I read Alive by Scott Sigler while on my honeymoon in April. I’ve enjoyed his previous work, especially the Infected series, so I’m always willing to read whatever he has written. The premise of the novel is fascinating:
A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone. She frees the others in the room and leads them into a corridor filled with the remains of a war long past. The farther these survivors travel, the worse are the horrors they confront. And as they slowly come to understand what this prison is, they realize that the worst and strangest possibilities they could have imagined don’t even come close to the truth.
I started Alive and didn’t stop reading until I finished. Exciting, thrilling, and eminently readable Alive is not a novel without its issues. In previous works Sigler doesn’t shy away from violence and while that is still true here it is certainly less graphic than in previous works (but can anything really top Perry’s sections in Infected?). Alive is a novel that is targeted a bit towards the teen crowd and I can’t help but think the audience limited the places that Sigler could go with his story.
Alive is a difficult novel to talk about since it relies so heavily on the surprise of its story. I love a good mystery and the ominous tone of the novel works extraordinarily well. Sigler has set up a fascinating environment and as more and more of the environment the characters have found themselves in is revealed the mystery only seems to deepen. When the big reveal does finally happen there was definitely a bit of forehead slapping on my part. While I did enjoy the exploration portion of the novel there was a point where I felt things began to drag. The balance between frenetic action scenes and confused wandering is weighted strongly towards the latter. While this makes the action, and often horror that surrounds it, feel all the more thrilling when Alive drags, particularly during its first third, it really does drag.
Having read Alive in roughly a day I will say that its nearly four hundred pages still feels all too short. I would have loved a bit more of a denouement as the novel’s cliffhanger ending left me far too unsatisfied. While towards the end of the novel the characters’ individual natures begin to feel a bit more realized the novel’s tendency to lean on the mystery of the characters’ surroundings and identities it means that the characters themselves feel sort of like blank slates. As a result the burden of deeper characterization rests on any future novels. Alive isn’t my favorite of Sigler’s novels (I think it’s still eclipsed by any of the first three Infected novels) but it is still a damned fine read the borders on summer-blockbuster levels of entertainment.