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Hieroglyph: Stories and Blueprints for a Better Future
Neal Stephenson
Ukraine: Zbig's Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated
Natylie Baldwin, Kermit D. Larson
The Girl on the Train: A Novel
Paula Hawkins
Our Souls at Night: A novel
Kent Haruf
Above the Waterfall
Ron Rash
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction
Cathy Whitlock
The Homicide Report: Understanding Murder in America
Jill Leovy
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson
The Gods of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Strain - Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan This is the first of a planned trilogy. The director of Pan’s Labyrinth and an award winning mystery author brings their vision to the vampire tale.

It is a fast, entertaining read, with a twist to the rationale for vampirism that is fun, if a bit derivative. In fact a lot of this book is derivative, cobbling together elements from a host of books and films. There is a scene that is reminiscent of the haunted ship sequence in Dracula. In the original a ship that is carrying Dracula’s coffin, home soil, and Drac himself, makes it to its destination, but the ship is completely depopulated. In this one an airplane manages to land, but all the passengers succumb to an instantaneous malady that appears to kill all but four of the people aboard. Fans of Alien will recognize a smile at how these vamps bite their prey. The subcutaneous squigglies that appear here will be familiar to anyone with the SciFi channel in their cable package. The New York setting brings together hints of 9/11 with the sort of I Am Legend scenario of one or a few real humans holding off the vampiric hordes. There is a strong element of 24 Days here as well. How long will it be before the entire city, then the nation is overtaken by the bloodsuckers? And the vamps here seem to share considerable DNA with zombies. There is a hint of Underworld and even Anne Rice in that there is mention of battles between factions of the undead. No doubt fodder for volumes 2 and 3.

While I found the frequent homages (they are homages, right, not crass copying?) to prior works tiresome after the first batch, I enjoyed some of the mechanisms presented as ways of dispatching the blood-hungry, and the added nuance to how mirrors work.

delToro and Hogan have fun with darkness, from the dark cave that first takes the evil giant Sardu, to the darkness of the death plane, to the darkness of the solar eclipse. They head to the appropriate underworld of the New York infrastructure and counterpoint a bit with the skyscraper home of a prime baddie. A solar eclipse is imminent (actually, the next one in NYC is not until 2079) and some people ascribe the extant madness to that event. There are plenty of nifty visuals here, to be expected given that one author is such a master of visual media.

Our Van Helsing is Abraham Selvakian, an old pawnbroker and Talmudic scholar. The authors go a bit overboard with some of their naming. Our CDC hero is Ephrain Goodweather. Really? One baddie is Eldritch Palmer. Readers of HP Lovecraft will, no doubt, tingle.

I enjoyed the vampire mechanism explanation, but I felt a strong compulsion not to look too closely. I expect it would not hold up to any but the most cursory inspection. And how did all the passengers on that plane suffer the same fate at the same time? Surely someone saw someone else being harmed and left his or her seat, at the very least.

A fun read, but definitely check your brain before jumping in.