Everyone Loves a Good Vampire Epic

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Even if not everybody loves a good vampire epic I certainly do, and “The Strain”, published by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan in 2009, fills the bill.  The vampires are imagined as a form of retro-virus that instead of being a submicroscopic entity that acts to subvert individual cells, is big enough to see and subverts whole organs, very quickly transforming the whole human body.

The book begins when an old master vampire is shipped to New York in a large coffin stowed on a plane.  He manages to leave the cargo hold and dispatch approximately 200 passengers and crew members in the minutes immediately following the plane’s landing at JFK.  How?  No explanation was forthcoming by the end of the book.  The authors may get back to this initial problem in book two or three of this trilogy, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Another bothersome aspect of these vampires is that for unknown and probably not about to be explained reasons, they can’t cross moving water on their own.  Why-ever not?  Probably just to make it barely possible to stop the vampire plague from expanding beyond Manhattan.

On the positive side, there is an old Jewish pawnbroker who has chased the Master vampire ever since he saw him at work on concentration camp victims during World War II, a heroically stubborn epidemiologist who can’t be shaken off the trail of this new epidemic, and the immoral sickly billionaire who has apparently shipped the vampire in the hope of achieving a gruesome form of eternal life and is guaranteed to come to a bad end.

The battle of the good guys seems hopeless, since all the supposed corpses from the plane have spread out and begun to create more vampires.  But wait!  There are already equally old vampires in the New World, and they are about to take steps to counter the interloper.

Del Toro and Hogan deserve credit for producing an original back story for vampires, but their disgusting creatures will never replace quintessential Hungarian gentleman Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula in my heart.  This is the place to share a memorable experience that occurred when I entered a pitch black laboratory late one night.  I was unaware that a fellow student from Hungary was inside until a male voice out of the darkness said, “Good ee-ven-ing.”

 

The Third Gate

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There are many good points about “The Third Gate”, published by Lincoln Child in 2012.  Most important, of course, is that it’s a good read.   It’s an interesting genre, a  combination archeological/supernatural thriller, and I think Child has avoided the many possible pitfalls this involves.  He apologizes for liberties taken with various facets of life in ancient Egypt in service of his plot ( the search for a pharaoh’s tomb), but speaking as someone who likes this kind of thing, I think he’s accurate enough for the amateur reader.  He doesn’t apologize for one of the major characters whose near death experience produced amazingly enhanced psychic abilities.  An apology is due because during this experience her brain was starved of oxygen for fourteen minutes.  This would actually have given her the esp ability of a turnip.

Professor Jeremy Logan is a historian who has developed a sideline as an interpreter of the bizarre.  Explaining the impossible is a rare talent, so of course he’s much in demand and is sent to some interesting places.  I think this character is a great idea, providing Child with the opportunity to follow his obvious interest in various types of unexplained phenomena.  It’s also an interest of mine.  I’ve done my best to share what I have been able to find out about the subject of esp in The Wish to Kill .

Two Thrillers

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I have just read two thrillers back to back, and they have a lot in common; the bad guys in both are fanatical Islamists, and both books are ridiculous.  The big difference between them is that only the good one is ridiculous on purpose.

Christopher Farnsworth’s “Blood Oath” postulates that America faces supernatural as well as human enemies, and that there is a vampire, sworn to obey the president, who is our secret weapon against the forces of evil.  This vampire has a strict code of ethics and although he keeps reminding the people he works with that he isn’t human, he is in fact more human and much more likable than the supposedly human protagonist of the second book.

According to the book’s cover Matthew Dunn, the author of “Spycatcher”, conducted approximately seventy successful missions during a career as an MI6 field officer.  This has given him the expertise to describe a lot of military hardware in what is no doubt authentic detail, but his hero is one of the least convincing or attractive  fictional  “humans” ever deployed by an intelligence service.

I hope I’m correct in believing that if American and British agents find that a French team is unwittingly intruding into an operation, they generally find a better way to solve the problem than murdering the whole French team.  But no fear – although Dunn’s super spy hero orders the elimination of the unfortunate French, he actually feels bad for a few minutes when he realizes that he has just killed a good friend.

The vampire is the nicer guy.