Infected is a science fiction / horror type story set in the U.S., in the Ann Arbor area. A small (so far) number of people have become infected with an unknown organism. The infection feeds on their paranoia, particularly about law enforcement and the government, and they often end up brutally killing themselves and others. It took me a while to get into the story. I think for the first 25% or so, it felt rather dull to me. After that, it started to pick up pretty well and I became more interested. But the story never really felt “fresh” to me. I couldn’t point to any other story I’ve read with a similar plot, but it felt familiar and predictable anyway. Even once I became more wrapped up in the story, I was never surprised by anything. I also never grew attached to the characters.
We follow three main characters: a scientist who is attempting to figure out what the infection is, a police officer who is trying to help find and catch infected people, and a victim of the infection. The most interesting character was the victim, and we started to spend more time from his perspective as the story progressed. His part of the story was often gross and a little creepy, particularly as I got closer to the end of the book. Although it didn't bother me, this is definitely not a book for people who prefer to avoid blatantly described gore and violence.
The infected character frustrated me sometimes. He refused to seek help, naturally, and he often failed to react rationally to various events. His refusal to seek help did make sense within the context of the story. He had paranoid tendencies to begin with and the infection exacerbated that. But it’s one of my pet peeves when drama is created by having characters repeatedly make bad decisions that will make a bad situation worse. I prefer intelligent characters. So, even though I thought his behavior was sufficiently justified within the context of the story, it still bugged me sometimes.
The infected character's role as an IT employee never rang true to me either, speaking as somebody who does work in IT. I was particularly surprised when he turned to the phone book at one point when he was looking for information. I had to go look to see when the book was published. It was published in 2008. And it wasn't because he was worried about internet security; that never even crossed his mind. In fact, he showed a complete lack of concern for internet security when he not only looked up the same information on the internet, but also submitted his address and phone # over the internet. Given his supposed paranoia, I found this to be a contradiction with his role as an IT employee.
I wasn’t too crazy for the other characters, mainly because they weren’t developed as well. The scientist who was investigating the dead, infected bodies was particularly annoying. We weren’t in her perspective that often, but it seemed like half of our time with her was spent listening to her fantasize about her security guard. That’s another one of my pet peeves – an author trying to shoehorn in some sort of a romance in a story when it doesn’t make sense or feel natural.
One other annoyance I found in the book was that there were a few too many occurrences of phrases like “it felt right”, “it felt wrong”, or “he somehow knew”. Intuition is ok in small doses, but it should be kept to a minimum or it feels like a cheap trick used to tell the reader something without the author having to figure out how to incorporate a tangible discovery into the story.
Ok, that’s a lot of complaints! I did enjoy the book, once I got past the slow start, but I didn’t like it well enough to want to read the rest of the trilogy when I have so many other books to read. The ending is pretty open, clearly paving the way for the next book, but most of the original questions were answered and the original problems were resolved in one manner or another. The new questions and the problems left hanging at the end were introduced near the end of the story.