Random House Audio/Books On Tape, 2008.
Released several months ago by web phenom/author Scott Sigler, I felt that Infected was buried by the (somewhat) similarly themed The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I won’t be drawing parallels between the two (I have not, and will not, read The Host) only to say that both involve microscopic organisms as the enemy. Truth be told I didn’t actually “read” Infected either, but I did listen to the audiobook and it was a damned fun ride.
Rather than hire some smooth voiced professional narrator/voice actor Random House Audio (aka Books on Tape) allowed Sigler to the voicework here. A good fact since it seems Sigler has been doing audio versions of his own work as weekly podcasts for some time now. While he might lack the British finesse of Simon Vance, Sigler manages to inject his reading with (sorry) an infectious sense of fun, seeming to enjoy the reading almost as much as you (potentially) enjoy the listening.
The official synopses:
Perry Daswey is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds of angry ex-linebacker. He knows all too well that if he doesn’t control his quick temper, people get hurt. Through constant focus, he has locked his violent past away in the deep dungeons of his mind.
The infection changes everything.
Strange microscopic parasites tap into Perry’s bloodstream like tiny little vampires. They start as bright orange blisters, but soon take the shape of triangular growths just beneath his skin. The “Triangles,” as Perry calls them, try to control their host by manipulating hormone levels and flooding his body with neurotransmitters — imbalances of which cause paranoia, schizophrenia and excessive aggression. As Perry begins a desperate battle to cut the Triangles out of his body before it’s too late, his self-control dissolves into raging, murderous madness.
That summary is a bit misleading as it neglects to mention a number of other characters Dr. Margaret Montoya and CIA agent Dew Phillips, the two other major players in the novel. While both Dew and Montoya aren’t bad characters they do follow along familiar archetypes from a lot of other disaster/thriller/suspense fiction: the grizzled cynical veteran with a hidden heart, and the sassy, smart, and criminally underestimated doctor type. But the Dawsey chapters are where the novel really shines. So cringe inducing and viseral were these chapters that, were I not the attentive, skilled, drive that I am, I might have gotten into a car accident. I would sit in my car with a white knuckled grip on my steering wheel and literally flinch and squirm as Dawsey fought the titular infection. While it appears the novel was optioned by Rogue Pictures for a film adaptation I only hope that whoever helms that project doesn’t flinch from the rough and horrific scenes the dominate Dawsey’s story.
Sigler’s voice work is enthusiastic but weakest when dealing with his female characters. I think I giggled a little with his high pitched attempt at a faint spanish accent for Montoya but it wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me. Digital voice modulation during later sections of the book provided a good creepy feeling, especially the first time you hear it, and an occaisonal bit of music and other ambient sound makes for an atmospheric twist. Complaints asside I couldn’t really imagine anyone else reading this.
A blend of sci-fi and horror Infected was an entertaining, cringe inducing listen that a highly recommend to anyone looked for a little distraction during their daily commute. The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger and the climax, much to its credit, has a bit a Lovecraftian twist to it that has me anticipating a sequel. The book isn’t perfect, thanks to some weak supporting characters (that likely were supposed be more central), but makes up for it in visceral, intense action. According to Sigler’s site the sequel Contagious is due out December 30.