Guy keeps the heart of a vampire he killed as a pet in his basement armory. He’s plenty crazy. But that’s okay. I’m a little crazy too.

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1)
Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan | 2009 | 403 Pages


The Plot

The world is ending thanks to an evil plot that teams up an ancient monster with a human made of money and a hell of a lot of government bribes. Trying to stop them? The coolest old man ever, a badass pest control worker, an ex-con, and some stooges from the CDC who are probably supposed to be the main characters, but who need to shut up and let the Fet & Set bro-team do their thing.

It’s vampires combined with zombies combined with a post-apocalyptic plague narrative all underneath the umbrella of a fabricated mythology that is so del Toro it hurts.


I’m a rabid Guillermo del Toro fan, so the fact that this book has been out for seven years and I just now read it is really strange. Seriously. Pacific Rim is my #1 all time guilty pleasure and Pan’s Labyrinth is stunning in every imaginable way. I even liked Crimson Peak.

I’ve been watching the FX series of these books since it came out two years ago, and while it is campy and dumb at (many) points, I tune in every week like clockwork. Unfortunately, I think the books might ruin the show for me. Not because I will inevitably finish the trilogy before the series ends, but because the books eliminate nearly every issue I have with the television show, making it actually worse. All the things that could have been! Many plot holes have evaporated, the character focus makes more sense, and the narrative choices are far, far more logical. The book also has a lot less emotional pandering. And I hate emotional pandering.

So your top reasons to read this book are basically…

  1. It’s a crazy universe from the mind of a crazy creative man
  2. It mixes this weird mythology with modern drama, creating an interesting blend of genres
  3. It makes way more sense than the television show
  4. Fet & Set are ~*All Stars*~

    Best Friends (from FX)


It’s still goofy as hell and has quite a bit of campy, if not cringy, dialog. And while yes, it removes some of the television program’s inconsistencies, plot holes, and pandering moments, it still has scenes that make you go “huh?”

Also the kid. I hate that child in all mediums. I won’t even speak his name. Even if all other grievances evaporated he is so awful that I could never get this book a perfect rating score with him in it.

Should You Read This?

Do you want to read about crazy vampires mixed with Nazis, government conspiracies, ancient powers, and a guy who whacks stuff in the face with a piece of rebar? Are you a fan of campy horror stories and are looking for something with that bizarro del Toro vibe? Are you just really upset that Pacific Rim 2 isn’t out yet, and that del Toro has relegated himself to a producer role and even though giant robots have nothing to do with this story you just love that weird guy’s imagination so much?

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. You get my point. It’s weird monster stuff for people who like weird monster stuff.

Anyway. If you’ve seen the show… this is better. I won’t spoil major differences but so far, after just one book, there are already several. I heard they continue to diverge even more, so the novels won’t necessarily spoil the series either.

If vampire/zombie hybrid worm virus monsters aren’t really your thing though? This is probably not the book for you. You can’t really avoid them. It’s a plague after all!