The Strain

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The Strain
StrainDelToroHoganCover.jpg
2009 first edition hardback cover
Author
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 premiered on FX in 2014 and concluded in 2017.

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.

Synopsis[edit]

In New York City, a Boeing 777 arriving at JFK International Airport "goes dark" shortly after touching down. Unable to establish contact with anyone inside, airport authorities force open the airplane and discover the passengers and crew dead. When authorities suspect a possible contagion, CDC official Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather is called away from his weekend visitation with his son, Zachary, to investigate. Eph and Dr. Nora Martinez, his colleague and former lover, find no signs of disease on the bodies. A large coffin filled with soil, missing from the plane's manifest, is found in the cargo hold.

Eph finds four survivors aboard the plane: computer programmer Ansel Arbour, attorney Joan Luss, rock star Gabriel Bolivar, and pilot Doyle Redfern. The CDC releases the passengers over Eph's objections when Luss threatens legal action, though Redfern voluntarily stays. Meanwhile, during a total solar eclipse over New York, the creature stowed aboard the plane manages to escape the airport and gain transport into the city. Abraham Setrakian, an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem, realizes what is happening and seeks out Eph and Nora and he urges them to immediately destroy the victims' bodies. Setrakian is arrested for trying to gain access to the morgue.

Over the next 24 hours, the four "survivors" gradually transform into vampires, while many of the "dead" passengers disappear from the morgue and return home to their families, spreading the vampire infection. Eph kills Redfern in self-defense and realizes that Setrakian's earlier warnings were true. Desperate to know what is going on, Eph bails Setrakian out of jail. Meanwhile, Gus Elizalde, a man who was paid by an anonymous man to unwittingly drive the coffin into Manhattan, kills a vampire in Times Square and is arrested, sharing his cell with Setrakian. Gus is urged by Setrakian to kill his friend Felix, who was bitten and infected by the vampire.

Setrakian reveals to Eph and Nora that vampires (Strigoi) are real, and that one of the seven original "Ancients" has come to America to infect its populace. Setrakian has already calculated that the New York infection will overtake the world in six months. He also warns that the seventh Ancient, "the Master," is being aided by a human accomplice. That same day, exterminator Vasily Fet visits a house in Tribeca to capture a rat. Because of similar cases, Fet suspects that something below ground is driving the rat population to the surface.

Following Setrakian's advice, Eph and Nora begin tracking down and dispatching the vampirized passengers. However, the trio are framed for Redfern's murder and forced to flee CDC headquarters. Setrakian explains they have one remaining course of action: because the vampires operate as part of a hive mind, they can contain the infection by destroying the Master. Eph goes to warn Zach and his ex-wife, Kelly, to leave New York; however, Kelly's jealous boyfriend Matt persuades her to ignore Eph's advice and wait out the crisis.

Eph finds evidence linking Eldritch Palmer, a wealthy investment banker, to the CDC. Setrakian, who has had past dealings with Palmer, deduces that Palmer is aiding the Master in exchange for immortality. After dispatching one of the "survivors," the trio are contacted by Fet. When they join forces, Fet quickly absorbs Setrakian's revelation about vampires and says he has found the Master's likely hiding place beneath World Trade Center site.

The Master confronts Eph and claims to have turned Kelly and Zach. Eph rushes to Kelly's house in Queens, where he kills a now-vampiric Matt. Zach appears unharmed, but Kelly is missing. Eph, Setrakian, and Fet enter the Master's lair and kill dozens of new vampires, driving the Master through an escape tunnel to Gabriel Bolivar's mansion. They drive him to the roof, where he survives being scorched by sunlight before escaping. Setrakian admits that the Master has powers unlike any other vampire and that they now have no way to stop the plague from overtaking Manhattan.

While Gus is being transported out of the city in a police van, Felix turns and attacks the other prisoners. Gus escapes, killing Felix. When he runs home, he finds that his brother and mother have been turned. Gus emerges onto the street and fights several newly turned vampires, until a group of fully mature vampires appear and kill the new ones with specialized weapons. These vampire-hunters abduct Gus and take him to an abandoned mine outside Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the three New World Ancients prepare their response to the Master's "incursion." They decide Gus, capable of moving about in daylight, will be conscripted as a vampire killer.

Returning to Kelly's home, Eph encounters one final horror: Kelly, now a vampire, is driven by a primal need to find and infect her son. Eph drives her away, knowing that she will never stop pursuing Zach unless she is destroyed. With Zach's help, Eph posts proof of the vampire plague online, and, for the first time in years - as he has been a recovering alcoholic - pours himself a drink.

Characters[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 the first-response team to the Boeing 767 disaster, and are tasked with solving the mystery of the mass casualties. 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, Eph finds himself a fugitive from both the human authorities and the undead. The need to protect his son drives Eph's every action.

In the television series, he is played by Corey Stoll.

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."

In the television series, she is played by Mía Maestro.

Professor Abraham Setrakian[edit]

A Romanian Jew (partly of Armenian descent), Setrakian was held in the Treblinka extermination camp during the Second World War, where he became aware of the Master feeding on the weak and sickly inmates. His first attempt to stop the Master was a failure, leaving him with multiple fractures in his hands that never healed properly. After escaping from the camp, he dedicated his life to hunting down the vampiric scourge for more than six decades. Originally a professor of East European literature and mythology at the University of Vienna, Setrakian was dismissed and forced to go into hiding after refusing to help Eldritch Palmer locate the Master. Wielding an ancient silver sword with his nearly crippled hands, 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.

In the television series, he is played by David Bradley, and by Jim Watson as a young man.

