- Beth Solka
Always keep a book with you in case of an emergency. Last summer I was vacationing in the Outer Banks with my 18-year-old son, Rob, my older son’s fiance, Bec, and a friend of ours, Jen. My friend decided that she wanted to have her nose pierced. She began to look for a tattoo parlor and finally found a place near the beach house. As we drove out into the middle of nowhere, Rob began to think that he needed a tattoo, also. As the mother of two sons, you learn to choose your battles carefully, so I told him that it was his decision. However, inside I was screaming, “NO!! Anything you tattoo now will sag when you get to be my age!!!”
We drove down the island with my son trying to decide what tattoo he would get, and we finally arrived at a tattoo parlor that was in a home! I pulled into the parking lot beside the collection of motorcycles, convinced that now my friend would change her mind when she saw the house. However, to my dread she jumped out of the car with an expression of sheer delight on her face and began to walk quickly into the house with the rest of us racing behind her.
Inside the house there was a waiting room and a tattoo room. No one was allowed into the tattoo area who wasn’t getting a tattoo, and the waiting room was packed with huge, burly, fully-tattooed motorcyclists who looked as though they could snap Rob in half like a twig if they chose. The staff ushered my friend to the tattoo area, and I waited anxiously as my son walked around the waiting room looking at the sample tattoos on the wall.
He finally came over to me and whispered, “Mom, I feel uncomfortable in here. Can we wait outside? I don’t want a tattoo.” I fought the sudden urge to grin from ear to ear. I said, “Sure. Let’s sit on the porch. I brought a book that we can read.” Bec waited inside for Jen, and we sat on the front porch in the hot North Carolina sun, reading until my friend appeared beaming with pride for her new diamond nose stud. By the time she was done, I was thoroughly hooked on this book.
I had brought The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I read a page and then Rob read a page. It begins with an airplane landing in JFK International Airport. No one departs the plane. No one calls for help. The plane is dead on the tarmac and teams are sent in to investigate when everyone is found dead on the Boeing 777. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) along with his investigative team is sent in to try to figure out what "virus" killed everyone on the plane, but what they don't realize is that once the plane is opened it becomes a Pandora’s Box that will forever change humanity.
Then the storyline switches to a little boy named Abraham Setrakian in Poland who is not eating the soup. His grandmother encourages him to eat by telling him the story of a young man who was the son of a Polish nobleman. The son of the nobleman, Jusef Sardu, was known for his kindness.Unfortunately, he suffered from the condition of gigantism and his bones were very weak. Jusef's father and his whole hunting party disappeared while hunting wolves and even though he was weak from his disease, the son tried to find his father. On his search he encountered a cave around which were scattered the bodies of his dead father, counsins, and uncles. Josef buried each member of his family and then entered the cave to fight his father's killer. Villagers of that small town insist that the nobleman’s son survived and returned to the house eleven weeks after the incident in a curtained carriage. He is never seen lurking in the shadows, but children begin to disappear.
The reader quickly becomes aware that the little boy, Abraham Setrakian, is now an elderly man living alone in New York city and that his grandmother's "stories" actually occurred. The monster in the little village in Poland has a relationship to the Boeing 777 sitting at JFK International Airport. When Abraham sees the news report of the plane on television, he realizes that the horrors from his past have come back to haunt him.
"Any relief he had felt initially -- at not having been outlived by this horror; at getting one last-minute chance at vengeance--was replaced immediately by sharp, painlike fear. The words left his mouth on a gust of steam.
He is here . . . He is here . . ."
Author Guillermo del Toro was the director of Pan's Labyrinth, and the reader can easily visualize the memorable scenes of this gripping novel. Co-author Chuck Hogan is known for fast-paced thrillers and the two authors really wrote a page turner that does not disappoint. This book is the first novel in The Strain Trilogy. There is already talk of making these books into a movie and it will make a fabulous movie.