Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “The Strain”

by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

Starting with the legend of Jusef Sardu, the Polish nobleman who suffered from gigantism and met with some mysterious fate in Romania, this first installment in The Strain Trilogy tells the story of the horror that crosses continents in its terrifying mission to rule the world.

From the moment the dead airplane arrives at JFK International Airport right after an occultation, and all but 4 passengers are found inexplicably dead, the tension in the creepy atmosphere grips you and never lets go. Truly there are moments when the very air stops, yet the darkness keeps moving.

Led by Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, a Director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with the discovery of a mysterious box in cargo, the theory of a deadly virus is considered. And as the Strigoi slowly takes over, we see the beginnings of the slow eradication of humankind, as handfuls and then large groups of people fall victim to a yet unheard of "disease".

As far as characters are concerned, of course the hero of this tale is Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian. Working at a nondescript pawnshop, we are slowly introduced to his life, his history and his ultimate mission. It is through him that we learn about the 7 Ancients, and the one rebel among them - the Master. And it is his decades of knowledge that puts together a plan that has any hopes of victory, and a group that has any hope of carrying his crusade through to its end.

Greatest in this group is exterminator Vasily Fet. Called in to inspect a rat attack in an upscale home, it is Fet who carries out his own inspection, and it is Fet who tracks down Eph and proves to be a fantastic asset as he transforms his knowledge of vermin living in the dark to this fight against the vampires.

Surprisingly, even though the author clearly positions Eph as the protagonist - we do follow him around right from the beginning - he was really not a very impressive person. An ordinary human at best, and a cliched divorcé at worst, his story was too insipid for him to be the hero of a vampire novel.

The sinister tone that was set up in that tiny kitchen where a grandmother told her grandson the story of the monster that goes pic.. pic.. pic... never lets up. Six foot stingers that zap out of the mouth and drain human blood while white parasitic worms take over the corpse and turn it into a vampire that will continue the cycle... This is not a story about your average pretty boy vampire from Twilight. Harking back to the concept of the vampire as created by Bram Stoker, this is true terror.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Dying of the Light”

by George R. R. Martin.

Set on the rogue planet of Worlorn, this is a tale of a planet moving in Space towards its inevitable death, of planetary cultures that came together for a brief time, only to then drift towards their eventual annihilation.

As awesome as the setting of this story was, unfortunately far too much time was spent on the personal relationships of a few characters - which immediately loses me as a reader who really has limited patience for love stories in science fiction!

Here lies endless Space. Here spins the brilliant Wheel of Fire. Here is a planet that is being pulled closer towards a cold and dark region of space where no life can ever again survive. Here is a world built with the express purpose of celebrating the cultures of 14 different planetary systems. Here lie stones with the power to retain memories and relay messages. Here are cities where everything from taxi service to acquiring citizenship is fully automated ...

Yet, here we are, for the most part, pondering over the break-up of (the very weak) Dirk t'Larien and (the very annoying) Gwen Delvano. Actually I found the "secondary" characters way more interesting than the main protagonists - they had a richer story to tell, with their unique culture and code of behaviour.

Still, for a first novel, Martin certainly created an undoubtedly fascinating world.