My journal notes on The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.
17th Precinct Headquarters, East Fifty-first Street, Manhattan
More importantly, inside a cell at the 17th Precinct Headquarters.
Present at this location is Setrakian, Gus and Gus’s unfortunate friend, Felix.
Amazingly, Abraham Setrakian has a history and a reputation in his community. Gangs and thieves know better than to try to steal from the pawnbrokers on 118th street, and it seems the old man is well known and respected.
Setrakian said, “The first week I took over the shop, someone broke my front window. I replaced it and then I watch, and I wait. Caught the next bunch who came to break it. I gave them something to think about, and something to tell their friends. That was more than thirty years ago. I haven’t had a problem with my glass since.”
They kind of trade stories, but Abraham cuts straight to the meat of the situation. The vampire that Gus and Felix fought with.
Felix was attacked, but in the heat of the fight I wasn’t sure if the vampire had managed to infect the man. Setrakian has no problem identifying an infection, and explains the core of the situation to Gus. Who isn’t sure if Setrakian is crazy, or if he’s crazy for even entertaining the idea of real vampires let loose in New York city.
Setrakian said, “What you fought was a dead man, possessed by a disease.”
Gus remembered the look on the fat man’s face, blank and hungry. His white blood. “What like a pinche zombie?”
Setrakian said, “Think more along the lines of a man with a black cape. Fangs. Funny accent.” He turned his head so that Gus could hear him better. “Now take away the cape and fangs. The funny accent. Take away anything funny about it.”
Gus hung on the old man’s words. He had to know. His somber voice, his melancholy dread, it was contagious.
A damn fine way of explaining it to the young man. There’s more though, and this, I feel, is where the two will form a bond, an alliance.
But Felix. Abraham even goes on to explain what the infection is doing to him, describing some of the changes taking place, to his internal organs, how the virus is taking hold, the explanation as much for Gus as it is for the reader. Even though Felix is currently prone and feverish, he believes that Felix may well be fully converted, changed by tonight.
Stoneheart Group, Manhattan
The Stoneheart Group means only one thing, Eldritch Palmer. There may be many in the group, but Palmer is the head of the group, the puppet master, the money. And Eldritch seems to be in charge of a most unsavoury enterprise.
Dusk was still many hours away, and he was impatient. Now that everything was in motio, the strain spreading throughout New York City with the sure exponential force of compound interest, doubling and doubling itself again every night,he hummed with the glee of a greedy banker. No financial success, of which there had been plenty, ever enlivened him as much as did this vast endeavor.
Then there’s the revelation I was expecting, even though I was hoping for less predictability. Jim Kent calls.
… one of Palmer’s many well-placed Stoneheart Society members
But it seems Kent is entirely expendable to Palmer, which is probably a good thing for the greedy old man, as Kent has a sore throat, a good indicator that he’s been infected by Captain Redfern. Palmer seems to know this, he knows what the strain will do, is doing, and so orders are given. Jim Kent’s calls are too be ignored from herein. I wonder what Jim was expecting to get out of all this, money? power? both? He’s got more than he bargained for, that’s for dang sure.
Unfortunately, Jim informs his clandestine puppet master about the sequestered locked room, and although he isn’t sure what’s in there, a certain Mr. E. Palmer wants the contents. I still can’t quite figure out Palmer’s racquet. Okay, so he’ll probably end up cured of all his current ills, and it may be that he’s driven by a fear of death, or that he really can’t take his amassed power and wealth with him, but can he really be that interested in becoming infected with The Strain?
Or is there some other element that I’m not picking up on?
In Flatbush, it’s the Barbour household. It seems as though things have progressed since Ansel fed from his beloved dogs.
Poor Ann-Marie. She’s struggling to cope with the situation and her OCD may be the only thing keeping her from flying apart right now. I learn that she has a sister-in-law, Jeanie, who has willingly taken the children from out of reach & curiosity. To be honest, I was worried that Ansel’s children & wife would suffer the same fate as the dogs, but Ansel was very clever in chaining himself to the garage floor. What is not certain, is whether Jeanie is aware of her brothers condition. I suppose she must be, as she delivered chicken soup for him at the same time as picking up the kids. So she is aware that he is ill, but I don’t know if she is aware that he’s now “living” in the garage, or the true extent of his illness.
As for Ann-Marie herself, for someone who can’t manage an ordinary daily life without the support of her husband, she’s doing surprisingly well. I’m guessing here, but she must have called Jeanie in regards to the children. Not only that, but she’s buried the dogs. I wouldn’t have thought she would have the wherewithal to accomplish such tasks. If Ansel were more human, no doubt he would’ve been very proud of how she’s dealing with the situation.
