Tuesday, September 25, 2012
** This review contains spoilers. **
Seventeen year old Nick Sole works in a chicken slaughter house for a famous fast food restaurant to support his deadbeat, lazy dad (who he calls the Dude) and his little sister. After a horrible (and embarrassing) accident, Nick is charged with felony destruction of property and sentenced to Inward Trek boot camp with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents, including the girl he really loves, Petal. Everything is going horribly, as expected, until things get a whole lot worse. The counselors turn into flesh-eating zombies and continually attack the group of mischief makers the first night of the trek. Now, Nick is stuck in the middle of a forest with other teen criminals, separated from civilization and technology, trying to survive the zombie outbreak.
The Infects is a very different type of zombie novel than I usually read. Most of them are fairly bleak and focus on harsh realities of zombie apocalypse life. This one focuses on dark humor and sarcasm over that depressing realism. The novel is peppered with fun horror movie and punk rock references. The delinquents realize fast that the zombie apocalypse is upon them and draw upon their zombie film expertise to formulate the "zombrules" to stay alive. The characters are delightful and varied. I like seeing this world through Nick's eyes. Teen books are very frequently told through the female perspective and it was nice to see the masculine side for once. Plus Dwayne "The Rock: Johnson gives him advice in his head. The other delinquents are interesting and some of them are very annoying. They do develop through the novel and are very memorable, so they don't get lost when the pace speeds up. I really like the end where we get to see what all of their crimes were, which fills out these characters. I'm tempted to reread the book so that I can keep their crime and past in mind when reading about them.
The social commentary underneath the satire and humor is fairly serious. The real life evils of big corporations and the fast food industry are portrayed with the over the top evil chicken company Rebozzo AviaCulture. They will do anything in their power regardless of its legality to make money and keep their misdeeds hidden. Nick's dad, The Dude, worked for them as a scientist and they took his invention for their own after kicking him to the curb. Their chicken also turns people into flesh-eating zombies. This concept isn't new and has been seen as far back as George Romero's classic zombie films, but that isn't the extent of the zombies here.
The zombies in this book are really different. They are the flesh-eating, violent variety, but keep some sort of sentience and intelligence through the seemingly mindless and very gory attacks. There are some glimpses of intelligence and even strategy on the part of the zombies throughout the book, but especially at the end. Spoilers ahead!!!! Rebozzo cures and rehabilitates all of the zombies they can find in the end that don't die from their wounds. Their solution is to keep them in a sealed facility for the rest of their lives. Nick understandably angry at Rebozzo (for this and numerous other things) and has his girlfriend infect him again. They reinfect everyone who wants to be and seek to join a the rest of the zombies that escaped Rebozzo's grasp to change the world. I really like this ending. Nick and his girlfriend Petal choose to be zombies and in essence join the winning team. Who's to say that it's any worse than being human? Maybe it's the next step in evolution. Whatever it is, I am convinced and I hope this book gets a sequel so we can enjoy Nick and Petal's adventures in the next book.
The Infects is a really fast read that makes homages to horror films, skewers big business and the fast food industry, makes me laugh, has some serious zombie carnage, and produces some quality characters. It manages to acknowledge the old, classic zombies and the tradition for social satire while reinvigorating the zombie genre with something new. I love the writing that is very easy to read and has its own stream of conscious like rhythm and style. I will definitely read all of Sean Beaudoin's other works and anything else he writes in the future.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins