Everyone Loves a Good Vampire Epic

Standard

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.”

 

Pros and Cons of Being a Vampire

Standard

Anne Rice writes entertaining books and Prince Lestat, published in 2014, is one of them.  There is a plot, but most of the book is devoted to the stories of a large number of vampires who were born as humans in different times and places.  It hardly seems fair to quibble about such an impressive feat of the imagination, but in spite of arising in eras stretching from ancient Egypt to modern times and covering the globe, these vampires all speak with similar voices and are hard to keep straight.  I suppose that’s why Rice has sorted them all out in an appendix.

A quote from the Washington Post on the cover points out that Rice’s vampires are always impeccably dressed.  I’m all for this; it’s much more fun than reading about rags and tatters.  But why are vampires so interested in clothes?  They can’t be thinking that life is too short to dress shabbily, because they’re immortal.  Could the elegant vampire be based on the originator of the (literary) species, Count Dracula, who always appeared in evening dress as portrayed in old movies by the  Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi?

Another quote from the Washington Post calls Rice’s vampires “unrelentingly erotic”.  This gives rise to another quibble, since almost all the erotic experiences described involve either sucking blood out of someone or having the blood sucked out of yourself.  If and when I become a vampire I’ll no doubt be better able to appreciate those scenes.

On the whole, is it worth being a vampire?  On one hand, there’s being immortal, and on the other hand, the whole business of having to shun daylight.  A vampire can’t eat or drink anything but blood, but on the other hand, they never have to worry about calories or physical fitness.  I have been tending to vote no, but something Rice points out in this book could be the deciding factor; blood-sucking insects avoid vampires.  They flee, scatter like flies, and make a bee-line in the opposite direction.

Two Thrillers

Standard

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.

Vampire Romance – Book Review

Standard

Once upon a time, in a more innocent age, Bram Stoker conjured up vampires who live in castles in Romania.  Ann Rice brought them to the shores of the New World, but they were still just as dangerous, exotic and mysterious  You know for sure that vampires have become as humdrum as chewing gum when you come across a vampire named Bill.

The heroine of Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark is a cocktail waitress in Louisiana who happens to be telepathic, but the real surprise is her boyfriend Bill, who has to be the world’s nicest vampire.

Several murders take place in the course of the story, but it’s really about Sookie and the lovely Bill.  If only he wasn’t dead…

This book is part of a series and also, as I have just found out, a television series.  Now there’s talk about making the musical.