Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Strain (the book)

If you are watching the FX series the Strain then turn away. I’m not sure if I’m going to spoil anything or not.

After the first episode of FX’s version of the Strain, I decided to grab the book and get more information. I love me some horror. I also love me some biological outbreak scenarios. This book is both and it works well.

The Strain gives a different and creepier take on the vampire story. Instead of all romantic, sparkly or bad ass they are a nest of parasitic worms that change the host to facilitate their needs. You get bit, then you get infected.  You get their blood on you, then you get infected. This is a viral/parasite scenario that causes you to hate light, silver, beheading and the sun. Now add in the loss of free will, a huge urge to gobble up blood, the loss of genitalia, black dead shark eyes, a tongue the not only has a barbed stinger but also shoots out like 6’, loss of hair and a wonderful skin coloration, crapping yourself every time you eat and you have a creepy new vampire. This is nowhere near sexy, cool, or romantic.

See this plane lands at JFK in New York and everyone on board is dead or dead-ish. Along for the ride is a full blooded and big nasty vampire who is known as the Master (ShoNuff!) . Throw in a C.D.C. special virus/plague/disease/bacterial team who is looking into this plane and the dead. Now add an evil sicker than Mr. Burns billionaire with a plan to help the Master wipe out humanity for some reason. Now a holocaust survivor who has been fighting the vampire outbreak for years and has a sword cane to grind for the Master (ShoNuff!). Then add a couple of minor players in a thug trying to do right named Gus and an Exterminator named Fet (who I guess has become a quasi-favorite of mine for some reason. Is it the name?). Wait! There is an eclipse that is important for some yet to be discovered reason. Finally, throw in the plane survivors reanimating and walking around tongue lashing everyone they can and spreading this vampire disease.

The tapeworm vampire idea is really fun! The changes that the human body goes through once infected is creepy. Having your junk fall off, losing the ability to communicate, the loss of free will and crapping while you eat should bother everyone. Well hopefully everyone. It makes it creepier that this is a fast spreading virus/disease/plague. These new tapeworm vampires are pretty fantastic bad guys.

Then you have their boss, the Master (ShoNuff!) who is bigger, meaner and faster than his thralls. He is in the U.S. to start a war. A war with whom?  Well the other six big cheese tapeworm vampires. Yeah there are three Old World and three New World vampires. Then there is this seventh who is running around starting all this racket. Why? Well that has yet to be discovered yet either but a vampire vs. vampire throw-down has to be coming sometime.

I really like the flow of the story. How the spread of the vampire disease happens. The beginning of the eventual society breakdown. The secrets and clandestine stuff that is hinted at. There is even a real “HOLY SHIT! THIS JUST REAL!” moment that I was not expecting. The down side….for me are the main characters. I really don’t care about them. Sure, Abe Setrakian is this old broken man who keeps fighting but who isn’t?  Eph Goodweather is just bland in his role as the leading man hero guy. Nora Martinez, Eph’s cohort/one time lover,  is pretty invisible. Vasily Fet is a good addition; but he is that big brute that is gruff, plain speaking, tough and will eventually die cause he is all this. He is the Chewie of this band of Obi, Luke and Leia. Sadly there is no Han to make them all mesh. It would be better if I cared for the people in the story.


The second item is that I cannot read this and not see the Reaper vampires from Blade 2. They have the same crazy internal biology, crack-headed need to feed, open sideways mouth, shooty out and spikey tongue,  and the creepy albino skin color. I know Guillermo Del Toro worked alongside the writer Chuck Hogan, so I guess the inspiration was there. Maybe there is a connection Blade 2 and The Strain. Was one optioned before the other? Was the book a basis for the movie vampires? I’m not a believer in coincidence. Still it only a minor tiny issue and doesn’t take away anything from the book.

The Strain is a fun read. It isn’t a must but if you are a fan of the show the book is of course better. Plus there are several changes between the novel and t.v. series that make them different. I am off to start the next book in the trilogy, The Fall, to see where this is all going and if any questions get answered.

If you miss the Sho' Nuff reference go watch "The Last Dragon."

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