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  • TITLE: The Strain Trilogy
  • AUTHOR: Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck ************Hogan
  • PUBLICATION YEAR: 2009-2011
  • AWARDS: None



    Even if one understands that what one is doing is mad, it is indeed still madness—cutting the diseased heart out of one's wife's chest and preserving it, the corrupted organ beating with the craving of a blood worm, inside a pickling jar. Life is madness, thought Setrakian, done with his butchering, looking about the room. And so is love.

    The Fall, Morrow, ISBN 9780061558221, c.2010, p.205


    Tired of brooding, poser vampires working their best James Dean moves for a little love with their feedings? Well, step aside for a freight train of retro slag scattering the remains of any leftover sympathy for those matinee sanguinators, for this three-some of connected novels is the antonym of Twilight. Using lots of quasi-scientific info dumps advertising that blood-sucking tics in desiccated, human form are perpetrated as a virus, then, sensitive to its Creationist readers, covers all channels in backstory by revealing the Master vampire was an Archangel back in the day. Thus, The Strain Trilogy dispenses with any and all ontological issues by straddling its suppositious strudel with enough, ah, strain to get on with the fun stuff: slaughtering vampires and getting slaughtered by vampires in an apocalyptical scenario of page-turning velocity through 1,080 pages.

    To be sure, the books are plot thick. It's a Thriller, for Gad's sake. Atmosphere is experiencing the Big Apple turn rotten as the life light of its residents putrefy like moldy, infected fruit. By blowing all the nucleur reactors and other poisonious machinations, the vampires turn the Earth into uninhabitable sludge with a sunshine window of about 2-3 hours per day. Without fangs, they suck the essence out of you with retractable, six-foot extended tubes buried under their tongues. Think that second set of teeth on the Alien coming at you suddenly. Yep, daylight kills them, silver hurts them, beheadings stop them. And, it's a hive-mind setup so all the vamps are Zombies answering to The Master.

    Most of the other legendary characteristics hold. Oh yeah, there ain't no sex, ‘cause these wasteoids got shriveled genitals as a trade-off for immortality.

    How could this have happened here in America, huh?

    Well, it all starts with the landing of a Boeing 777 jet at JFK with all its 210 passengers and crew on board done jumbies. Off the page, this happens all over the world.(1) And, just like that infamous Count of yesteryear who also traveled overseas to start things a-rollin', a box of special dirt goes missing from the plane and into NYC's subway underground. Getting personal, a band of Fearless Vampire Killers forms. Van Helsing is repped by Abraham Setrakian, an old, crusty-but-benign Jew and survivor of the Holocaust. Then there are the tag-team doctors of epidemiology and biochemistry from CDC, Dr. Ephraim (Eph) Barnes & Dr. Nora Martinez. The working class stand-in is Vasiliy Fet, a ratcatcher by trade, a focused, tireless, action figure in persona.

    The hominal counter-plot concerns Eph's divorced-from family of ex-wife Kelly—turned vamp & camp early in the story—and Zack, his tweener and somewhat-alienated son, who—natch—ends up under the malodorous influence of The Master and must be saved. Eph's a drunk and subsequently accident ready; determined but overwhelmed to do the right thing, yet hamstrung by cross-purposes involving his malleable son. One of the driving, creative aspects of this trilogy is the irony of the Dear Ones. You see, once a Zombievamp(2) is made, the bonding emotions fixate off the Richter scale for their deepest loved ones, begetting a one-way chasm of a chewfest on the closest family members. It is a bitter valentine to find your wife or mother a skin-stretched skeleton shambling toward you for a tender embrace, only to rip out your jugular.

    Anyway, weaponized with wonders like the automatic nail gun that shoots silver brads, this ensemble of still-breathing terrorists—by Book 3, Zombievamps dominate human society, dividing them up into strictly bloodbags for feeding, proletariat work camps a la Auschwitz, turned hunters, servants, police—gotta figure a way to downsize The Master. With the help of such notorious no-gooders like ghetto gang leaders, the Jonathan Harker-ites devise a seemingly-stupid if not suicidal plan: nuke ‘em.

    These books are as much fun to read as I had composing this review. And, it is refreshing to see the vampire genre back on track with innovations sponsoring them as villains to all living creatures. Scuttlebutt has Del Toro bringing his story to episodic TV production in the near future, just as the success of The Walking Dead appears to be waning. But it's not gonna be The Twilight Strain vaccinating us against traditional bloodsuckers for the ennui-ridden posturings of nouveau hipsters.

    Thanks Ozryel.


    1) Suspended belief alert: I still can't figure how Master pulled this one off.

    2 )They can't talk, or think independently, for that matter.



    © copyright 02/14/2013 by Larry Crawford

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