Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CBR IV # 11, 12, 13 - The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuch Hogan

This here is a trilogy by director Guillermo del Tori and co-author Chuck Hogan (whose work I'm not really familiar with). Perhaps because of this, the book is very visual and cinematic. You can really imagine it happening up on the screen and the pacing feels like a good horror/suspense movie.

The first book, The Strain, sets up the situation. An airplane lands at JFK. All the lights are out and everyone is dead. Infectious disease is the first theory and CDC doctor Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather is assigned to the puzzling (and creepy) case. In other places in the city, the players are being prepared for what is to become, by the second book, a full blown epidemic.

By the second book, most of the characters have met and the origin of the vampires are slowly being revealed, mostly through the scholar Abraham Setrakian, who has tangled with the creatures before in his long life.

The third book is the endgame. What was a vampire novel has now turned post apocalyptic. Humans are farmed for blood and our heroes are fast running out of options to destroy the vampire menace.

As I said, the mythology is what I find most interesting about vampire literature. In this case, vampirism has a biological basis. It is parasitic in nature, and contained in capillary worms that can burrow into a human body. Once it is the bloodstream, it changes the host to make it more hospitable, shedding of necessary things such as hair and fingernails and growing a long stinger which is used as a weapon and as a way of extracting blood from the victim.

However, there is also a mystical side to the story wherein there are 7 ancients, the original vampires, whose blood worms seem to have become sentient and can transfer their consciousness to another body when one is destroyed. They can only be completely destroyed by nuking their birth places.

The series is action packed, exciting and a pretty interesting take on vampires.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

CBR IV # 10 - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I have to admit that all I know about cooking (which is admittedly not much), I learned from Top Chef. I also have to admit that Top Chef is where I first saw Anthony Bourdain when he guest judged that one season. I got to know him a little better when I watched the Philippines edition of No Reservations, where he came to our tiny island in the middle of the archipelago and ate "THE BEST PIG EVER!" I'm not sure what my point is, but I think its that I didn't really know that much about him except for a few episodes on TV. I knew he was a chef and that's about it.

Kitchen Confidential is about Bourdain's love affair with the restaurant kitchen. Sure, its a dysfuntional, co-dependent love affair, but he loves it. He tells of how he first experienced food and how he fell into cooking. He is very open with the horrible stuff that they do at restaurants, as well as the horrible stuff that he did. His addictions and his rise and fall and rise again in the restaurant industry.

You learn a lot in the book. There are a lot of tips about eating out and cooking in and it gives you a view of how it might work at the back of the kitchen. It really grossed me out a little bit, to be honest. All that talk of sweat and drugs and skin diseases. Ugh. It presents the kitchen staff as a group of misfits and outcasts. Of course, it would be a bit of a mistake, I think to believe that all kitchens are like Bourdain's. Even he acknowledges at the end that he is presenting the kitchen as he knows it. There might be other kinds of experiences in other restaurants. But one thing is for sure. Cooking is NOT for the weak.

But aside from the actual content of the book, it was a good read. Bourdain's voice is funny and acerbic. Sarcastic and self-depreciating. He knows his good and bad sides and isn't afraid to present all of it. He is quite a personality. Now please come back to Cebu so we can eat delicious pig and drink some San Miguel Beer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

CBR IV # 9 A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

I was reading another book when I saw a review on this book by another Cannonballer. I immediately felt the urge to read this book. Morbid curiosity, I guess. It's just so amazing to me that someone lived through that and it's so far from my life (thank Dog!) that I want to know what that's about. I've read Room, of course, but that's from the view point of the kids. And it's fiction.

Anyway, I'm sure most Americans are familiar with this case. Jaycee Dugard disappeared when she was just 11 years old. She was found 18 years later and it was discovered that she was abducted and kept all that time in a backyard complex of a sick, sick man.

There are harrowing details, of course, which have been reported by the media. The constant sexual abuse, the inadequate living conditions, the two girls born in the backyard and so much more. And it's all really bad, but when I read it, like Jaycee, who goes off into her own world when she is being abused, I also seem to go off and make like its fiction. Otherwise, I would be bawling the whole time. But it's not all about the horrible stuff. One is really amazed by the strength, the stubborn survival streak Jaycee has in her. Really, I can't imagine going through something like that and it not breaking me. Jaycee isn't broken, she is looking towards the future with no hate in her heart.

There is a lot of shit on the internet about how she should have ran away, or shouted, or tried to have contact with her mother through the internet. I used to think that a little bit too. When I read the book, I realized, she was just a little girl when she was taken. It wasn't until after years and years of brainwashing, manipulation and abuse that she was given access to the computer or was taken out of the compound at all. I can totally believe how she would believe that there was nothing outside for her.

The book has interludes or reflections she has in the present day as well as journal entries of her time there. It is really interesting how although she was suppressed (she wasn't allowed to say her name), she was still the same deep inside.