Review: The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Title: The Infects
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Genre: horror, young adult
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 384 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected September 25 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an "Inward Trek." As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of "infects" shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate "Zombie Rules" almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read — whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten — and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.

Some (Mostly Harsh) Words I Would Use To Describe My Reading Experience with The Infects:

  • slow
  • weird
  • confusing
  • unconvincing/non-suspenseful
  • quirky
  •  dry
  • unexplained
  • undeveloped

Review will contain spoilers, but all details will be clearly marked before.

Clearly for me, all was not perfect (or even close....) with this latest "zombie" offering. To start with, the introductory chapter full of mayhem and planes crashing and a badass 10 year-old sniper, is either terribly clever or a complete and total cop-out. Given that the next 120 pages are zombie and horror-free, I think "cop-out" is closer to the mark. Veteran author Sean Beaudoin certainly has the kernels of both a good story and genuine humor here, but unfortunately for him and me, neither prospect really comes to its fruition in this nearly 400-page novel. Many parts of the story here simply feel fully unexplored (Amanda, anyone?) or haphazardly random in their final execution (the final climax between the zombies and the teens? Boooorrring and oversimplified with deux-ex-machinas.)  The author's bold style and boyish narration suit the survival scenario quite well, but just about everything else falls apart upon prolonged exposure or closer inspection. The plot had its many unresolved issues (maybe to lure me into reading the inevitable sequel(s)?), the majority of the secondary characters fell flat and were utterly one-dimensional, and I found little to none of the "jokes" and humor here to be actually all that funny. Full disclosure: I smirked with a half-laugh once. This: "For my actions, I blame society. Also, my mother." (ARC edition) I went into The Infects with high hopes, but after all the work that was sloughing through this chaotic "incisive commentary" I don't think this is a series I'll pursue past the first novel.

The Infects just takes too long to build into any kind of novel - a zombie book without any kind of gore or horror for over a hundred pages?  The creepiest thing until the juvenile delinquent trip to the mountains was the up close and personal look at chicken packaging. Even when the gore gets going (and boy does it! Noses bitten off! Homicidal creepy children! Suicidal teenage lesbians with futility complexes! Naked blonde Amazombies! ([See what I did there?]) I was grossed out, but I was never creeped out. The Infects failed to create a convincing atmosphere, whereas other creepers like Long Lankin and Dark Inside had my shoulders up under my earlobes. I coasted along these first chapters - not invested in the typical story or engaged by protagonist, limp-dishrag Nick Nero (obvious name is obvious). I just kept trying to find any reason to keep going, because honestly? Reading about unrequited crushes is nothing new, especially in the young-adult genre. Nick as the main protagonist gets the benefit of the most complete character-building, but none of the the castmates can claim half his roundedness. (Yes, I made that up.) His voice is believable and his inner voice of The Rock is an odd, distinguishing (if unexplained?) mark. I just wish there had been more meat the bones (ha) to the characters created here  -- from love-interest Petal to comrade Yeltsin they all come across as fairly cookie-cutter and there was oodles of potential in the varied field available. What also didn't help the narrative flow of the novel or my level of interest were the familial, exposition-filled flashback often spliced into the narrative right when something finally happens, usually something terribly gore-rific at that.

Upon finishing this, I immediately realized that I have lots and lots of unanswered questions, many of which are about the foundation on which the book is based: the "infects" themselves. From here on is where the review gets SPOILERy, so Beware, Ye Who Reade Here. It doesn't help that much of the little exposition about the history/details on the outbreak are terribly confusing. It's not clear who's doing what, for whom or for why. Questions I have left: What's the endgame here? Was it a planned event?  Why and how is Swann in charge? How did the boys think running up a mountain was ever a good idea? Why are some of the infected people sentient and coordinated and others not? Why do some infected "turn" faster than others? How does the rehab facility "heal" the infected so completely? How does the local town not know about the zombies, when there were hundreds of infects in the woods, some of whom had to have had some connection tying them to that location? Why does the government allow this to (repeatedly) happen? And as for Petal's "immunity", due to her father ingesting " experimental prototypes", wouldn't that have to had taken place before she was even conceived? How would her dad's experimentation affect her after she was conceived? None of this detail or information was adequately provided or even explained - your guess is as good as mine and I've read the damn thing. There's a chance the answers lie in the next book (as book one seems positively geared towards a continuation), but I won't be tuning in. It just all reads as terribly convenient for the plot and characters to maneuver as the author obviously wanted.

The drastic and delightfully expected turn The Infects takes at the veeery end actually does a lot to redeem this novel (hence a 2 instead of a 1-star), but isn't enough to save the novel entirely, nor entice me to read the second. It was a spark of originality in an otherwise lackluster read for me, but unfortunately it was too little, way too late. Readers on the search for a zombie read all about the gore and not the characters will probably enjoy this more than I did. Perhaps if The Infects had been a little more fine-tuned and tweaked, with clearer wording and vast more details, this would've worked for me. As it is, I continue to search for the elusive 5-star ya zombie novel.

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