Book Review: Contagious by Scott Sigler

3605324Contagious was another of the random audio books I picked up at one of my regular library excursions. I can admit, I completely and totally picked this book up because I liked the cover…

Upon popping the first disk into my car stereo, I questioned whether I had already read this book several years ago. The concept was incredibly familiar: crazy rash-like symptoms that eventually develop into murderous psychosis, mysterious blue triangles appearing on victims’ skin, a man who had murdered his best friend but managed to overcome the horrendous symptoms to fight against alien invasion… I understand that alien invasion and mysterious illness might be common veins in science fiction literature, but the blue triangles? Had I picked up a book I’d already read? Was this a case of blatant plagiarism?

Nope. This book turns out to be the sequel to another book called Infected, which I had read in middle school or high school. I had enjoyed the book back then, though I’ll admit it was a bit mature for a thirteen or fourteen year old. Pretty awesome coincidence in my opinion 🙂

The Back Story

From the acclaimed author of Infected comes an epic and exhilarating story of humanity’s secret battle against a horrific enemy.

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.

Catapulting the reader into a world where humanity’s life span is measured in hours and the president’s finger hovers over the nuclear button, rising star Scott Sigler takes us on a breathtaking, hyper-adrenalized ride filled with terror and jaw-dropping action. Contagious is a truly grand work of suspense, science, and horror from a new master.

My Thoughts?

Wow… apparently I’m on a roll lately with the horrific and gruesome. This book was kind of the icing on my literary To Be Read list considering I’m finishing up Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft…

I was actually super happy to discover that their was a sequel to Infected. The first book was well written with a strong cast of diverse characters including a young Hispanic female scientist, her hunky African American co-worker (and significant other), a washed up college football  player with a history of childhood trauma, and a middle-aged CIA agent who’s seen it all and lived to tell about it. Each character had an intriguing background story, so it was fun to see where their lives went after fighting against the alien invasion thwarted in the first book in the series.

A bit of a spoiler, don’t get too attached to characters in Sigler’s books. This author has a bit of a sadistic streak and loves putting characters through the most horrifying and bloody experiences imaginable, even going as far as killing off relatively important characters right as his tales are getting good. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part the characters don’t die needlessly, with each death being used as a push to move the plot forward, aid in character development, or just give you that bit of shock factor when you’re least expecting it. It does tend to get a bit depressing after a while though.

One thing I particularly enjoy about Sigler’s books is the scientific element. I found it more enjoyable as an adolescent, eating up the descriptive bits regarding DNA formation on the molecular level, cell development and apoptosis, and other chemical reactions within body. But as an adult with a doctorate degree in a scientific field, some of the descriptions were redundant (for example, apoptosis being described in detail multiple times in both books) and blurred the line between science fiction and pseudoscience. Though overall, the science was an interesting and fun aspect of this novel.

As already mentioned above, this book is not really for the faint of heart. There are more than a few grisly deaths and cases of self-mutilation. The concept of the books is disturbing, alien invasion precipitated by hijacking human hosts for the growth of biological extraterrestrial machinery… a bit of a mouthful. The novel also includes colorful language and sexual comments not appropriate for some readers.

Overall, I enjoyed both of Sigler’s books in the Infected Series, giving both Four out of Five stars. Hopefully I’ll be able to hunt down the sequel, Pandemic, someday…

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