Growing up I watched this horror movie called Frailty with my mom. The movie had no cheap scares or gore, but every night for of the following week I had nightmares that eventually led to me sleeping with a light on for years to come. Ever since then it seems as though horror flicks just can’t phase me. Directors are too focused on the gore-factor to see what is really important. The psychological thrills. INFECTED by Scott Sigler (Amazon) promised to be a mind bender, a truly terrifying read. Promises aside, it doesn’t quite deliver.
Perry Dawsey has been infected with an alien virus from space. A virus that turns its hosts into paranoid, violent psychopaths. After a childhood of physical abuse at the hands of his father, Perry is already more than halfway to becoming a paranoid, violent psychopath on his own. CIA agent Dew Philips and Center for Disease Control epidemiologist Margaret are in a race against time to unravel the mystery of the “triangles” and stop them before they can spread. Can Perry ignore the homicidal whispers in his head? Will Dew and Margaret be able to piece together the puzzles and save the world?
So it sounds like what we got here is Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with The Crazies, and really for all intents and purposes that’s about right. The story is told from the perspective of the three protagonists, though it follows “Scary” Perry Dawsey for the majority of the romp. Smart move on Sigler’s part. Perry is the only character with any personality or depth. He’s a hard man that has lived a hard life but he really can be a sympathetic character, especially given what he went through during his childhood. Watching Perry’s descent into madness is intense and fraught with peril because readers do care about his plight. And, despite his condition, Perry decides to fight back against the creatures residing in his own body and I find that pretty commendable.
Dew and Margaret are nowhere near as entertaining to read about but lucky for us their chapters are short and sparse. The only emotion Dew ever seems to show is indignation and Margaret is only ever scared or horny. Dew does not act like you would expect a seasoned CIA agent to act, not that the CIA should even be in charge of this type of investigation. The CIA wasn’t built for that sort of business and it shows. Margaret doesn’t act like you would expect a knowledgeable, educated doctor of the CDC to act either.
The investigation, which I have to admit I was most excited for, is actually the smallest part of the story. The majority of the story is spent watching as Perry’s sanity is stripped away, layer by layer. I imagine this is where the “horror” angle is supposed to come from. There is a huge amount of self mutilation, this book is definitely not for the squeamish. The alien creatures are cool, Sigler appears to have a grasp of virology and biology. As unbelievable as Dew and Margaret are, I had no trouble suspending my disbelief on behalf of the aliens. I would consider INFECTED to be creepy rather than horrifying but I do realize that this sort of thing is subjective and it might give some people a good thrill.
Sigler has great ideas and his writing is tight. The short chapters make for quick, uninterrupted reading and the tension is dense throughout INFECTED.
The ending is rushed, a problem I’ve been having with most of my reading lately. After hundreds of pages of watching Perry struggle against his own body in a very personal conflict, the climax is far too rushed and impersonal. This short-cut finish is obviously setting up for the sequel (obvious because the sequel is out already) but I still hate to be short changed.
I like a lot of Sigler’s ideas and I find his writing to be tight. The short chapters make for quick, uninterrupted reading and the tension is dense throughout the story. INFECTED takes a few pages out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but does everything better so that is an improvement. The problem is that I just don’t find INFECTED scary. Gory and disturbing for sure but it lacks that element that would make it a proper horror/thriller.
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Pretty heavy on the cursing
- Violence: Lots of violence, lots of very disturbing self mutilation
- Sex: No sex but there is a very degrading nudity scene