Publisher: Random House, Inc., 2008
Book Blurb: Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families.
Working under the government’s shroud of secrecy, CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. She discovers that these killers all have one thing in common – they’ve been contaminated by a bioengineered parasite, shaped by a complexity far beyond the limits of known science.
Meanwhile Perry Dawsey – a hulking former football star now resigned to life as a cubicle-bound desk jockey – awakens one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Soon Perry finds himself acting and thinking strangely, hearing voices . . . he is infected.
The fate of the human race may well depend on the bloody war Perry must wage with his own body, because the parasites want something from him, something that goes beyond mere murder.
My Opinion: Oh boy, where do I start. We will start with the good, because unfortunately there isn’t much good to cover.
I loved the premise of Infected. This fusion of science and horror was thrilling. As I read, I immediately thought of the movie “The Crazies”, though aside from the apparent unprovoked homicidal tendencies, there really is no connection.
I was impressed with the level of science in Infected. I am not an authority, and I don’t know if any of it was actually accurate, but it made me feel like the author really cared about his book. He did the research. He put in the fancy words. They read a little dry at times, and there was at least one point where they used CDC as an abbreviation, assuming people know the organization (which most people do). And then they backtrack and explain it. In grisly detail.
Because Infected was released first via podcast, it has a very conversational narrative which read really easily. Hence the fact it only took me two days to read it, despite the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.
And finally, the gore. Some of the gore was kind of “meh”, but for the most part it was grisly and horrific… exactly what you want from a horror story. Fair warning, there is a lot of it.
With the good covered, we move on to the bad. And the bad was very bad.
There were far too many viewpoints, and I hated them all. I didn’t like the racist ‘Nam survivor CIA agent, and I didn’t like the rage-aholic almost-football-star who at 26, still refers to his abusive father as “daddy”. There were more minor viewpoints, that of the epidemiologist from the CDC, various other infecteds, etc. I can see this being effective in a podcast, but in print, it was just too scattered. I didn’t feel connected at all.
While we are on the subject of characters, let us stop at Perry for a moment. He is our main character in all this, and I just didn’t like him or believe what he was going through for five seconds. Over the course of the book he lost so much blood, and yet aside from a few blackouts, he doesn’t bat an eye. He should have been weak as a kitten by the end, if not dead. But no… he just got up and kept on going.
Perry also has an issue with female characters. I was really disgusted with the way he treats the woman he meets near the end of the book. I actually took it really personally, because the author describes this woman almost exactly to my proportions (height and weight) and then proceeds to comment on how fat she is. I know I am not the skinniest person around, but I am far from “fat”. Furthermore, women don’t have to conform to some set of measurements to be beautiful. This attitude that women are fat after a certain point is so harmful. I am so thankful that this isn’t a young adult novel.
Infected suffered from repeat-shit-itis, especially where Perry was concerned. And it was very tell-don’t-show, which is somewhat understandable considering the book’s original medium. But I would have liked to have read less about what a monster Perry was when he played football, and how immortal College students thought they were, and more about the parasites.
The ending of Infected wasn’t particularly effective. In my humble opinion, they could have cut a few chapters and it would have done much more to draw me in to the rest of the series.
Bottom Line: A science-horror crossover that delivers on both fronts. But watch out for the rapidly shifting viewpoints and the characters that you just can’t like. I will very likely not be continuing with this series.
(Cover image and book blurb courtesy of Goodreads)