Series: Parasitology #1
Published by Hachette Australia on October 29, 2013
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Genres: Dystopian, Horror, Science Fiction
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A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.
You’ve got to give it to Mira Grant (or Seanan McGuire). Anyone who can write a book about tapeworms and make it intriguing, horrifying, and scientifically fascinating needs to be commended. Having loved the political zombie book, Feed, Mira Grant has swept me off my feet once again with her originality and the way she just sells the idea of parasites used for human improvement.
It’s intriguing, really. Tapeworms have been genetically modified by Symbogen as a safe parasite that lives in human hosts, giving them complete immunity to viruses and giving them a clean bill of health. After becoming declared brain dead as a result of a car accident, Sal was brought back to life by ingesting a parasite in the form of a tapeworm. Fair enough, she doesn’t have any of her old memories, or the personality of who she used to be, but without the Intestinal Bodyguard™ she literally would not be alive.
Sal is such an interesting and unique protagonist. She’s been living for 6 years post coma, and had to relearn everything from human speech, to her name, and her family members. I sort of enjoyed how she’s odd in a way where she’s still adjusting to social nuances (like modesty), but she still has the intuition to pick up when something’s wrong. In some ways, she’s kind of child like yet strong in her resolve.
The conversations Sal has with her family and parents at different points during the book are confronting yet brutally honest. The girl she was before the coma would never have reached out and told her family what she really thought about them, instead choosing to avoid them where she could. Seeing her stand up for herself when it came to her family misunderstanding her and dealing with their loss of the Sal beforehand was an interesting factor of the book.
Each chapter begins with a few snippets from different sources, including an interview with Dr Steven Banks, Symbogen’s creator, Shanti Cale, the unwritten autobiography showing the other side, and a children’s book called Don’t Go Out Alone. The significance of these extracts is slowly revealed throughout the book’s pages, as we find out what happened to the people to turn them into sleepwalkers.
I loved the depths of horror within the book. People who believe they are protected from sickness and disease are actually experience the opposite, with their lights going out and becoming sleepwalkers. These sleepwalkers are aggressive, devoid of human life, and in no way resemble the people they once were. They are pretty much zombies. Human lives sacrificed for science was also pretty terrifying, as was Tansy, the tapeworm infused girl who is psychotic, chipper, and raving mad. She reminded me of Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2 for her ‘stabby stabby’ intentions and her affinity for cruelty and nonstop threats.
Mira Grant exposed her flair for factual information and scientific explanations in Symbogen’s roots, the epidemiology of a tapeworm and the experiments they conducted. We get heaps of lengthy explanations that I actually enjoyed. It just makes the depth of the creation so much more remarkable.
There’s layers of mystery within the book and within Symbogen’s floors. Like the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil, and Aperture Science from Portal, these companies are ones that have created something that has basically cured the human condition. But playing God has its consequences, and they may in fact end up causing the human demise. Parasite explores an interesting angle about human life and ethics – if an invention enables those who never would have lived to have a life, and improved the quality of life and the mortality rate in general goes wrong, has it been justified by the lives it has saved?
I could rave on forever and I think I’ve made it obvious that I’m a self-declared Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire fangirl (I’ve only read 3 books from the author, but I’m already convinced) but the fact of the matter is, Parasite won’t be for everyone. If you enjoy horrific, factual, scientific reads in a unique world, you will love it. Not into world building or lengthy descriptions? It might not be your thing. Personally, I absolutely loved it and my only concern is the time it will take for the sequel to come out.
I received a copy of Parasite from Netgalley and Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Parasite will be released on October 29, 2013.
Rating: 5 out of 5