Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scott Sigler month Book Review #3 and #4: Infected and Contagious

Guys, Pandemic is going to be released in just a few days, so I figured I'd go ahead and give you my last two reviews of the month this weekend, in preparation for the release. So this is going to be a long post, but there's a reason for it.

These two reviews, for Infected and Contagious, are reviews for the first two books in the trilogy that is culminating in Pandemic. I apologize for any spoilers you might detect. I try to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone loves spoilers like I do. I'm weird, I know, liking to know what happens if I can get someone to tell me.  But if you want to avoid the risks of learning something you don't want to know, maybe just skip to the "My Thought" or "Would I Recommend This Book" sections of the reviews.

So we're wrapping Scott Sigler month out with these reviews... unless I decide to write a post about when I go to the release event in Nashville on the 25th. We'll see what happens. Anyway, here are your reviews.

Infected by Scott Sigler

There is some weird crap going down in Ann Arbor. People keep calling a radio station about a conspiracy. Something about triangles. That word has become a hot button with government call screening, bringing the attention of the CIA to anyone who mentions “triangles” and “killing” in close proximity. Perry Dawsey doesn’t know it yet, but he’s recently become the host of seven spores that will grow into the triangles. They want him to build something. But will he do what they tell him to do? Or will the government get to him first?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Perry Dawsey 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.

This could happen at any time, to anyone, anywhere. That it’s set in Michigan is of no consequence. The triangles could be anywhere. It’s unbelievable how twisted humanity is, and how completely true to life this is. It’s a testament to Sigler’s understanding of human nature that he can pull this sort of thing off, manipulating not only his characters, but his readers to the extent he does. I can’t imagine that my reactions are that different from any other reader. If you’re looking for a conspiracy to believe in, why not the triangles?

There were several times that I couldn’t help but think, sarcastically, “Well, that wasn’t creepy at all.” That’s sort of the point of this, though. Sigler pulls off creepy and disturbing so well that you can’t help but wonder what goes in his head. I think of Sigler, and I just wonder how many people he has tied up in his basement. He takes you to the deepest, darkest pits of human nature, and then he grabs your wrist and pulls you across the line into inhumanity while he does the Lindy Hop in front of you. There is a significant thrill factor to this book, one that I couldn’t get enough of. So often I was urging Perry not to do something while subconsciously egging him on. And at the same time, I was cringing at the thought of doing that myself while waiting to see the wordcraft part of it, how Sigler would portray it. He delivers on every account. This goes for both the wordsmithing— the craft of the book itself— and the audio production of the book. Honestly, I can’t imagine just reading this. The audio was such an experience. I got chills more than once. I usually listen to my iPod at work, and I was getting disturbed while doing my job. Sigler made me surreptitiously glance around, fearing that others could hear the creepiness I was listening to, or the shouts of the characters, the heat of the moment. That alone added another level of disturbing to the book.

My Thoughts
I think a lot of my comments in the Style section of this review kind of get the point across regarding how I feel about this book. I loved it, hands down. The separate threads of plot, from Perry to Dew to Margaret, tie together well in the end. Each separate arc has its draws, and there are settings and scenes that you see from different points of view, adding an extra dimension to the events and settings. There is such reality hiding underneath the words, and the characters are such real people that it’s terribly easy to imagine all this really happening anywhere at anytime. And that just gives Infected another point on the disturbing scale. This book, from the onset, had me coming back for more, eager to listen to the next episode and very upset when I had to stop. As I mentioned, I listened to this through, not an ebook or dead tree book. Sigler does a phenomenal job of voicing his characters, or making the narration feel more like a visual representation than just words describing actions and settings. There is a great deal of skill and thought that was poured into this novel, and it shows. Hands down, this was an amazing story filled with real characters.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Oh, HELL yes. If you don’t mind adult stuff and some serious creepiness, lots of blood and violence, and a hoard of other badness, then yes, listen to or read this book. On the 5-star scale, I give this a bloody, slightly mutilated 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Contagious by Scott Sigler

