The Infects by Sean Beaudoin (Advanced Reader Copy AND Galley)
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Genre: Fiction, young adult, zombies, horror, dark humor, Chewy Chicken is people! Chewy Chicken is people!
Rating: 4.43 out of 5 stars
Summary: Nick is stuck working in a chicken slaughter house to help his dead end dad and video game prodigal sister pay the bills. Things go from bad to worse when Nick is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is shipped off to the “Inward Trek”, an excursion for troubled youths. Of course that’s when the zombie apocalypse strikes and Nick is tasked with leading the other offenders to safety, all while searching for love-interest Petal Gazes. AND SO SO MUCH MORE in this wild book that’s part horror comedy, part science-fiction, part end of the world disaster story.
Last month, I was lucky enough to get my hands/paws/vestigial tail on not one but two versions of The Infects, getting sent a digital copy through NetGalley and winning a physical copy through LibraryThing (let’s be friends!). Which was great because I could literally read Nick’s story whenever and wherever. Pretty damn necessary for a book this good. BONUS: the cover is pure book porn. And the interior chapter titles are equally gorgeous, complete with blood splatter that gets more and more visceral as the violence progresses. Literally. You’ll definitely want to buy the physical book to enjoy these fun interior details. Or to clutch to ward off impending apocalypses. You can beat a zombie with an eReader, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
In addition to great little artistic touches, Beaudoin’s writing style is fresh and unique and he gives us an atypical look at the zombie genre. From characters who are immediately aware that they’re dealing with zombies and how to kill them to the modern take on the genre, there is so much originality to love and appreciate. Of course teenagers would take their cue from zombie films! Dark and gritty, he’s the young adult Chuck Palahniuk. Easy to see why his work would be touted as “cutting edge”. And empurpled. <– New favorite word. It doesn’t have to make sense! Empurpled.
Our protagonist is Nick, who despite being a teenager also works in a chicken slaughter plant named Rebozzo’s to help provide for his family. A plant where his own father used to work genetically creating specialized chickens to be consumed by the public. There’s a great satire on the fast food industry weaved throughout the narrative with a focus on the chain Fresh Bukket and Rebozzo’s manufactured Sole Fryers. Specifically the American way in which mass consumption through fast food restaurants are turning us into mindless zombie slaves. Insert joke about running after brains being the equivalent of fast food here.
Nick’s life is thrown into chaos when a horrible and blatantly misconstrued accident at Rebozzo’s- after an equally strange and sudden promotion- costs Nick his freedom (DAMN YOU CORPORATIONS!) and he is sent to a special juvenile camp called “Inward Trek”. At the camp your name is taken away and you are instead referred to by your nickname. Taking away a person’s identity is fun at IT. Nick is given the name Nero, which proceeds to plenty of jokes about Roman emperor Nero who famously fiddled while Rome burned. Hence his other nickname Fiddler. Sadly, he has no penchants for standing on roofs and singing about rich men.
What makes Nick so fun is his inward quirks throughout the narrative. He has a penchant for making lists inside his head and having conversation with a disembodied omniscient voice. The weird thing? The voice isn’t his own but that of the wrestler turned “actor” the Rock.
“You hear voices?”
“Actually, just one. The Rock.”
Um, actor? Um, product spokesperson? Also, I write poetry.
If in some strange twist of fate or in another alternate universe this is made into a movie (not that in a million years I think it would actually work in another medium) my hope is that the Rock would play himself. It’s not exactly the brilliance of Tim Gunn for Cinna but it’s nice to dream.
As for our cast of characters who are not Nick, there’s his love interest Petal Gazes (amazing name!) who looks like she, “Just stepped out of [a] sexy apocalypse…”, his Dad whom he calls the Dude: a useless, crazed ex-scientist who may or may not be straight out of The Big Lebowski and Nick’s sister Amanda. Amanda is a video game savant with Aspergers whom Nick loves more than anyone in the world. There’s also Nick’s evil boss and all around crazy person Captain Fud, and his “Inward Trek” buddies, Tripper, War Pig, Yeltsin, the “twins” Idle and Billy, Mr. Bator, Heavy D. and Estrada. Not to mention the ladies of IT: Cupcake, Joanjet, Sad Girl, Raekwon, Lush and heiress turned zombie extraordinaire Swann. Some people were just born to be zombies.
The teenagers/convicts/innocent yet somehow proven guilty are forced to take things into their own hands when the “Inward Trek” is taken over by a horde of zombies and they must fight together in order to survive. It’s Lord of the Flies meets zombies. Nick peppers the narrative with so called Zombrules, that is rules for surviving the Zomb-A-Pocalypse (the kids’ emphasis not mine). For example, you will never have what you need, don’t turn your back, don’t go to sleep, never let your guard down, etc. Most importantly, “Self-sacrifice is for chaste vampires, widowed uncles, and grizzled detectives with only one week left to go until retirement.” Also: double tap.
Beaudoin’s zombies are terrifying, dripping just the right amount of gore to make a horrifying counterpoint to Nick’s ever present dark humor. Particularly naked zombie leader Swann, who is intent on spreading infection and possibly Ztockholm Syndrome. It’s okay, you can slap your knee in amusement/excitement now. And the ending cannot be topped. I promise.
-BOOK PORN! Amazing cover and great interior touches
-Funny, unique narrator who can literally have layered conversations
-Writing style is refreshing and all around different
-The ending, just where I was hoping it would go (see also Scott Westerfeld’s short story “Inoculata” from Zombies Vs. Unicorns)
-Text has a tendency to be so strange that it can border on confusing
And now I leave you with some quote porn (there’s a lot of non-sexual porn mentions in this review), which will hopefully cement your desire to read this amazing YA novel. “How appropriate. Star-crossed lovers. Houses divided. Juliet gives him poison, and then the whole world changes.” Gorgeous!