Infected – Novel Review
- By Scott Sigler
- Hodder & Stoughton (Australia/UK)
This novel falls into a category or sub-genre or whatever you want to call it that doesn’t usually hold a lot of appeal for me. Sigler blends present-day thriller tropes with science fiction elements and buckets full of gore-horror to create what I can only call an Airport Novel. It’s big, it’s full of movement and colour and action, but ultimately it doesn’t really leave much behind.
Don’t get me wrong: I like a bit of mindless escapism as much as anybody else. I’m just not prepared to read an Airport Novel - even a reasonably well-crafted one – and then try to tell you it’s a work of undying literary merit.
Sigler’s progress into print has been interesting. The credits at the front of the book state it was released originally as a podcast in 2006, so to see it as a trade paperback from a major publishing firm means that the author has achieved a rare feat of self-promotion — and the best of luck to him for that. It’s good to see writers finding ways to turn the New Media to their own ends. That Hodder & Stoughton have also published the sequel to this novel suggests that they’re turning a profit as well, so it’s a win all round.
And for the readers?
Well, you do need to be a bit of an afficionado of violent action and splattery horror. But if that’s your cup of tea, Sigler delivers in pots. He sets up a race against time, in which a handful of US government agents and scientists must work desperately and in secrecy to uncover the source of a terrifying infection that turns ordinary people into unspeakably violent, paranoiac mass murderers. Drawing on the bizarre real-world mystery of Morgellon’s Disease, Sigler creates hideous spores sent to earth by intelligences bent on conquest. Upon entering a human body, these spores begin a truly gruesome process of transformation, gradually becoming grotesque alien lifeforms which develop inside the apparently helpless human host, drawing their nutrition from the body itself and killing the host horribly as they emerge.
I say ‘apparently’ because”Scary” Perry Dawsey, a gigantic ex-football player who falls afoul of these spores is something of a latent psychopath. As his life disintegrates into pain and rampant paranoia, he draws on his own personal demons and urge to self-destruction to kill off the alien creatures developing inside him in some of the more epically grotesque descriptive passages of the novel. Sigler doesn’t back off when it comes to the blood, the pus, the rot, and the horrendous mutilation of his characters, and Perry Dawsey is right at the centre of the worst of it.
It’s a recurring theme, to which virtually all Sigler’s characters are subject. If not creating gore and mayhem like Dawsey, Agent Dew Phillips of the CIA and Dr Margaret Montoya of the CDC are constantly dealing with garishly vile crime scenes, corpses that rot spectacularly into nauseating puddles of unidentifiable organic goo, and deranged victims of the space spores attempting to kill … well, pretty much anyone and everyone, it appears. In fact, just about every character not clearly marked out as a survivor eventually dies, generally in the ugliest and most stomach-turning manner.
There is a plot, a purpose and a goal, of course. The space spores and their horrid spawn have a fiendish plan which will result in horror unimaginable if not thwarted. Naturally, the good guys are right behind them, thwarting desperately. With the unlikely aid of the rapidly disintegrating Perry Dawsey, will Phillips and Montoya and their allies save the earth from the horrors from space?
Eh. I told you there’s a sequel, didn’t I?
Got a strong stomach? Wanna kill a few hours in an entertaining fashion? You could do a lot worse than “Infected”.
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