Deadline. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Millar, Peter (23/05/09). "Thriller: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan". Times Literary Supplement. United Kingdom: The Times. Retrieved 05/08/09.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ Brooks, Xan (12 June 2009). "Fangs ain't what they used to be: Dracula gets a modern makeover in a filmic chiller". The Guardian. United Kingdom: The Guardian. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ Handlen, Zack (June 18, 2009). "The Strain". The A.V. Club. The Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  5. ^ Crimmins, Deirdre (2009). "The New, Improved Undead". Open Letters Monthly. Boston, MA: Open Letters LLC. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ Jensen, Jeff (May 27, 2009). "The Strain (2009)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ "New Dark Horse Comics by Guillermo del Toro, Tom Morello, P.C. Cast Comic-Con". Comics Alliance. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "Comic-Con 2011: Guillermo del Toro, Tom Morello, P.C. Cast Doing Dark Horse Comics This Fall". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Guillermo del Toro Takes on Comic Book Adaption of Vampire Sci-Fi Trilogy". Reelz. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Review: ‘The Strain’ #1 – 4". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Review: The Strain #1". Crave Online. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  12. ^ "FX’s ‘The Bridge’ Picked Up To Series". Deadline. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  13. ^ "'Hobbit' Director Guillermo Del Toro Talks Vampire Novel 'The Strain'". MTV. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Guillermo del Toro Talks FX Series THE STRAIN; Says Casting Has Begun for the Pilot, Which They’ll Shoot Next Year". Collider. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 

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