Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro

The Strain is a vampire novel by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, it is the beginning of a trilogy. Mr. Del Toro is predominately known for his film direction, being behind such films as "Mimic", "Hellboy", and "Pan's Labyrinth". Mr. Hogan has received the Hammet Prize and praise from Stephen King for his novel, The Town. Del Toro and Hogan co-wrote this book and its two sequels.

In many ways, the book reads almost like a movie. I've said this in the past, though usually in a negative light. Maybe it is because Del Toro is known mostly for his visual work on films, but that same feeling did not turn me off of this book as it has done in the past. There is a definite focus on the visual description of things, yet the narrative doesn't linger on them in an overly long fashion. The descriptions are graphic and to the point at the same time, allowing them intensity and brevity at the same time.

The vampires in this story are appropriately vicious and horrifying. I am not sure who is scarier though, the vampires or the rich eccentric old man that brings the vampire to New York and destabilizes a long standing truce between the seven ancient vampires. (Don't worry this isn't a spoiler, this is all shown to the reader at the beginning, or at least strongly hinted at.)  

We meet our main protagonist,  Dr. Ephraim (Eph) Goodweather, after a plane mysteriously lands with everyone on board dead. Well it seems that way at first. There are actually four survivors of the initial landing though they appear dead upon first examination by several medical experts. Eph is a member of the CDC, his job is to contain outbreaks of disease before they reach pandemic levels. Dr. Goodweather is torn between his work and home life as this tragedy causes him to cut short his weekend with his son and to miss a custody hearing relating to his rights in regards to his son, Zach.

Other main characters include Nora Martinez and Professor Abraham Setrakian. Nora is Eph's partner at the CDC, while Prof. Setrakian is first dismissed as a crazy old man. Prof. Setrakian is an expert in fighting vampires, having witnessed one of them feeding while he was in a WWII concentration camp. He has made it his life's mission to destroy them from that point on.

Our heroes are not just fighting the vampires, but their extremely wealthy backer. The vampires in this story are not of supernatural origin, but spread like a virus. This includes altering the hosts' DNA and bodily structures. Giving a scientific rational doesn't make them any less scary or dangerous.

I can't say exactly where the next two books will take the reader, but I don't see there being any huge surprises or plot twists. Readers that are familiar with the vampire genre will probably see most of what is coming next before it happens. The story isn't dynamically original, but it is a well paced adventure tale. The characters aren't completely flat, but they are not fully developed either. If you enjoy the visuals of Del Toro's film, I think you'll get some of that through the descriptive passages in the text. This series will never be considered a classic, but the first book is an enjoyable read for those that wish a little excitement in their life.

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Silver Linings of the Zombie Apocalypse

May is Zombie Awareness Month, for those of you who are unaware. Most of my friends are aware that I'm a huge fan of zombie stories and movies. The Zombie Apocalypse is my favorite end of the world scenario to contemplate. Last year for Zombie Awareness Month I ran daily survival tips on my Facebook and Twitter pages. This year I decided to look on the bright side of the end of the world. I've decided to compile my entire list here on my very modest blog. Feel free to add your own silver linings in the comments section.

1. No more bills to pay.
2. Don't have a work schedule to worry about.
3. Reading time galore. (When not running from zombies.)
4. Get plenty of exercise without a membership fee.
5. Carbon emissions will drop to almost nil, so no more global warming.
6. All groceries will be free.
7. No more rush hour traffic ever again.
8. Lost of extra clothes lying about.
9. No more doctor visits.
10. No more lawyers or lobbyists.
11. Overpopulation is no longer a concern.
12. Paranoia is a plus rather than a minus.
13. Freedom to travel without a passports.
14. A sudden surplus of natural resources.
15. It's a chance to practice all those survival skill you learned watching Bear Grills.
16. Plenty of material for making your own horror movie.
17. No more news media scare tactics.
18. It's the cheapest diet plan.
19. Zombies can't drag race through your neighborhood.
20. Zombies can't blare their stereos or throw wild parties.
21 All those annoying neighborhood dogs are now an early warning system.
22. Credit card debt disappears.
23. Political parties are now extinct.
24. No more politicians.
25. Insomnia is an asset.
26. High fat and sodium diets aren't an issue any longer.
27. The neighborhood will be quiet (except the moans of the zombies.)
28. No need to set your alarm clock.
29. The phone won't ring in the middle of the night.
30. No solicitors knocking at your door.
31. Perfect excuse not to bathe. (Water is for drinking.)