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Pandemic: A Novel Hardcover – January 21, 2014
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Q&A with Scott Sigler (Interviewed by Carl Zimmer)
Carl Zimmer is a columnist at the New York Times, where his column “Matter” appears each Thursday. He has written twelve books, and also writes regularly about science for magazines including National Geographic and Wired.
Q. You've based a whole series of books on the horror of these parasitic alien creatures. Why do you think people are so scared of them? It can't be just a fear of death, right? Imagine, Cardiac: A Horror Novel of Heart Disease. I mean, it just doesn't have the same snap as Infected. So what's going on?
A. As humans, we have a universal fear of something getting inside of us, working against us, hurting us or even killing us. We also dread losing control, being manipulated to do things we don’t want to do, losing our free will— the amorphous fear of Big Brother, for example, or the ongoing fascination with regular folk turned into brain-hungry zombie hordes. A parasite that can turn you into a paranoid killer while at the same time eating you from within combines those terrors.
My books resonate because the parasitic “bad guy” isn’t something you can run away from, or lock your doors against. It gets inside you, becomes a part of you, and destroys who you are. Once you’re infected, there is no escape.
Q. There is sometimes nothing quite as boring as a scientific paper. And that's a good thing. Science needs to focus on the details, relentlessly, in order to move towards the truth. So how do you draw from science to create fiction that people want to keep reading?
A. As important as science is to my books, I’m always very aware that the driving force needs to be the story, not the idea. That’s always been the essence of science fiction, using the experiences of characters we can connect with to convey a larger concept. In transmuting that approach into horror fiction, hard science provides realism and validity that makes the scary stuff even scarier: everything seems more frightening because the reader feels that this could really happen. Vampires are scary as hell, but there is a safety in that fear because we know (most of us do, anyway), that they don’t exist. With science-based horror, the reader watches pieces being assembled, knows those pieces are real, and that makes for a different experience.
Q. You are writing science-based horror in an age of — shall we say — pseudoscience horror. Why do you stay away from the paranormal?
A. Paranormal horror is great and, as a reader, I enjoy it. As a writer, however, I naturally gravitate to telling stories that past the “sniff test” of something that could really happen, and could happen right now.
If you have a super-powered Big Bad that can change reality with the wave of an ancient hand, then anything is possible and the rule-set can change at the author’s whim. I can read those stories; I’m just not adept at writing them. I’m more comfortable telling a tale where the world around us is the world around us, not camouflage for a hidden realm where physics don’t apply.
In that way, I think of myself more as a thriller author using horrific elements than a “horror author,” which usually implies use of the supernatural and/or undead that have a scientific explanation. When my stories do drop a fantastic, unexpected element, I want my readers to be able to go back and think, “This is perfectly inline with the rest of the story; I could have seen this coming but I missed it.”
Q. You've mentioned in the past that my nonfiction book Parasite Rex influenced you. Just out of personal curiosity, what happened?
A. Parasite Rex was part of my original research for the first book in this series, Infected, and two facts in it blew me away. The first was that parasites make up two-thirds of the species on this planet, meaning that parasitism is the dominant survival strategy. Parasites win.
The second thing was that parasites can, quite literally, mind-control their hosts and destroy the host’s survival instinct. Talk about true horror: parasites can force hosts to commit suicide, either by leaving their natural environment, or by making them attracted to their predators.
When I started applying what I learned in Parasite Rex to human hosts, it created disturbing, deeply unsettling possibilities — as anyone who has read Infected can tell you.
Q. To complete the circle from nonfiction to fiction and back, do you find your novels can entice people to find out more about science? Are you a gateway drug for knowledge?
A. My first responsibility is to tell a well-structured story that doesn’t “cheat” by making up new rules when it is convenient for the author. “C” is believable and possible because “B” was already done, and “B” seems real because we all learned about “A” in high school. When I do it right, the story feels complete and has a logical — if completely over the top — ending. That’s what makes my readers happy.
