Pandemic by Scott Sigler
Please note Pandemic is a direct sequel to Infected and Contagious. Read them first to avoid potential infection/spoilers in the following review.
To some, Doctor Margaret Montoya is a hero—a brilliant scientist who saved the human race from an alien intelligence determined to exterminate all of humanity. To others, she’s a monster—a mass murderer single-handedly responsible for the worst atrocity ever to take place on American soil.
All Margaret knows is that she’s broken. The blood of a million deaths is on her hands. Guilt and nightmares have turned her into a shut-in, too mired in self-hatred even to salvage her marriage, let alone be the warrior she once was.
But she is about to be called into action again. Because before the murderous intelligence was destroyed, it launched one last payload — a soda can–sized container filled with deadly microorganisms that make humans feed upon their own kind.
That harmless-looking container has languished a thousand feet below the surface of Lake Michigan, undisturbed and impotent . . . until now.
A new Scott Sigler novel being published is always a cause for much rejoicing here at The Eloquent Page. Ever since I first stumbled across Infected, I’ve been a fan. I’ll freely admit I’ve been actively waiting for this particular book to appear. Books one and two, Infected and Contagious, were suitably icky fast-paced horrific affairs and this new book promises more of the same. The only real difference in this case? Sigler has ramped up the tension, the action and the gore to the max. How splendid.
Margaret Montoya and Clarence Otto both return in Pandemic. I think it’s probably fair to say that Sigler actively enjoys putting his characters through the physical and emotional ringer. When we first meet her, Margaret is still suffering from the aftermath of the events at the end of Contagious. She was forced to make some horrible, but necessary, decisions and the repercussions of them are slowly destroying her. She’s finally reached rock bottom and, just like any good sequel, it’s at that point where she gets dragged back into the action as the alien infection begins to spread once again. Agent Otto remains on hand as her able protector but the dynamic of their relationship has changed quite significantly. This change has direct implications as the plot continues to unfold. Montoya is a fantastic protagonist, utterly driven to stop the infection but emotionally damaged. Her fragility is a fascinating counterpoint to the highly stressful situations she finds herself in. You can’t help but find yourself cheering her on, willing her to find the inner strength to keep going against all odds.
Like any good horror, things start off small but the initial, slow pace picks up pretty quickly. By the time you get to the second half of the novel, events are rattling along at break neck speed. The plot becomes a race against time. Once the alien disease properly begins to take hold, everything very swiftly descend into total chaos and society starts to breakdown. Unsurprisingly, this means that things get extremely violent, but don’t forget its Scott Sigler we’re talking about here. Sigler’s writing never shies away from the extreme, but confronts it head on. Mr Sigler is a master at judging his audience’s expectations and he knows just exactly how far he can push any given situation. He’s a canny guy though, as he also knows when something is best left to a reader’s imagination. It always strikes me that this particular skill is the mark of an exceptional author, especially when it comes to the horror genre.
In previous novels the author has lifted elements from social and mainstream media and included them in his various plots. He’s done the same thing here. In this book Twitter plays an important part in proceedings. It’s a nice touch to see how new technology interacts with the end of the world. There are some clever ideas incorporated that never occurred to me before. I’ll say no more than that, it would spoil the surprise.
There’s a good chance that if your planning on reading Pandemic, you’ve probably enjoyed the nasty delights that can be found in Infected and Contagious. Possibly you may have read Ancestor as well? If you have, can I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for a familiar face. A character pops up who links the books together and I have to admit I didn’t manage to suppress the squeal of delight when that happened*
I think there is a feeling of anticipation with any horror novel written by Scott Sigler. You are always waiting for that delightful moment when the last shred of restraint disappears and things get chaotic. Pandemic certainly doesn’t disappoint on that score. The second half of the book is just plain old nuts, I loved it. Part alien invasion, part cannibal holocaust with a liberal dose of SEAL based action thrown in for good measure. The SEALs themselves kick a spectacular amount of ass, and if I am honest I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sigler writes stories that are unashamedly outrageous but they are always HUGELY entertaining.
I’ll end with a word of caution – two days after finishing Pandemic I came down with the mystery illness. Coincidence? I sure hope so. I bet I’ll be fine once I’ve had some sleep…
Pandemic is published by Crown Publishing and is available from 21 January 2014. If you’ve enjoyed books one and two you’ll love book three.
* That reminds me – I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize now to the other travellers on the bus for that. Nobody wants to see a 6ft 2, 200lb red headed hairy Scotsman doing that in a public place. I’m sorry.