Saturday, February 05, 2011

the strain

Well, I don’t normally go for vampire stories. I tried the Twilight stuff and found it utterly insipid. We tried to listen to the audiobook and didn’t even last ten minutes. I liked Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, but she lost me with Queen of the Damned. Oh, and of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which scared the hell out of me when I read it in high school.

So, vampire stories is not a genre I seek out. My not-so-secret addiction is reading books (and watching movies) about the end of the world. More specifically, The End of the World as We Know It. Doesn’t matter much how the world as we know it ends: asteroid impact, plague, economic collapse, political suicide. I’m interested not in how the world is saved from apocalypse, but what happens afterward. How do people survive? What do they do? What changes?

One day I was taking a look at my recommended books on Amazon and I saw The Strain, by Guillermo del Torro and Chuck Hogan. I love del Torro’s movies—Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone are on my top-100 list. So I took a look at the description.

Hmm. The End of the World as We Know It caused by a plague—in this case, vampirism is the disease. And it costs less than the maximum I will pay for any Kindle book ($9.99). So I downloaded it.

The story starts out with a jet from Germany landing at JFK—it lands perfectly, but nobody opens the doors to get off. Eventually, it’s established that all the passengers and crew are dead, so the Center for Disease Control is called in to deal with it. Ah, a plague! Turning a person into a vampire is to pass them a virus that transforms the host’s internal organs into structures that keep the virus alive and transforms the trachea into a stinger ...

These are not your insipid, Stephanie Meyer vampires. Not at all. They are ugly, evil, virulent things that suck the blood out of their victims and shit and piss all over themselves and turn increasingly horrifying as they turn. They are an ancient plague, pre-dating Christianity and silly countermeasures such as crosses and holy water. There is nothing romantic about them. And they are wreaking havoc on Manhattan, Queens, and Bronxville. And spreading.

There are only a few who know what’s going on—some working behind the scenes to enable the spread of this plague, and some battling to stop it. There is a professor-turned-pawnbroker who’s been waiting since World War Two to battle the Master, whom the professor first encountered while he was a prisoner is a concentration camp. There are two doctors from the CDC who know what’s going on, and the teenage son of one of the doctors. There’s an exterminator. This group are fighting the good fight. And there is a gangbanger who’s kind of off in a sidetrack who also knows what’s going on and is looking to take them on.

The Stain is just book one of a trilogy. Book two, The Fall, is now out. I haven’t read it yet as I’m in the middle of another book right now, and then will decide if I want to read it next or wait until book three is out (I’m not very patient—when I’m in the middle of a series, I want to keep reading until the end).

Oops, I forgot to mention: I really like this novel. It’s scary, exciting in parts, keep me reading and staying awake much longer than I should have. I’m looking forward to the next book, whenever I decide to read it. I like two of the characters (the professor and the exterminator) a lot, and buy the villians (human villains, I mean—they’re not different from our current real-world villains, not at all ... ) I’m very interested in seeing how it all turns out and don’t necessarily expect a happy ending.

I love my Kindle—but that’s a tale for another post (it’s time for dinner!)

posted by lee on 02/05/11 at 07:54 PM
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