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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

Did del Toro and Hogan sit down and think, "Hmmm, what two currently popular themes could I combine into one blockbuster novel that would easily translate into a blockbuster movie?"

Their answer: obsessive step-by-step crime forensics (à la "C.S.I." and "Law and Order") and vampires.

Del Toro is better known in the film-making world. (I guess that's why established author Chuck Hogan is riding along on this book.) He was involved in one of the "Blade" movies, the "Hellboy" franchise, and the fantastical "Pan's Labyrinth." Chuck Hogan wrote one of my favorite books of 2004, The Prince of Thieves. So they both know how to tell a good story. And del Toro certainly understands weird.

What they have produced, against all odds, is a well-written page-turner of a book about a parasitic disease which turns people into vampires AND which incorporates the vampire lore as well. Double-bam. And they are planning two more books in the series. Double-bam times three.

(Why are trilogies so popular? Is there some sort of innate attraction that odd-numbered groupings have for us humans? Garden plantings are in threes and fives, three strikes and you're out, three-dog night, lucky seven, and "Etc., etc., etc.," as the King of Siam would say.)

Dr. Eph Goodweather is a CDC investigator, a father involved in a custody battle, and a reluctant warrior. He has the requisite beautiful CDC assistant and 11-year-old son. His "van Helsing" is Abraham Setrakian, a Holocaust survivor and, more importantly, a survivor of a duel with the head honcho vampire (called "The Master," naturally). Much later they are joined by a rat catcher. Because it is also a Chuck Hogan novel, there is a young street-smart punk who is inexplicably -- until a later novel in the trilogy, no doubt -- called upon to join the vampire battle.

This first book assembles the cast for battle, brings the foe out into the light, so to speak, and gives the reader a taste of war.

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