Her condition, and her dependence, on her husband is still a tangible thing though. She needs him. She’s desperate for guidance, even though I suspect that buried deep within, she has the strength to cope alone. But at the moment she needs him, and she appears to be desperate because she’s willing to go into the garage. What she sees is a fully transformed Ansel Barbour and she flees the garage quicker than when she entered.
I can’t help but wonder what she will do now.
Vestry Street, Tribeca
Ansel Barbour isn’t alone. Gabriel Bolivar’s also going through the transformation.
The limousine took Gabriel Bolivar straight to his personal physician’s office in a building with an underground garage. Dr. Ronald Box was the primary physician for many New York based celebrities of film, television, and music.
Dr. Box gives some more insight into the transformation process, comparing what’s happening to Gabriel to a massive spread of cancer. Explains that what the star is going through is unprecedented in the medical field, malignant neoplasms, carcinoma, sarcoma, and lymphoma, and all of it is wildly metastasised. A different take on Setrakian’s description, more medical, scientific, despite the poor doctor being woefully out his depth and outside his little box knowledge.
Dr. Box goes on to explain that whatever is going on, the cancer is taking over all of his internal organs. Invading him. That the cancer is now manipulating his heart, and other organs. Almost as if his organs now have an independence from his brain.
It’s rather fascinating, and I can’t help but hope that Dr. Ronald Box will able to share his observations & theories with Eph & Nora.
As for Gabriel, I can’t say for sure, but I think he’s more worried about his voice and his genitalia, along with his current lack of sexual ability, than anything else. But this is purely supposition on my part.
Joan Luss. Lawyer. Infected.
Only this chapter doesn’t concern Joan herself.
Neeva is central to this chapter.
…still very much rattled by the events of the past twenty-four hours…
She is the Lusses’ nanny. Remember, there are two children, Keene is the older child, and his sister, Audrey, is 8 years old. In a previous chapter, it’s acknowledged that Neeva is much better at mothering the Luss children than Joan herself.
I have a feeling that Joan has undergone her transformation sort of “off stage”, or “off page” might be a better term. In the process, Neeva has been scared enough to take the children to safety.
It appears that Joan may have attacked her housekeeper too, and perhaps Neeva was a witness to this. Perhaps this is what prompted her to get the two children out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, Neeva was in such a hurry to get away, she forgot something very important.
The Luss children wouldn’t eat her Haitian cooking, and, more pressingly, Neeva had forgotten Keene’s Pulmicort, his asthma medication. The boy was wheezing and looking pasty.
The return to the Luss household is the focus of the chapter. It’s important to find Keene’s Pulimicort. Neeva seems to be more than willing to face whatever evil is waiting in that house. Armed with steely nerve, oh and a crucifix. Her dedication to these children is quite admirable, she’s scared but determined. She’s scared with good cause too, and although Joan doesn’t make an appearance in this chapter, it’s enough to know she’s somewhere in the house, and her presence is enough to make Neeva extra alert to every tiny noise. The basement is an area of particular interest.
Most people seem to have a fear of basements. As children, we indulge in our fear, weaving elaborate monster stories that as adults we’re quick to dismiss as ridiculous, even though our inner child is quivering & demanding to not go down there alone, despite the desire to be rational, and somehow feeling brave for going down there anyway. All this is even worse for some adults when the power is out. Maybe it’s the idea of the basement being underground, I sometimes draw parallels to them, with tombs & crypts. It’s unfortunate I don’t have a basement, & have never lived in a house that has one, so I’m only guessing, but I can draw from my parents experiences who tell tales of creaking old houses, creepy coal cellars, dodgy lighting, & insects to noisily scurry across the floor in an otherwise still environment. Who needs ghost stories 🙂
All this is stuff is going through my head as I read how Neeva steps down into the basement.
She checked the cabinet over the built-in wine cooler, but the box of Pulmicort was empty, just as she had dreaded. She had to go down to the basement pantry.
The heat came rumbling on with a sound like that of somebody kicking the furnace, the actual working guts of the basement were hidden behind a door somewhere, and the sound nearly sent Neeva through the ceiling.
You see what I mean?
Every “everyday” noise is enough to set you further on edge. She’s probably been in this section of the house more times than she can remember, but now, every familiar noise is louder, as she strains to hear if Joan is down there, waiting to pounce, to strike.
Even the light in the room seems darker to her, even for the time of day, but it’s not her imagination, seems someone has stacked things against the windows, making Neeva even more nervous. She makes quick work of finding the Pulmicort, which is fortuitous, someone is definitely down there with her. She didn’t know what it was that chased after her, it could’ve been Elvis for all she knew but she has the good sense to just run, get out, fight or flight. Sensibly she chose flight.