Review of Craig DiLouie’s “The Infection”
The Infection starts out with a brief prologue that introduces the reader to the Screaming that initiates the apocalypse. About 20% of the population starts to scream uncontrollably and then collapse, going into a coma that lasts three days. At the end of that three days, those people who fell down wake up, and their only desire is to spread the infection to everyone else by biting and attacking them. The reader is thrust into the story a few weeks after the initial assault and we are introduced to a group of survivors roaming through Pittsburgh in a Bradley fighting vehicle. The crew of three is led by Sarge, who shares the task of leadership of the civilian survivor crew with Anne, a mysterious woman with a major hatred of the infected. Wendy, a police officer, Paul, a minister, Ethan, a math teacher, and Todd, a geeky high school student, are the other members of this brigade of survivors.
The story relates their current experiences of attempting to find shelter, avoid exposure to the infected, and seeking out other survivors, while flashing back to their initial introductions to the infection, lost family members, and the horrific memories each of them has had. DiLouie does a bang up job of revealing, by inches, what we need to know about each of the players in this story. In time, they settle at a hospital, clearing it room by room, and realize there are more than just the zombie-like infected that have been introduced into this new, horrible world. As they flee the hospital, they discover an even wider assortment of alien creatures-from wormlike to giant demons that hint at something far more sinister than just a virus or plague at work. The group makes their way to a huge encampment of survivors, which reminded me of a vast, wild-west setting filled with both hope and despair as everyone tries to make due and pretend things are normal in a world turned upside down. But the needs of the mishmash of government agencies still in existence will send our survivors back out onto the road, where they must once again come to grips with the horror their world has become.
After reading Tooth and Nail, I knew that Craig DiLouie had a real talent for creating compelling, real, and fascinating characters, but he ups the ante here, with each survivor in the group being given an in depth look that allows the reader to fully appreciate the pain and agony each one of them has gone through to get to survive to this point, and why they have a willingness to stick with one another through the hell their existence has become. This is an apocalyptic novel, but I can’t say that it falls exactly into the realm of a zombie novel; instead, it is a hybrid that provides plenty of brand new terrors to mess with your head. Alien creatures with little to no real explanation make this story unique, though this did remind me of other works I have read prior to this, such as The Mist, from Stephen King. I am positive a sequel is in the works and perhaps that will reveal some answers about the creatures that have invaded this world, but there appear to be no explanations on these pages, only a bit of conjecture on the part of one of the characters. I am not sure if I am griping about this-not knowing what is actually going on-because the characters themselves don’t know anything either. They are just trying to survive, and in some cases, kill as many of these abominations as they possibly can. Another minor quibble I have is something I have grown used to over the course of this novel and DiLouie’s previous one-the fact that the author moves into present tense on occasion, which feels a bit jarring when it occurs. It offers up an urgency, a sense of “now” to the story, but it also serves as a minor reading distraction in my humble opinion.
Those very minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent book of the apocalypse, creative and wild from the start; from how the infection occurs to the results it yields, and the characters that inhabit its pages are just about as compelling as any I have ever seen.
The Infection can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Infection-Craig-DiLouie/dp/1934861650/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300070883&sr=8-1