Scott Sigler is an enormously popular author whose ability to
think outside the box is not limited to his literary work. Tired of
collecting rejection slips, he began sharing his novels with the
masses by podcasting them, a few chapters at a time, and gaining a
following that increased exponentially every week. INFECTED is his
debut print novel and is perfect in every way --- cutting across
thriller, horror and science fiction genres (and one or two others
as well) ---- resulting in a tale that will leave your posterior
hanging well beyond the edge of your seat.
At its core, INFECTED concerns a mysterious condition that turns
individuals into rampaging, homicidal maniacs who murder their
families, strangers and ultimately themselves. The government
assigns Dew Phillips, a coldly competent CIA operative, to
investigate, pairing him with CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya.
It was Montoya who first noticed certain anomalies, if you will, in
the corpses of the first rampaging individuals --- anomalies that
lead her to believe that the heart of the deadly condition is a new
and frightening type of parasite. Thanks to Sigler, the reader is a
step or two ahead of Montoya, but I doubt he’s been getting
any candy for it.
Sigler is a marvel, describing complex biological concepts in a way
that those of us who haven’t cracked a textbook in decades
can understand, and the manner by which the parasites gain entry
to, and sustain themselves from, the human body is ingenious.
However, I could have happily lived the rest of my natural years in
ignorance of the fact that, at this very moment, there are millions
of microscopic spiders crawling all over me, eating and evacuating
my dead skin cells in a sort of perpetual motion. Sigler describes
this process, and others, in graphic detail while never dropping
the narrative ball for even one second. Montoya and Phillips form a
prickly team, with Phillips involved in the wet work and Montoya
doing the somewhat creepy evaluations, attempting to determine the
cause of the contagion and, more importantly, stop it before it
spreads any further.
As interesting as Montoya and Phillips are, however, the heart of
INFECTED is Perry Dawsey, a former pro football player whose career
was shattered along with his knee. Performing far from satisfying
work as an IT specialist, Dawsey becomes a host to the parasite,
and as Sigler gives us a step-by-step, up-close-and-personal view
of how the parasite evolves and manifests itself, we get an
intimate view not only of the parasite but also of Dawsey.
Ex-football players --- even guys who played for the Michigan
Wolverines --- don’t roll over for a parasite, even a
sentient one. To say that Dawsey isn’t going down without a
fight is inaccurate; he’s not going down period, and as
INFECTED ultimately demonstrates, Dawsey will do anything
to stop the takeover of his body.
And it’s a good thing, too. Invading and usurping bodies is
only the first step. In a climax that will have you swallowing your
hand, your tongue and anything else that’s handy, we learn
that invasions can come from both within and without.
INFECTED is unforgettable, a classic right out of the gate, and, I
suspect, a metaphor of sorts. And yes, when I reached
Sigler’s account of Dawsey’s ultimate sacrifice, I
discovered that one can read with one’s hands over both eyes.
If this book hasn’t been optioned for a movie yet, then those
in the film industry have no idea what they’re doing.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011