I feel my second responsibility, however, is to show just how damn cool science is. Many of my readers Google the seemingly far-out discoveries and technologies they find in my stories, and are shocked to learn these things actually exist. From there, I hope in my heart of hearts that they keep searching and keep learning.
Top Customer Reviews
I then read Contagious - the middle book in the trilogy - and enjoyed every minute of racing through it.
That brings me to "Pandemic," this final awe-inspiring conclusion to the trilogy. Sigler has a great talent in producing larger-than-life yet believable characters that his readers identify with.
You don't have to read the first two books in this series to enjoy "Pandemic" but you REALLY don't want to miss them (they're that good).
"Pandemic" gives the reader a too-real look at a worldwide pandemic. Even though the causes behind the disaster are sci fi, the science behind the pandemic itself and its spread worldwide is all too believable and terrifying.
Short chapters and action-loaded pages make the 580+ pages of this thriller zoom by.
Again, though, as with the prior two books, be warned that this book isn't for those with weak stomachs. Sigler has a knack for describing stomach roiling scenes.
In Pandemic, Sigler returns us to the world of Infected and Contagious. A single canister of the deadly pathogen has been resting on the bottom of Lake Michigan and the U.S. Government wants it. However, China also wants it as the perfect weapon to ensure world domination - the ability to turn a country's citizens against each other. But this time, the pathogen has mutated into something even more dangerous and more vicious. Its only goal? The Mass Extinction of the human race!
I loved Infection and Contagious and was pathetically giddy to be offered a chance to read this book. Keep in mind, however, that you don't need to read the first two in the series in order to thoroughly enjoy this. There's a small recap in the beginning of the book to bring you up to speed and then it's a race to save humanity from extinction.
The book is bloody, violent, and action packed. This is a gruesome apocalypse where both the heroes and the infected will do anything to survive - and I mean anything. The book manages to be horrifying and heartbreaking all at once, with a few moments of pure humor.
Along with a few old favorites, Sigler brings some new characters into the fray and they are fantastic. Tim and Steve were among my favorites and they helped breathe new life into the series.
How much did I enjoy this? At 592 pages, I still raced through the book, finishing it in one weekend (a weekend full of five-year-olds, house cleaning, and birthday parties).
A blow you away five star epic read that I will definitely revisit in the future!
The book begins five years after the former President ordered the nuclear destruction of Detroit to prevent an alien invasion. With it's infinite capacity to disbelieve any reality which it finds unsuitable (see the birthers, those who still refuse to believe President Obama was born in Hawaii), much of the American public has installed an administration radically different from the prior one. They don't quite believe there was an alien threat, that somehow Americans could be transformed into accomplices of an alien intelligence. Americans don't kill other Americans, do they? They don't kill family, friends. The Police, the military, don't fire on each other and on civilians. It's just too much for many to believe, so they don't.
But the government, although disavowing the actions of the past administration, believes. They are looking for remnants of the alien probe, which had been shot down. The same probe with the ability to alter human physiology and minds. Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones looking. And those who search aren't the only ones who find.
Considering the subject, you might expect plotonium, that intangible element so apparent when a story involving science, government, the military, is chock full of holes.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read the previous books and enjoyed them. This book seemed to take forever to end. It rambled. The story could have been told much better and with less rambling. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mom's Puddin'
Great finish for this trilogy. I loved all three books and will definitely read other works by this author.Published 2 months ago by Bill McCrane
I was disappointed in how this story fizzled out, compared to it's predecessors.Published 3 months ago by Casey Fairbairn
The third in Scott Sigler's Infected series goes further. The epidemic goes global and Sigler somehow manages to amp up the action, the gore, and plot twists. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Timothy R. Vojta
There was really only two ways this series could have ended and as usual Scott Sigler delivered. With the same haunting tone of the first Infected book the close was equally... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Alyssa
Can't wait to see them on the screen! And wonder who would be starring as a poor Margaret Montoya.Published 4 months ago by Sasha P.
Loved it fun to read and great characters right up my alley hated to see
The series end. Reading more of Scott's stuff now and equally awesome