Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

In the interests of full disclosure, I haven’t read Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series so I have absolutely no idea how it compares. That said, based on how truly amazing Parasite was, if I had any money I’d have run out and bought all three books already.
It’s just so good.
 
Plot summary: 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.

I know it sounds really odd – tapeworms trying to take over the world or something. But just trust me when I say that Parasite is so, so much more than that.

First of all, I thought this was YA and it’s not – not even the slightest bit. The main character is Sally, who is a full 26 years of age which was a pleasant change. Admittedly she only remembers the last six years since a terrible accident wiped her memory, but having a card-carrying adult as a protagonist is necessary for the science-based and occasionally shocking plot.
The basic gist is that a huge company called SymboGen have developed an ‘Intestinal Bodyguard,’ which is essentially a genetically modified tapeworm that lives inside you and protects you from illness, allergies, etc. Sally had an almost fatal car accident years ago, but recovered just minutes before her family was due to turn off her life support, thanks to her Intestinal Bodyguard. Now there’s a ‘Sleeping Sickness’ epidemic, where hundreds of people are losing all mental capacity and their implants suddenly aren’t working. What could be behind the new illness and why are SymboGen so interested in Sally?
I actually went and looked into whether Mira Grant (real name: Seanan McGuire) had a background in science, because the theories expounded here actually make sense. I’m not about to imbibe a tapeworm, obviously, but the references to the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ various parasites and genome splicing indicate a huge amount of research and care. A book doesn’t have to be ‘possible’ for me to enjoy it, but I do like it when your imagination doesn’t have to struggle to picture it.
I was hooked from the beginning. Parasite begins with a transcript of a recording made of scientific trials of the Intestinal Bodyguard – the first success caught on tape. After that, in between every chapter there’s a newspaper article, interview, textbook excerpt, something, about the history of SymboGen and the development of the project. It may seem gimmicky in other books, but here it worked very well. It’s worthwhile paying attention to these as what you’ve learned there ties in perfectly with the plot later on. The intricacies of the detailed story could be lost without this knowledge.

Being Sally Mitchell sucks sometimes. There’s always another doctor who wants a question answered and thinks the best way to do it is to poke a stick through the bars of my metaphorical cage. I didn’t volunteer to be the first person whose life was saved by a tapeworm. it just happened.
I have to remind myself of that whenever things get too ridiculous: I am alive because of a genetically engineered tapeworm. Not a miracle; God was not involved in my survival. They can call it an ‘implant’ or an ‘Intestinal Bodyguard,’ with or without that damn trademark, but the fact remains that we’re talking about a tapeworm. A big, ugly, blind, parasitic invertebrate that lives in my small intestine, where it naturally secretes a variety of useful chemicals, including – as it turns out – some that both stimulate brain activity and clean toxic byproducts out of blood. 

The characters are also pretty much perfect. Sally is slightly naive, but then again she’s technically only six years old. Having said that, she doesn’t fall into any of the usual traps – she doesn’t withhold information from the authorities for no reason, she doesn’t fall head-over-heels in love with a horrible man at first sight and she doesn’t decide she can deal with the whole thing herself, despite it having nothing to do with her. 

All the characters’ decisions are rational and well thought out. There were times when I shook my head at what I thought was a silly twist or lazy writing… only for it to be either a) not what I thought or b) explained so well and so logically that it ended up making perfect sense. Parasite is as far from lazy writing as you can possibly imagine – every plothole, every doubt, every niggle is closed and I cannot think of a single fault with the story.

The only thing that irritated me was a tiny, tiny thing. Sally is terrified of cars, as you can imagine you would be after a near fatal accident. Unfortunately it’s just way over the top –  she turns into a sniffling, whiny mess when anybody so much as glances at her while they’re driving. ‘How could they do that to me!?’ Aside from anything else, Sally, you were driving when you had your crash. You. So shut up. Like I said though, small point, and otherwise she’s a respectable heroine.

The relationships also work very well. Sally already has a long-standing boyfriend when we jump into the story, so it’s a pleasant change not to bother setting up a new romantic interest. Their relationship is a factor, but it’s more of a sub-sub-plot. He supports Sally when she needs it and plays a large part in the story in his own right, but he never bullies her or resents her. A good love interest, all told.

What’s more complex is Sally’s relationship with her parents and sister and it’s done… you guessed it, perfectly. There are an awful lot of issues regarding Sally’s accident and how her personality has changed, and Mira Grant doesn’t shove them under the carpet. The resentment and tension are felt very subtly to begin with, but then it builds gradually until it’s an unavoidable situation. Perfect.  

The ending is slightly predictable, but like I mentioned before, it’s so well done and so… perfect that it really doesn’t matter. it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. I was a little frustrated because I hadn’t realised that this was going to be a series and now I won’t get to find out what happens for practically forever. Points to the author though – there is a dramatic conclusion, but no obvious give-me-your-money cliffhanger. Like I said, no lazy writing here!

So. Perfect. This book is perfect. I do wish the blurb had been phrased differently as it did take away the mystery of what was causing the sleeping sickness, but I understand that isn’t the author’s fault. It was interesting watching the characters figure it out, but maybe it would have been better to learn along with them. But hey ho. 

Parasite is a book that will capture your full attention and not let you go until you’ve turned the last page. It’s not some silly little zombie book – it’s a complete and well thought out story that’s, dare I say it, perfect.

Read another review of Parasite by Mira Grant at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. 

Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    OKAY, that's it – I'm starting this today. I was going to wait because I don't think I'll have much time to read this week, especially because I'm doing a lot of drinking and hanging out watching Christmas movies in my pj's all weekend, but now I'm just sooooooooo excited! I can't wait.

  2. Ellie says:

    Okay, so first you tell me it's amazing, then I see you've given it five stars on LibraryThing which is practically unheard of (NOT THAT I AM STALKING YOU OR ANYTHING *hurriedly hides behind lamp post*) and THEN you post this review. There is really only one response to these three things.

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANT.

    That is all.

    1. admin says:

      Haha, I usually end up stalking your LT at 2am when I can't sleep… which is somehow even creepier.

      I know, I gave it five stars. I NEVER do that. I'm desperate to read her other series now, but I have absolutely no money so it will have to wait until my first pay check. Oh oh, Ellie, let's go Hanna's Paycheck Book Shopping! Partly also because your Christmas present may have to wait until then lol.

  3. Perfect, you say? Well, that changes things.

    I was kind of intrigued by this book but I'd never tipped over from 'intrigued' into 'wanting to buy' so I was kind of going to just let it pass me by…now that must change! I'm a fan of perfection (and if it's you saying it's perfect then I trust you) so this will be on my January binge. Actually, if I *do* get a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, this might be on the inevitable click-buying fest that will ensue on Christmas Day. And THEN when my sister's dog is being annoying, I can just read it. Deal.

  4. Polter-Cow says:

    I'm not about to imbibe a tapeworm
    She did.

    No, seriously, she lived with a tapeworm for a few months.

    As research.

    If you loved this book, you definitely need to check out Newsflesh! The trilogy is amazing.

  5. Thank you for sharing great knowledge with us. I surely recommend your product. Even, I have some home remedies for the treatment of parasites in intestine. As you can drink coconut water for parasites in intestine. There are also other home remedies for parasites in intestine. Here you can check the link given below http://www.findhomeremedy.com/15-natural-cures-for-parasites-in-the-intestine/

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