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Book Review - Infected, Contagious and Ancestor
By Scott Sigler



While I am best known for reviewing pop culture collectibles, I try to let folks know when I stumble on anything I think is particularly cool, unique or fun. That's what I'm doing tonight with something slightly different - a book review! But not just A book review, but a review of three books, all written by the very talented Scott Sigler.

I've done a number of book reviews in the past, but these are generally books about pop culture, not fiction. But after I completed Contagious this week, I simply had to let folks know about both Scott and his exceptional work.

Mr. Sigler is from my state of Michigan, which is no doubt part of the reason I find his books so compelling. More on that later, but for now let's just say that it's always nice to see a homeboy do well.

He's approached writing, or at least publishing, in a rather unique way, giving away his work for free through podcasts and PDF's. Yep, you can download podcasts of all three of the books I'm talking about here, gratis.

Scott has used this method to build quite the healthily fan base, and shown that even when content is free, folks will pay to get their own copy. The hard cover, soft cover and Kindle versions have all sold well through Amazon - hey, I bought the Kindle versions without a blink!

Sigler calls his hard core fans 'junkies', and that's pretty much on point. Using a drug dealer metaphor, he gets you hooked with the free stuff first, then you can't help but start spending money. I know perfectly well that I could listen to the podcasts for his intergalactic sports novel, The Rookie, but I know I'm going to buy the hardcover anyway. Next thing you know, I'll be wearing a Sigler T-shirt...

I'm looking at all three books not because they are necessarily related, although Contagious is the sequel to Infected. Nope, the only reason I'm doing them together is because I read all three in short order, and because the group speak to his consistency.

I mentioned earlier that Sigler was born and grew up in Michigan. This comes through loud and clear in these three books, each set in Michigan. Unlike other books, where a location might be named but is really just fluffier, Sigler uses real places, right down to intersections and businesses. In Contagious, he mentions that two of the characters were both at or near the Meijers on Belleville road - I had just stopped by there myself earlier in the day! That kind of detailed and accurate information on the locales makes all the books particularly interesting for Michigan readers.
Infected by Scott Sigler
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Contagious by Scott Sigler
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Ancestor by Scott Sigler
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Infected - ***1/2

Sigler has been called "Michael Crichton meets Stephen King", and I think that's extremely appropriate. This novel revolves around an alien invasion, but one unlike most we've encountered in past fiction. Here the aliens invade by infecting hosts, then controlling them, then getting them to complete their nefarious plans. While this could have easily been just another Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it's Sigler's gift with writing current science into his plot that gives it that unique edge, much like Crichton.

The comparisons to King come not from plot, but from character and gore. King has long been known for his exceptional ability to create relatable characters that we can easily identify and empathize with, making any plot more accessible. Sigler carries that same sort of gift, giving us people we can relate to and root for, and like King, he is willing to kill them off when the plot calls for it. You can't assume that a character is going to see the final page, no matter how good they are, or how invested you've become in their survival. And that makes your anticipation for the outcome all that much more voracious.

But if gore and violence are not your thing, then these books are not for you. Sigler comes up with some of the most gruesome situations I've read, and does so with a flair and elaboration that makes it far too easy to visualize every detail. For me, it's all good, but these aren't books for the squeamish.

Infected has a big plot - it is the potential end of all humanity after all - but Sigler wisely keeps it small in this first installment. He gives us details of the infection from a first person account, as Perry Dawsey, ex- Michigan football star deals with the blue triangles that begin popping up on his body.

Sigler also does a fantastic job with black ops situations, delving into the world of hidden agendas and government agencies that are only whispered about at the highest levels. And he does so with an accuracy and detail that allows you to not only suspend your disbelief, but believe that it's truly possible. How the government reacts, how they approach the situation, and the tools at their disposal are well thought out and researched.

Sigler brings in several characters from this side of the story: scientists, agents and military types to fight as best they can. Each of these is well rounded, with well developed personalities and both likable and unlikable aspects. Will your favorites survive? That's the question.

For the Ann Arborites, this book is particularly interesting since the setting is right here in town. Landmarks around the city, as well as Ypsilanti and the U of M campus, figure predominately.

The story arch in this first book completes that personal experience with the infection, giving us a wholly satisfying if shocking resolution. I love Stephen King, but I have to be honest - the man often has real trouble ending a story in a satisfying way. Sigler does not share that trait with the author he names as an influence, and instead manages to bring conclusion AND provide the set up to the next installment.

Contagious - ****
While Contagious was my favorite of these three books, I don't recommend reading it without first reading Infected. While Sigler does an admirable job filling you in, you really should get the full story before diving in here.

