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
Parasite is the first novel of Mira Grant's new set of novels: Parasitology. Readers of her previous Newflesh series will note a familiar story telling style, with each chapter and section beginning with excerpts from in-world publications about the bigger story. It's a good touch, especially in a first person narrative, that offers additional sources of information without breaking the intimate story-telling style.
If you read the cover blurb above, you'll note the novel focuses on the use of tapeworm parasites to improve the health of the user, but complications arise with the parasites attempting to take over the
host bodies. It offers a much more interesting approach to dealing with "zombie-fied" people, without making it so cut and dry as the easily dismissed undead. Where you would expect someone to immediately shoot an undead monster in the head, you instead share the concern and confusion about how to deal with these disturbed souls.
Unlike her prior series, Parasite is much less action packed, instead focusing on details, characters, and suspense. It took well over a hundred pages to really kick into gear, spending much of the time letting us get to know the main character, Sal, and the changes in the world after SymboGen's "intestinal bodyguard" became common use. This was not wasted time as the story progressed though, the deeper connection to Sal paying off as the world begins to devolve, or evolve, around her. And the more detailed medical and scientific explanations offer an excellent understanding of exactly what is happening with the parasites.
The only drawback, if you could call it that, was the reveal at the end could be seen from very early on in the book. The reason I question whether or not to call it a drawback, is because the reveal should make little difference to the reader, as its much more about the effect it will have on Sal. All that time spent earlier getting to know Sal and her family and friends becomes more and more important as the story builds.
Grant does an excellent job of building this near future world, offering more sides than expected to the building confrontation. Keeping the focus tight on Sal, and her boyfriend Nathan, works well as she's naturally stuck in the middle. This leaves her, more than anyone else, with the possibility to make a difference.
Fans of Mira Grant's Newsflesh work should enjoy this, as well as readers of suspense novels. Though the book definitely has its own voice, with its attention to detail, it reminded me at times of Michael Crichton as well.
Parasite is due on shelves October 29th, 2013 from Orbit Books.