Infected by Scott Sigler
Horror | Science Fiction
Published by Crown
Released April 1, 2008
Goodreads | Amazon
Scott Sigler’s Infected was one of the first books I ever purchased when I received my Amazon Kindle as a gift in 2014. As part of my obsession with all things apocalyptic and disastrous, I enjoy stories about unknown pathogens and disease.
I did not enjoy this novel. Part of this was my own fault, as I assumed it was just a science fiction novel, when in fact it’s body horror. If you are turned off by lots of blood and gore, this is not the book for you. I don’t mind body horror, and gore doesn’t bother me at all, but I was caught off-guard by it. However, being surprised by a novel being a slightly different genre is something I can easily deal with. The other issues I had with this book – not so much.
The story follows three main characters and perspectives: Dew, a special agent trying to catch an infected person alive; Margaret, a scientist with the CDC who is working on a way to identify and contain the infection; and Perry Dawsey, a victim of this new and unprecedented infection.
The infection comes from space, in the form of seeds falling into the atmosphere. One of the few things I did enjoy about this novel were the chapters describing how these seeds arrived and infected their victims. I love science in science fiction, so I was intrigued by seeds that read DNA and build and grow based on their host.
Once the infection takes hold, people become hostile, and Dew has come into contact with several victims who have committed murder-suicides. They also have strange, blue, triangle-shaped lumps on their skin, but once the victim is dead, they decompose at such a rapid rate that Margaret has trouble studying them.
Dew and Margaret were boring characters for me, and their personalities felt bland. Perry, however, was a fully fleshed-out character, and I disliked everything about him. His character was one of the largest things that turned me off of this story. He’s brutish, misogynistic, and makes really terrible decisions. I understand that one of the characteristics of the infection is hostility and that Perry has a pre-existing anger problem due to an abusive father, but it was too much. I found myself getting annoyed with him constantly. And those really terrible decisions I mentioned – even if you dislike doctors, when your balls are growing giant itchy scabs that resemble an orange peel, even the most reluctant person would be prompted to seek help. Also, just his internal dialogue, in general, turned me off:
Perry felt embarrassed, like a teenager who’s pantsed in front of the girls, or someone caught masturbating. He felt his face flush red. He was standing there in his kitchen, pants about his knees, bent over like some silkyboy waiting for a bull fag to take it to him. He’d certainly rather have some three-hundred-pound convict sticking it up his ass than deal with the situation he had now. Even AIDS would be better than going out this way.
The biggest thing about this novel that I couldn’t get over was that it felt ridiculous while at the same time taking itself seriously. Giant blue triangles on someone’s body that grow eyes and speak to their host was something I could not take seriously, even though the majority of what I read is fantasy and science fiction. I can suspend a great deal of disbelief, but not enough to enjoy this book.
Sigler’s writing isn’t bad and the story flows easily and quickly, but this was not a book that was meant for me. It’s clear that other people really enjoy his work, from both his Goodreads reviews and the fact that when I rated the novel on Goodreads and it auto-posted to my Twitter feed, I received a bunch of comments from people who professed their love for the novel or wanted to know why I would rate it so poorly.
If you like gory body horror novels and old-school horror movies such as The Body Snatchers, then you might enjoy this book. However, if what you want is a science fiction story about a pandemic, there are other books that will be better suited to you.