Infected by Scott Sigler
Published April 2008 by Crown Books
I picked up this book with some pretty high expectations. I’d listened to two of Sigler’s podcast novels, Earthcore and Ancestor, and thoroughly enjoyed them both. They made my daily commute not just tolerable, but something I actually looked forward to. I knew that actually reading Infected rather than listening to it in podcast form would be a different experience, and it was. For one thing, I pretty much devoured it, reading it in a few hours, while listening to it in podcast form would have taken several days.
In Infected, a mysterious disease has cropped up in the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Victims become psychotic and exhibit strange growths on their bodies. As the CIA and the CDC rush to bring the plague under control and keep it from becoming general knowledge, former college football player Perry Dawson becomes its latest victim. We get to go deep into Dawson’s head as he comes to grips with a disease that seems to be trying to control him, and witness his genuinely frightening slide into insanity.
On the whole, I enjoyed Infected. Its fast pace and graphic descriptions are almost cinematic. Sigler has a gift for conveying paranoia in a way that from within the character’s head seems very genuine, but his strength really lies in his effective portrayal of gore. Make no mistake, Sigler is a very gory writer; the other novels of his that I’ve read have been full of violence, graphically described. The level of gore, compared with the high concepts that Sigler employs, have earned him comparisons with Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk.
Nevertheless, there were some weaknesses to this novel. Many characters felt like stock material, almost trite: the coldly efficient CIA operative, the methodical and overworked government scientist, and so on. This contributed to the fast pace of the book, though, which is part of its appeal. These characters have easily understood motives and behavior patterns. On the other hand, they won’t necessarily stand out as identifiable and sympathetic.
In short: if you want a quick, bloody read full of violence and gore, with plenty of science on the side, I would strongly recommend Infected. It’s a fun read, and there are plenty of times when that’s exactly what you need.