"Scary" Perry Dawsey recovered from his encounter with the triangles. That doesn't mean he's unscarred. Now, he's working with the very people he was paranoid about when he was infected, trying to track down other triangle hosts to prevent any other gates from opening. He's the only one who can hear the triangles and track down the hosts, after all. But things are changing from when he was infected. Now, there's a new strain of the infection. And it is spreading.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Across America, a mysterious pathogen transforms ordinary people into raging killers, psychopaths driven by a terrifying, alien agenda. The human race fights back, yet after every battle the disease responds, adapts, using sophisticated strategies and brilliant ruses to fool its pursuers. The only possible explanation: the epidemic is driven not by evolution but by some malevolent intelligence.
Standing against this unimaginable threat is a small group, assembled under the strictest secrecy. Their best weapon is hulking former football star Perry Dawsey, left psychologically shattered by his own struggles with this terrible enemy, who possesses an unexplainable ability to locate the disease’s hosts. Violent and unpredictable, Perry is both the nation’s best hope and a terrifying liability. Hardened CIA veteran Dew Phillips must somehow forge a connection with him if they’re going to stand a chance against this maddeningly adaptable opponent. Alongside them is Margaret Montoya, a brilliant epidemiologist who fights for a cure even as she reels under the weight of endless horrors.
These three and their team have kept humanity in the game, but that’s not good enough anymore, not when the disease turns contagious, triggering a fast countdown to Armageddon. Meanwhile, other enemies join the battle, and a new threat — one that comes from a most unexpected source — may ultimately prove the most dangerous of all.

Like in Infected, this could be happening right now. Biological warfare is completely within the realm of human capability, and who's to say there aren't alien forces with their sights set on destroying us and taking our planet for their own? The science and technology Sigler has permeated this story with is current, accurate, and that detail of research and possibility makes this thriller all the more terrifying. I know I said this in my review for Infected and already once in this review, but it amazes me how realistic all this is. This could really happen.

I can't get over Sigler's style and content. His writing style is so crisp and clear that it's almost like you're not reading (or in my case, listening to) a book at all. Since I listened to this book in podcast form, I got the benefit of some great audio production, vocal effects, and of course, the voices of different characters. There is great value to listening to Sigler's work like this, actually. Since he's the one that does the reading, he has a deep understanding of the characters and the writing itself to get it across just the right way. He's a pleasure to listen to. I suppose I should actually read something of his just so I have a baseline of comparison. But after listening to three of his books, Ancestor, Infected, and Contagious, (okay, I've listened to four now since I first wrote this review) I'm seriously wanting to explore much more of the Sigler-verse.

My Thoughts
Normally, I don't let things get under my skin (forgive the pun). The only reason I got upset at the Red Wedding episode of the Game of Thrones show on HBO was because my best friend is a mother and it really disturbed her. I'm able to separate myself from things like this most of the time. After listening to both Infected and Contagious, I won't say I was disturbed, really, but any time I had an itch, it bugged me. In a thrilling way, like it's supposed to. Nothing is trivial here, nothing done for shock factor. It's all done for the thrill, to get your blood pumping, your heart racing, and your mind wondering what's going to happen next. Sigler generates genuine WTF moments regularly, but they don't get boring or old, and they're certainly not predictable.

I also have to say again how amazed I am at Sigler's understanding of human nature. From six-year-old kids to grizzled Vietnam veterans to mid-20's football players, he's got people and their characteristics and behaviors down. I would say he's got it down to a science, but I've talked about science enough at this point. I just wanted to rave about how realistic these characters and situations are, and how much these books need to be made into movies.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Holy crap yes. He has completely done justice to this sequel of Infected, and he set the bar pretty high with Infected. I have nothing but awe for Sigler's work here. I give it a spit-swapping 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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