So I am finally getting around to reading The Strain, the first in an apocalyptic vampire trilogy by Guillermo del Toro (whom you may have seen mentioned here once or twice) and Chuck Hogan (whom you probably, uh, haven’t). I’ve had this book lying around since like 2015, so, yeah, it’s about time it floated to the top.
After a prologue, The Strain starts with a 777 landing at JFK and suddenly going dark (shades of the ghost ship from Dracula!), thus prompting a massive response from both local and federal governmental agencies, but it really starts to kick into high gear with the arrival of a total solar eclipse. And by “eclipse” I mean “occultation”, apparently. And by “high gear” I mean “pedantic mode”, most definitely.
The term “solar eclipse” is in fact a misnomer. An eclipse occurs when one object passes into a shadow cast by another. In a solar eclipse, the moon does not pass into the sun’s shadow, but instead passes between the sun and the earth, obscuring the sun—causing the shadow. The proper term is “occultation.” The moon occults the sun, casting a small shadow onto the surface of the earth. It is not a solar eclipse, but in fact an eclipse of the earth.
That’s just one of several paragraphs explaining technical stuff about a solar eclipse that you don’t really need to know to understand what’s happening in the story. But that’s fine. I don’t mind learning new, correct terminology. I can also appreciate the sly emphasis on “occult” since, from my days working in a medical lab, I remember various forms of “occult blood” tests. (Get it? Vampires? Occult blood? Get it? Poke poke poke.) But what annoyed the crap out of me was that for the balance of the chapter, all the characters kept thinking of the eclipse as an “occultation”, despite the fact that not a single one of them (well, except maybe the one on the International Space Station) is an astronomer or physicist or anyone else who would be expected to know an occultation from an eclipse from a supernova. Okay maybe they would know it from a supernova. But still.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll forgive the book for this little bit of pedantry once the actual vampire mayhem starts. Oh look, here we go:
She felt a rush of heat from behind her, as from an oven door when you open it. A presence. As she tried to move, the sounds in her head coalesced into one single horrible voice.
And then she was lifted off the ground.
When the legion of cats returned, they discovered her body with its head crushed, cast deep into their side of the hurricane fence like so much litter. The gulls had found her first—but the cats quickly scared them off and got right to work, hungrily shredding her clothes to get to the feast within.
Ahh, that’s more like it. And, well, cats do what cats do, right?
Meanwhile, speaking of mayhem, it’s about to start breaking loose over where I’m doing my editing in Father’s Books. But it hasn’t. Not. Quite. Yet.
Walter Bartoski had complained more than once that his family wanted nothing to do with him, that they wouldn’t care if he lived or died, indeed, that they would probably treat the news of his demise as cause for a mini-celebration. Certainly he would have been shocked to learn that instead, it had brought them to his doorstep.
Would that have pleased the old man? He had no idea.
Mmm. Yeah. Probably not.