My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I might as well reveal that I read all three books in this trilogy, back to back, very quickly, in the last weeks of April 2015. I rarely read a trilogy of novels like that. It’s not that I found the Strain Trilogy to be a contemporary horror classic, or other superlatives. Not quite. The narrative plods quite a bit here and there, and goes off into soap opera land when the author(s) need to fill up pages. However, the elements that really sell this trilogy are there in abundance.
For one thing, it’s a very bleak story. Humans don’t come off as winners in this trilogy. They are almost the antithesis of admirable. Major players are petulant, petty, traitorous, addicted and selfish. You know, like real human beings are all the time. I liked that even the most nobly motivated characters (Abraham Setrakian and Vasily Fett) have their dark sides. It reads well. I like that humanity not only doesn’t “Win” in a classic sense, but at least they avoid losing, you know, kind of.. I’m trying hard to use spoilers, so bear with me.
As you already know, this is a trilogy of Vampire novels with a distinctly supernatural/religious thread running through them. This is where the stories shine with the luminescence of Vampire-killing UV light. These are not the comfortable Eastern European stereotype vampires, far from it. Authors Del Toro and Hogan make a supreme effort to create a creature that is not only explainable in logical medical terms, but consistent within its own universe. Many of the tropes of the creature are present– light sensitivity, silver can kill them, ultraviolet light can kill them, etc. These are explained in clinical, medical terms. You don’t just know that the Strain vampires are scary– the biology of Strain vampires is explained in excruciating, gory detail, right up to the dislocating jaws, stinger on the end of a prehensile extendible tongue and bloodworms to pass on the infection. I loved this bit– the biological & supernatural vampires of this trilogy literally had me tearing through the story. I loved the vampiric view of humanity. These vampires could care less about humans beyond them being a source of food. When, by the end of the second book (The FALL) and beginning of the third (THE NIGHT ETERNAL), it is very clear that humanity has “lost” for all intents and purposes, the reader gets a vampire’s eye view of the world in a setting where vampires breed humans for bloodletting on a scale not matched by (and largely inspired by) the Nazi death camps of World War 2.
As for the rest of the plot, it was very engaging. The ending has some surprises, but only a few. WIth this trilogy, it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes it a great read. Some of the dialogue (between humans) was a little corny in places, and I’d rate THE NIGHT ETERNAL about half a star below THE STRAIN and THE FALL for that reason. The overall effect, however, is choice.
If you’d like something new and a little shocking in your horror reading, without a doubt run and pick up THE STRAIN TRILOGY.
I also recommend the F/X series adaption– not as good as the books but very enjoyable.