This novel takes the infection/invasion up a level, giving us further background on the attackers themselves, explaining even more of the science, and upping the ante. The story moves from that one on one personal level to a higher threat, and the forces necessary to combat it increase as well.

Several of the key characters from the first novel show up here, and they develop further. Sigler creates relationships between several key characters that factor in to the overall theme seamlessly, and makes your involvement in their situation all that more personal. By the end of this book, I truly cared about several of his creations, but once again that doesn't automatically mean they survive. Sigler keeps you guessing at every turn, and nothing is as obvious as it seems.

While the invading triangles themselves were the antagonists in the first book, it's a host that they infect and attempt to manipulate that becomes the main baddie in the second book. A more unlikely adversary is hard to imagine. Little Chelsea Jewell, just 5 years old with blond pigtails, becomes the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

Sigler ups his black ops and military theme in this book, and gives us some great strategy and planning as seen through the eyes of Colonel Ogden, leader of the military operation.

This book covers more ground than the previous in terms of locale, but most of the action is still in Michigan, centering around Gaylord and Detroit.

The stakes are higher in this book, since the 'infection' becomes contagious, hence the title. The theme of stopping the invasion, carried over from the first book, remains critical, but now they must stop the spread of the infection as well. If you were shocked by the final pages of Infection, then you'll crap your pants at the end of Contagious.


Sigler has a third and final installment in this series planned for release next year. Just as with Infected, Contagious ends with a solid wrap up of the story arc around Chelsea and the contagion, but provides the perfect launching pad into the final book.

Ancestor - ***1/2
Now it's time to switch gears. Ancestor is the beginning of another series, with at least one more (and I'm betting at least two) sequels to come.

This novel delves into the science of xenotransplantation, the problems associated with it, and how one companies attempts to avoid those well documented pitfalls ends in utter disaster.

The premise starts out straight forward - millions of people die each year waiting for organ transplants. Right now, tons of research is going into the transplantation of animal organs into humans, but there are risks of also transplanting deadly virus', some we may not even know exist today. This is a real danger, so much so that Australia has put an 18 year hiatus on xenotransplantation work.

Sigler takes that concept, blends in some well thought out science fiction, and creates a scenario where one company has figured out a way to avoid the issues - create a wholly new species that is the ancestor of all mammals, and who's organs will have an extremely high rate of acceptance in humans because of that genetic link. Because the ancestor is a pure construct from the lab, there's no fear of virus', and because it's an animal, it could breed and be cultivated like cattle for human use.

As in the previous books, it's clear Sigler has done his research on genetics, bioinformatics, and xenotransplantation. The science in this science fiction is reasonable, intelligent and thoughtful - you can easily see this happening. The fiction is brutal and gory, with lots of violence. It's a modern update on the concept of Frankenstein, one step further than Crichton's Jurassic Park with a healthy dose of blood splatter.

Just like the previous two books, this book is set in Michigan. This time it's in the upper peninsula, on the remote Manitou island in the dead of winter. Talk about isolated!

The finale is, as with Infected and Contagious, wholly satisfying yet sets up the next installment nicely. Characters and concepts from those two books also show up here, giving the two series some continuity between them.

While there's already a sequel to Ancestor in the works, this book can easily stand on its own. This book would also make for an excellent monster flick - and I bet Hollywood is paying attention. Rumors have been flying around several potential movie deals over the last couple years, but nothing has been finalized that I know of yet.

Final Thoughts -
Sigler's work is often called 'hard science horror', because of the well researched facts combined with the sci-fi bend, mixed in with some truly horrific elements. All in all, he's a tremendously appealing author, and he has managed to jump on to my very short (less than 5) list of writers from whom I will blind buy any new title. 

I suggest reading Infected and Contagious first, then moving on to Ancestor. I'll be jumping over to check out his two intergalactic sports novels, The Rookie and the Starter next, and I'm looking forward to the next installments in both the Infected and Ancestor series.

Where to Buy -
Amazon is the place to be, of course. Expect to pay around $10 for either paper or digital formats:

- Infected is available in both book form and Kindle form.

- Contagious is also available in both book form and Kindle form.

- and of course, Ancestor is available in both book and Kindle form.

- His intergalactic sports books, The Rookie and The Starter, are only available in hard cover right now through Amazon.

Related Links -
Check out Scott's website for all the latest news, or follow his tweets if those updates aren't fast enough for you.

Discussion:
Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

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Contagious by Scott Sigler


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Text by Michael Crawford.

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