Jan 10, 2017

Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Title: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publishing Date: October 29, 2013
Pages/Format: 504, Paperback
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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.

Book in One Word: Successful

This is not a typical Rachel book. I don't read a lot of adult and I don't read--or really love--a lot of sci-fi. But one day I was browsing my shelves, trying to figure out what book my mood wanted me to read next, and a part of me kept leaning toward Parasite. I tried to ignore it, thinking I couldn't possibly be in the mood to read such a book because, again--it's not a typical Rachel book. I gave it a shot though, reading a few pages, then a few more, and a few more, and so on. And eventually I read the entire book--then immediately ordered the sequel.

Welcome to the world ten years in the future, where things are almost as they are now--except for our health. Scientists at SymboGen (a big world-changing company a la Skynet in the Terminator movies) created the answer to our health problems: a genetically engineered tapeworm. Once inside you, the tapeworm--which can be tailored to specific needs like diabetes and epilepsy--takes care of you, watching over your immune system, preventing illness, and providing any drugs that may be necessary to one's survival. You can be fit as a fiddle, so long as you willingly have a tapeworm put inside your body and leave it there. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? But if there's one thing we've learned from science and what happens when you mess with--or genetically modify--certain things, it's that it can all go to hell. (This reminds me of another, rather jurassic movie franchise...)

Meet Sally Mitchell. She should be dead, but she somehow miraculously woke up from her coma pre-unplugging. But the thing about Sally Mitchell--who prefers to go by Sal--is that she isn't exactly Sally Mitchell anymore. Pre-accident Sally and post-accident Sally are two very different people, and when she woke up from her coma she was the equivalent of an infant, having to relearn everything as a twenty-something adult. There's a possibility that her tapeworm is her savior, so she has a somewhat reluctant relationship with SymboGen, who is very interested in Sally's worm and what it has accomplished.

Now that I've established the background of this story, let me tell you about the actual book, which is very, very, very good. Parasite is extremely successful in a number of ways, but I'd like to make special note of the pacing and the writing. The latter is simple and straightforward, and though it may be filled with some technical and scientific jargon that is, for the most part, comprehensible, it isn't flowery. It's exactly the kind of voice this novel--and Sal--needs. Anything too lyrical and metaphorical would hinder the story and take away from its scientific aspect, and the two wouldn't mesh well. Mira Grant's words tell the story--and show it--just like they should, and they so very much work. Then there's the pacing, which could arguably be called slow. But it's the right kind of pacing for this book and its story and what its trying to accomplish. Grant doesn't just throw us and the characters into this world and say, "Hey, here's what's happening. Figure it out and try to survive." She builds it up. She takes the time to establish this world and let us understand and feel comfortable in it--and then, when everything starts to crack, we are much more able to actually feel those cracks and see everything fall apart. For a while you forget what the story is about and that it's not supposed to be all fluffy and nice. Grant makes you comfortable. And then she makes you uncomfortable.

I made a very smart decision when reading Parasite: I didn't read the synopsis. Sure, I read it once upon a time, but I had forgotten the details and really only knew the overview--or so I thought I did. (I also totally thought this was part of her Newsflesh series, but it's actually the first installment in the Parasitology one, whoops.) By not knowing the logistics of the book I was going into it almost blind, and I didn't know what to expect or when to expect it or when the hell something was going to happen. It ties back to the pacing--you get so comfortable with the way things are (and you forget that you're not in a contemporary sort of world) that when they change you feel it with the characters. And that's another thing--the characters. Despite the actual premise--and again with the writing and pacing--there's something about Parasite that feels very real. And because of that the characters--who are neither basic nor extraordinary; honestly, they're mostly kind of average--feel very real, and it's hard not to care about them and be concerned for their safety. It's all quite subtle, really, and that's what makes this book as a whole so successful.

There's so much more I want to say about this devourable book--namely the two words I'd use to describe it. (Okay, spoiler alert: tapeworm apocalypse. I'm not even kidding. End spoiler.) I went into Parasite expecting a horrific, gruesome, and dark zombie novel, and I wouldn't say I got that in any way, shape, or form. Parasite is so much more than it actually is. It's Sal Mitchell's story, along with intermittent, important, and relevant anecdotes from other points of view (and that POV word choice is purposeful over characters), it's about humanity and life and death and survival, and it's about...well, I can't tell you. You'll just have to read it for yourself. And don't be turned off by the tapeworms, okay? (Well, actually, be turned off just enough that if some big hotshot says putting a tapeworm inside you will solve all your health problems you'll tell him to go the fuck away.) This is a parasite worth...experiencing.

Did I like it? Yes!
Did I love it? Basically.
Would I reread it? I would!
Would I purchase it? I already own it and thank gosh I do.
Who would I recommend it to? Can I say everyone? But honestly, whether or not you like sci-fi or zombie-esque or apocalypseish novels, give this one a try. It's so much more than it appears to be.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this too! Have you read the other books in the series yet? I haven't but I hope to get to them this year.


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