Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Infects Review

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): 
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.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A teen zombie comedy that tries to be ambitious with style, but ultimately becomes annoying.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss The Infects, by Sean Beaudoin. This book and I had a bit of a personality clash. I really didn't like the writing style, which is packed full of colloquialisms and pop culture references, like:
"And worst of all, the voice sounded almost exactly like the Rock.
Former pro wrestler? B-movie action turd? Couldn't act his way out of a bag of steroids?
I still wrestle, okay? Acting is just a good way to meet the ladies. And I never took steroids. At all. Not even a little. So, yeah, pretty much none." pp.45-6
I kept waiting for the narrator to drop the 'cool teen' voice and slip into a more normal style of narration so I could get to know and like him a bit better, but it keeps this up for the whole three hundred and fifty pages. The voice really provided a barrier for me as a reader that stopped me from getting into the story at all. This is meant to be horror comedy, but I found the ‘comedy’ part to be relying too much on witty banter that I didn't find all that witty - hence the disconnect. However, this is a style thing - just because it didn't work for me, doesn't mean that it won’t work for the next reader. Humour is subjective, so I still urge you to check it out.

There was some really nice description here, and if you’re into gore then you won’t be disappointed. However, a fairly paint-by-numbers plot (zombie outbreak, people die one by one) meant that a few bits of colourful scene-setting weren't enough to make me warm to this book, especially when I found it so hard to get into in the first place. The resolution wraps up too neatly, with very little in the way of lasting consequences or meaningful character growth.

I don't like giving negative reviews. I know how much easier it is to criticise something than create. This is especially true of kids' and YA books where the person doing the review is often not the audience. So whenever I'm tempted to criticise a book, I ask myself if it would be well-received by its intended audience, and in this instance, I really don't know who the intended audience is. As a bookseller, who would I sell this to? I can’t see too many Australian readers taking to it... too much of the book feels like the dialogue in a bad American movie, and the plot just isn't strong enough to get past that. I'm sure lots of people will pick it up on the strength of the cover alone, since the glow-in-the-dark design by James Weinberg is a work of art. But will it sell by word of mouth and recommendations? I doubt it, but I'll let time tell.

For Readers: Perhaps horror-appreciating fans of the Louise Rennison books? Are there any of those? Definitely 14+.

For Writers: If you're considering writing a novel with a very distinctive voice, read this and see how it sits with you. I've always felt that writing style should be almost invisible behind a great plot. If your reader has to work to figure out what your characters are actually saying, you’re in danger of losing them. 

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