Pros: decent story, well-thought out characters, lots of gore
Cons: Some dangling plot threads unresolved
If you know anything about podcasting and independent authors, then you’re probably familiar with Scott Sigler. Not only is he a best-selling author, he’s really latched on to new ways of marketing. He’s made all of his novels into serialized podcasts at http://podiobooks.com/ (too bad he narrates himself. Meh.) and even has his own last.fm channel. He’s all over podcasts and blogs and social media.
But as involved as I’ve been at Podiobooks myself, I had never read any of his books. From what I’ve heard or seen from his covers they were filled with mindless gore. Torture porn, if you will. But when I saw Infected at a local used book store (sorry, Scott), I decided to give it a try.
I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.
Infected is part horror, part crime procedural, part science fiction. The main story revolves around Perry Dawsey, a giant of an ex-jock sidelined by an injury. When he starts finding strange triangular shaped parasites under his skin, he begins to freak out. And with a past of violence and regret, freaking out is not a good option. Perry refuses to go to the hospital in a thinly veiled plot mechanism to have Perry take matters into his own hands. This is where Sigler really shines. He relishes putting his characters into situations where the only way out is with a butcher knife to their own ball sack. And he does it exceedingly well, with only a few moments of violent exploitation. He’s not afraid of gore, but he doesn’t use it as a crutch. The violence is over-the-top, but always comes across as justified.
The book changes perspective from Perry to the scientists researching the parasites to the cops investigating other violent incidents seemingly related to the parasites. This procedural stuff is believable and gives a certain credibility to the storyline. Make no mistake, this is no Hot Zone or Ebola scare. I never once got scared from a “ZOMG this could actually HAPPEN!” moment. This science is firmly rooted in fiction.
Sigler deftly switches from all of these perspectives to weave a fun tale. Without giving anything away, readers may be a bit disappointed with the ending. There are no nice little wrapups and plotlines introduced earlier are not touched again. Sigler is clearly setting us up for “something else”. That something else is the sequel, Contagious.
Infected is a fun ride. It’s certainly not the most original premise, but he clearly has a lot of fun with it. While it’s far from a perfect thriller, fans of horror science fiction can’t go wrong. Recommended.