The Strain is one book that you can just race through with its fast pace and easy, relaxed style, reminding one of Matthew Reilly's earlier books. However, for all of its pace and creepiness, The Strain is not quite A list material. It's fun to read, if reading a novel about vampires taking over the world can be considered fun, and there are some interesting touches in there but in the end it doesn't quite stand out like some other similar novels. For instance I personally found World War Z to have the better thoughtfulness going into it, whether you agree with the politics or not.
The Strain begins with a plane landing at JFK airport. The passengers, in fact everyone on board, are believed to have been killed by some mystery virus. However, as it turns out, this is no ordinary virus but the beginnings of a vampire plague. In the midst of this plague you have the typical unlikely hero called into action against darkness plot but unfortunately without anything too special to set it apart. That said, the ending of this book hints at far better things to come from the next few novels. Particularly hinting at a more epic plotline that is potentially going on.
The one thing I cottoned onto pretty quickly is that the characters in this book were characters I could not particularly sympathise or empathise with. Sure I understand the whole divorce thing thanks to friends who I've done my best to emotionally console, but what I don't get is the marital cheating going on. For instance, we as readers are told early on that the main protagonist Eph (short for Ephraim) is in the process of divorcing his wife and yet she is off living with another man and he's already had a fling with another woman. Call me young or naive but that kind of information just doesn't cause me to like a character. I understand that people do these things, that people can be emotionally messed up when it comes to relationships but still, I have to question whether it's really love that drives people if they can't even wait till they're properly divorced to start moving in with other people... To me that's just lust.
I almost thought that some of those people becoming vampires fit their crime. Almost. I don't think anything is deserving of you becoming a vampire. In the end it was interestingly put as to why this whole emotional war in the novel was going on though. I will say nothing more for fear of spoiling the novel but will tantalise you with that snippet. I did feel that Del Toro and Hogan did a great job of showing that when it comes to tragedy and disease that no one, not the sick, not the elderly, not the young, not the privileged or unprivileged are safe from it. But that it is indiscriminate. People might discriminate but not disease and that was an interesting concept in this novel. So I would recommend reading this if you want a vampire horror story without romantic vampires or if you like Del Toro's movies.