In the days before DVDs were common and eBooks were yet to be a figment of the imagination, the only way to recapture the film you’d just seen and enjoyed was to hope that someone produced a book of the film. Many of these were written by contracted writers who were given the script and a deadline. The manuscript had to be finished for when the film came out and the author had to guess about the visuals that would eventually be seen. The deadline didn’t allow for deep character development. The rationale of these slim volumes was to remind to reader of what they had seen and act as an aide memoire to a pleasurable evening out. This book, ‘Infection’, reminds me of these books. Unfortunately, these days, readers want much more from their reading matter and in order to compete with the likes of Netflix and Kindle, a richness and authenticity of setting, plot and characterisation is needed.
‘Infection’ is basically a zombie movie script. Four newly qualified medics go on an archaeological dig and one of them, Chris, discovers a box in a cave. As in all the best horror films, he opens the box and takes out the stone inside. Back home, while the four are preparing to head off to their new jobs, Chris becomes ill. The others leave him at home while going out to celebrate their futures. By the time they return, he has bitten the landlord, attacked a cop and been shot. The landlord is taken to hospital and begins the chain of infection that turns the population of New York into ravenous zombies and sets the others on path to put an end to situation. As this is a horror novel, more casualties amongst the group of ‘heroes’ can be expected.
If ‘Infection’ was a 90 minute film, the issues I have with it as a book would fade in to the background. With print, there needs to be far more substance. Much of the time, I was wondering who the actual viewpoint character was and whether the story was being told from the correct perspective. Although it is not called that, the initial prologue says too much about the mechanism that the plot revolves around. Exactly half-way through the book, two new characters turn up who not only know the history of the artefact causing the problem but how to resolve the situation. Not only is it too late to bring in these crucial characters but they are the ones that need to impart the knowledge so that the reader keeps pace with the remaining medics rather than knowing the rationale from the start. This removes the mystery that should have been at the heart of the story. I would also have liked to see the artefacts that the newcomers, David and Charlie, need to collect for the final solution and more of the issues acquiring them threw up.
The kick-off point of the novel is when the four, Chris, Hannah, Kayleigh and Johnny, all go on an archaeological dig. I found myself with a huge credibility gap at this point; not about the finding of the artefact but the dig itself. It was a plot convenience rather than a researched reality. This is where more description would have been welcomed. Everything before this point was slow, domestic background which would have been better served interspersed within the rest of the text. There is, at the beginning in particular, too much of the author telling us the situation rather than showing it. Having said that, much of the banter between characters is enjoyable, even if it was insufficient to differentiate between them.
An irritating aspect of this book was the lack of proof-reading as punctuation, in particular, was not up to the standard I would expect from the literate. As a personal thing, I dislike books that leave a line between paragraphs. It is clumsy and looks unprofessional, though this might be due to an inexperienced typesetter rather than the intention of either author or editor and a question for the author: why are the surnames of the characters so rarely given?
I wanted to like this book, as I believe that independent publishers need to be encouraged. If it had been twice the length, the author would have had the space to develop his characters and settings to a greater depth.
(pub: Quantum Corsets, Birmingham, UK, 2016. 154 page paperback. Price: £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-5406282-2-0)
check out website: http://www.quantumcorsets.co.uk/