The Master[edit]

One of the seven original "Ancients," the propagators of the vampire race, the Master scorns the truce between the six others and intends to eliminate their strains and subjugate the entire human race. By the time of his arrival in New York, having spent nearly a millennium in Europe in various host bodies, the Master currently inhabits the body of Jusef Sardu, a 19th-century Polish nobleman afflicted with gigantism. Through the cooperation of Eldritch Palmer, promising the dying billionaire immortality, the Master has gained unlimited financial and political power to ensure the success of his plan.

In the television series, he is initially played by Robert Maillet, and later by Jack Kesy, he is voiced throughout the series by Robin Atkin Downes.

Thomas Eichorst[edit]

The Master's chief facilitator. He was a Nazi SS officer at a concentration camp whom the Master turned into a Strigoi, a Renfield type character but immortal. He killed Setrakian's wife in the past and keeps her immortal heart beating on his bookshelf.

In the television series, he is played by Richard Sammel.

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.

In the television series, he is played by Kevin Durand.

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. He is recruited by the three American Ancients as a "day hunter" against the Master's exponentially spreading hordes.

Gus shares his last name with makeup and special effects artist Mike Elizalde, who has frequently collaborated with Guillermo del Toro, including on del Toro's films Blade II, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

In the television series, he is played by Miguel Gómez.

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 Nebula Prize nominated novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick)[citation needed].

In the television series, he is played by Jonathan Hyde.

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." His response to the Boeing 767 crisis makes clear he is a politician first and a doctor second, more concerned with maintaining public order and the CDC's reputation than acknowledging the growing number of anomalies that point to something more sinister taking place.

In the television series, he is played by Daniel Kash.

Jim Kent[edit]

Eph and Nora's colleague, and the chief liaison between the Canary Project and the rest of the CDC. Well-meaning, he has nonetheless sold his services to Eldritch Palmer, who has recruited Kent as a spy under the guise of being concerned about any impending health crisis. Kent witnesses the transformation of Captain Redfern in the basement of the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. In order to avoid news of the vampire infestation leaking out prematurely, Palmer has Kent and Gus retrieve the body of Captain Redfern and dispose of it. He is attacked during a gas station battle and begins transforming into a vampire. His life is subsequently ended after he begs Eph and Nora to kill him but they cannot.

In the television series, he is played by Sean Astin.

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.

In the television series, she is played by Natalie Brown.

Mr. Quinlan[edit]

Known as "the Born", Mr. Quinlan is a rare human/vampire hybrid. The son of the Master who is now 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.

In the television series, Mr. Quinlan was introduced in the fifth episode of Season 2, and is played by Rupert Penry-Jones.

Reception[edit]

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]

Adaptations[edit]

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]

Issues[edit]

Story Arc Issue Release Date Trade Paperback Collection Hardcover Collection
The Strain 1 December 14, 2011 The Strain — Volume 1
October 15, 2012
ISBN 978-1616550325
The Strain — Book One
July 9, 2014
ISBN 978-1616555481
2 January 11, 2012
3 February 8, 2012
4 March 14, 2012
5 June 13, 2012
6 July 11, 2012
7 August 8, 2012 The Strain — Volume 2
June 5, 2013
ISBN 9781616551568
8 September 12, 2012
9 December 12, 2012
10 January 9, 2013
11 February 13, 2013
The Strain:
The Fall
1 July 17, 2013 The Strain — Volume 3:
The Fall
February 5, 2014
ISBN 978-1616553333
The Strain — Book Two:
The Fall
April 22, 2015
ISBN 978-1616558369
2 August 21, 2013
3 September 18, 2013
4 October 16, 2013
5 November 20, 2013 The Strain — Volume 4:
The Fall
July 2, 2014
ISBN 978-1616554491
6 December 18, 2013
7 January 15, 2014
8 February 19, 2014
9 March 19, 2014
The Strain:
The Night Eternal
1 August 20, 2014 The Strain — Volume 5:
The Night Eternal
May 6, 2015
ISBN 978-1616556389
The Strain—Book Three

The Night Eternal

May 25, 2016

ISBN 978-1-61655-977-9

2 September 17, 2014
3 October 15, 2014
4 November 19, 2014
5 January 21, 2015
6 February 18, 2015
7 March 18, 2015 The Strain — Volume 6:
The Night Eternal
December 2, 2015
ISBN 978-1616557874
8 April 15, 2015
9 May 20, 2015
10 June 17, 2015
11 July 15, 2015
12 August 19, 2015

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. Following the fourth episode of season 2, FX renewed the series for a third season, after which the creators announced they hope it will last for a total of 5 seasons. A fourth and final season was announced by FX on September 27, 2016 and it set for a Summer 2017 date.[15]

References[edit]

  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 May 2009). "Thriller: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan". Times Literary Supplement. United Kingdom: The Times. Retrieved 5 August 2009. 
  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. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. 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. ^ [February 2013 "FX's 'The Bridge' Picked Up To Series"] Check |url= value (help). 
  13. ^ [February 2013 "'Hobbit' Director Guillermo Del Toro Talks Vampire Novel 'The Strain'"] Check |url= value (help). 
  14. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (13 November 2012). "Guillermo del Toro Talks FX Series THE STRAIN; Says Casting Has Begun for the Pilot, Which They'll Shoot Next Year". Collider.com. Retrieved February 2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (September 27, 2016). "'The Strain' Renewed for Fourth and Final Season at FX". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2016. 

15. FX Renews 'The Strain' for Third Season. The Hollywood Reporter Retrieved 7 August 2015.

16. 'The Strain': Carlton Cuse, Guillermo del Toro Reveal Five-Season Plan. The Hollywood Reporter Retrieved 7 August 2015.

External links[edit]