Tags

infectedBY SEAN CLARK

Author: Scott Sigler

Three Rivers Press, 2008

Best ebook deal: Fictionwise

This is one of two mass-market books I picked up for a recent bus trip. Unlike Kronos, Infected turned out to be exactly what I expected when purchasing it: a graphic and bloody thriller.

Basically there’s this weird infection people are getting that makes them really itchy, then these weird triangle marks appear all over their bodies. Then they go mental and murder everyone they can before offing themselves. The government is going crazy trying to A.) stop what they perceive to be a terrorist bio-attack and B.) keep it under wraps.

The triangle marks, we learn, are alien seedlings, spawning in human bodies and controlling their minds a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The main plot line of the book focuses on former college football star Perry Dawsey as he battles for control of his body and mind against the creatures growing within him. Perry is a big guy with deep-seated anger issues, and he is able to withstand much more pain than the other victims we hear of. Most of this pain is self inflicted, as he tries to wrest them from his body.

I should mention that the book is extremely violent and quite gruesome at times, so if that’s not your thing you should probably stay away. The writing is not particularly good, yet it has a very cheesy, action movie charm. A few lines to illustrate what I mean:

This guy made him want to toss his hippocratic oath and pick up a glock instead.

and when an alien spawn, freshly torn from a human body, is flung across a room it sails

like a LeBron James jumper swishing through the hoop.

So while this book is as far from literary as you can get, it correlates nicely to campy horror movies. Pacing is a bit of an issue though, especially when the book switches to the less-developed secondary plot. This features the government scientists and agents trying to track down and stop the mysterious epidemic. At times it provides a welcome break from the manic Dawsey chapters, but as the book approaches the climax, Sigler explodes the relatively contained action into an opening-and-final act of an alien invasion involving a dimensional gate being opened near Ann Arbor. It tries to do too much too quickly and ultimately feels tacked-on, or forced. It all happens so quickly it might as well been ommitted. The strength of the book lies in the will-power battle waged by Dawsey in his apartment, so when the book shifts gear it becomes more than a little run-of-the-mill.

If you like campy violence (including brutal murders, mutilations, and a graphic depiction of self-castration) and cheesy narration, and you aren’t up for anything remotely literary or intelligent, you might enjoy this book.

Other books: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Finney), The Tommyknockers (King), Starship Troopers (Heinlein)

 

  • It’s ironic that you post a scathing review of INFECTED just before you take Alice Hoffman and Alain de Botton to task for defending their work against harsh reviews. Apparently, reviewers have the right to say anything they like, insulting both work and creator, and yet the creator does not have the right to reply in kind.

    Take for example your review of INFECTED. I particularly liked this line:

    “If you like campy violence (including brutal murders, mutilations, and a graphic depiction of self-castration) and cheesy narration, and you aren’t up for anything remotely literary or intelligent, you might enjoy this book.”

    So the book isn’t remotely intelligent? Obviously, you’re not much of a fan of the horror, scifi or suspense genres. I understand if the violence isn’t your cup of tea, but there is quite a bit of intelligence in this story. Perhaps you missed it because you’re not used to stories that involve heavy amounts of real science. Or, perhaps you just don’t understand said science. Either way, this portion of your review is way off base.

    INFECTED focuses on a parasitical bioengineering of the human tissue self-replenishment process. This technology analyzes the coding of your DNA, then reprograms this DNA to create parts that self-assemble into a sentient organism. The story involves macrobiology, microbiology, self-assembling machine theory, bioengineering, neuroscience, the self-replicating machine theories of John von Neuman, psychology, neurotransmitter-induced behavior manipulation and the paranoid, violent side effects of neurotransmitter overdoses. Two Ph.Ds consulted on this manuscript.

    So if you reading tastes are too sensitive for realistic violence, harsh language and the reality of child abuse and the cycle of violence prevalent in most human cultures, then sure, you can tick off low scores on your ten-point scale. However, try not to call something “unintelligent” simply because you lack enough knowledge to understand what you’re reading.

    I look forward to your future reviews, and best of luck with this blog. It is well designed and you do an excellent job of presenting the information.

    I’d also love to read your definition of “literary.” Since you are a self-declared expert on what is, isn’t, and “isn’t remotely” literary, I’m sure you can define the word in a sentence or two. Not by citing examples or quoting texts, but in your own expert opinion.

  • Hi Scott,

    Thanks for checking us out.

    Sean and I are different people and different writers, and we don’t confer on our posts.

    But that said, I didn’t take Hoffman and de Botton to task about responding to reviews. I said that responding in general (as you’ve done here) was definitely understandable, but I wasn’t sure how effective it would be. I think Hoffman and de Botton both went too far, but that’s about it.

    Anyway, I haven’t read your book, so I can’t weigh in on that, but good luck with your writing in the future.

  • Hi Scott,

    Like Nico, I think author resonses to book reviews understandable and even welcome. Personally, I see our reviews on this site as the beginning of a conversation between readers, and if the authors are willing to jump in, I’m all for it. The purpose of our reviews are to stimiulate discussion and sharing with other readers. We don’t make money from the site, and our review structure is not of the type with which one would try and build journalistic credentials. We write them just because we want to.

    That said, I’m sorry you considered my review “scathing.” I actually enjoyed your book and found it quite entertaining, and have already recommended it to one reader I know will enjoy it. I also thought that the hyper-violence and the psychological battle waged by Dawsey both in light of and causal to that violence was the story’s strength, far from not my “cup of tea.”

    However, my goal for reviews is to call books as I see them, in order to help readers see just what kind of book I’m reviewing. I found your book entertaining but lacking in language and depth, hence I scored it as I did. I understand you touched on “real science” and I noticed the jargon in the book, however that does and should take a back seat to the meat-and-potatoes of the story, and in this case that translates to an entertaining sci-fi horror scenario that cribs a lot from such genre staples such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing to name just two examples.

    I’ll concede that “literary” is a nebulous and subjective term, but I would define a literary book as well-written, in that it is rich in language and thematics, with a well-read audience in mind. Too many people assume “literary” and “good book” to mean equivalent things, to which I do not agree. Some of my favorite books I would not consider literary.

    So let’s call a spade a spade. The strength of your book, to my observation, was when you got more original and put Dawsey in the proverbial petri dish. Consulting PhDs doesn’t negate sophomoric writing, pacing, and plotting. At the times your book did shine, it was as a fun and original take on a certain sci-fi subset, and not as a clever synthesis of “real science” and masochistic alien horror.

    This response is far longer than I intended. Thanks for commenting and I look forward to checking out your next book.

Advertisements