Daily Archives: August 8, 2011

Book Review: The Fall (The Strain Trilogy) by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Title: The Fall – The Strain Trilogy
Author: Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0061558252
Genre: Horror Fiction
Pages: 448
Price: $9.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

In the first book, The Strain, the human race was attacked by a weird parasite. The parasite caused an unusual effect on humans turning them into vampires. The first book ended with readers being introduced to the Master. The second book, The Fall continues right on from the first. The Master is out roaming the world, trying to control the vampires and make more. It appears that there is no one that can stop the Master. Even the “Old” vampires are fighting with the “New” vampires.

The Fall is book two in the Strain trilogy. I read The Strain the first book last year and finished it in a matter of a few hours. I have to admit that it took me a few to get caught up to speed again regarding who everyone was and what parts they played in this story. Once I got everything straight, I was able to enjoy this book. What I most like about these books is that the vampires are smart but they also have a unique feature about them. They have like this sucker at the end of their tongues that the vampires lash out at humans and attach to their necks. This is how they drink the blood. All of the main characters are intriguing.

The vampire nightmare that was spawned in Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s “The Strain” grows more terrifying in its faster-paced sequel, “The Fall.” It contains grotesque, bizarre images of violence and horror that will haunt the reader’s memories for a very long time. Returning once again are the strigoi; infected blood worms squirm beneath their flesh and six-foot long stingers shoot out from their mouths. Now there are new horrors; they include blind vampire children, known as “feelers,” which crawl spider-like along walls; Nazi vampires that continue to perform acts of barbaric torture; and subway trains onto which vampires are latching themselves for transportation beneath the Hudson River.

My favorite character in “The Fall” is the elderly Jewish professor, Abraham Setrakian. He survived the Nazi concentration camp, Treblinka, where he first encountered Sardu. “The Fall” delves more into Setrakian’s life-long commitment to destroying Sardu and his created strigoi. A lover of historical horror and mystery, I enjoyed the interludes when Setrakian accounts his search and destruction of the Nazis which Sardu transformed into vampires while feeding upon prisoners at Treblinka. This is a treacherous, gruesome journey that takes the reader to various gothic castles and villages throughout Northern Europe. The reader learns the origin of the blood worm-infested heart that Setrakian keeps inside a jar.

A most unique character, Angel Guzman Hurtado, is introduced in “The Fall.” He is an aging, crippled man who resides alone in the slums; however, he was once known as “The Silver Angel” to millions of adoring fans in Mexico. This enormously large, former wrestler was an action hero on the silver screen; unfortunately, a knee injury plummeted him into obscurity. After a chance encounter with Gus, he once again dons his silver mask and becomes a hero while battling strigoi. Interestingly enough, the coauthor of “The Strain Trilogy,” Guillermo Del Toro, is a famous film director from Guadalajara, Mexico. Through Angel, is Del Toro trying to convey how a fallen man (or a fallen society) can redeem himself through acts of bravery?

“The Fall” is by far the best horror novel I have read this year. I daresay that I enjoyed it more than “The Strain.” It has more action, more suspense, more gore and a wider assortment of bizarre characters. It was also more emotionally traumatic; not all of the main characters (good and bad) will survive. The ending left me feeling cold, depressed and gloomy. Mankind has fallen. The vampires have risen. However, the worse is yet to come. I predict that the next novel in the trilogy, “Eternal Night,” will be the best. It’s not too late; every vampire fan needs to read this epic trilogy.

Book Review: Soulmates by Kanchana Ugbabe

Title: Soulmates
Author: Kanchana Ugbabe
Publisher: Penguin India
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN: 9780143067917
Pages: 176
Price: Rs. 199
Source: Publisher/ IBN Live
Rating: 5/5

I am a great fan of short stories. I love reading them for pleasure and also sometimes wanting to know more and read between the lines. Every writer I feel needs to explore the form of the short story in order to become a better writer. That is just my personal opinion though. For me short story writing has come of age and has come a long way – from W. Somerset Maugham to O. Henry to A.S. Byatt, almost every writer has tried this genre and honestly, only some have managed to succeed.

Short Story writing is a skill, almost perfected to an art form. Short story writers can embark to write novels, however novelists cannot always tread the dared-to-handle short-story path. It isn’t easy and sometimes it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea either. So that is my take on the short story form, and amidst this long-held belief I had the opportunity to read a first collection of short stories from Kanchana Ugbabe titled, “Soul Mates”. I firmly believe that a book finds the reader and that has been true in my case for most of the times, and I am glad that “Soul Mates” found me.

“Soul Mates” is a collection of thirteen stories – focussing either on the Indian or the Nigerian culture, they take the reader into a different realm altogether. The stories touch on different nuances and how people behave given the situations – their loves, losses, disappointments and sometimes just ambiguity that takes control of lives.
Each story is different from the other. For instance, the title story is about a couple and their marriage withstanding despite the intrusions of a stranger to “Testimonies” which is about a young girl growing up and her experiences with her mother and her group of friends.

For me, stories can tell you a lot more than a novel sometimes. Kanchana Ugbabe does just that. She tells you a story in 3 pages and you don’t want it to end, and sadly they do. For me, Soul Mates was an excellent read. It not only opened my mind to different cultural aspects, but also made me see things differently. A must read for all short-story form lovers.

Book Review: There But For The by Ali Smith

Title: There But For The
Author: Ali Smith
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0241144541
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 364
Price: Rs. 550
Source: IBN Live
Rating: 4/5

I was initially intrigued by the plot: a friend of a friend brings a stranger to a dinner party. Halfway through, this stranger goes upstairs to the spare room, locks the door and won’t come out. No one knows why, and months pass with him still in there and no one any the wiser. It made me think a little of The Slap – an incident at a social gathering that then has reverberations in the lives of every person who was present.

There but for the isn’t quite like that though. It doesn’t follow any linear conventions. There were parts of the novel that were truly compelling, others fell very short because, to be honest, I couldn’t make a lot of sense of them. Having said that, it is no easy task to write such a book. It is brilliantly told – there were times I had to literally stop reading, just to make sense of the book and what was happening.

The characters are quirky and fully formed. One of the highlights of the book is where over about 40+ pages we are at the dinner party with all the guests on the evening everything happened.This could have been really dull because it’s full of random conversation pieces, bits of politics, buts of `world issues’, drunken embarrassing over sharing and accidental stereotyping. It’s entertaining, its maddening, its funny, its sad, most of all its insightful – especially in how much is said by what’s unsaid. I had a feeling of `uh-oh’ when it started but I utterly loved it. I don’t think I have read anything quite like it. It’s a piece of writing that some authors would have given their writing arm to, well, write. It’s intricate.

The novel works on many levels – it is a book of language, experience and thought. It makes you want to think from the outside-in perspective and that I found quite amusing when reading the book. “There But For The” is yet another novel by this amazing author. Smith writes the way i think. She writes about the inner voices in our heads and hearts. She forgets the boundaries of punctuation and grammar and spins out words that weave together in such a connected way that I’m always blown away.