As is usually the case for this time of year, I’ve done none of the things that I’d planned to accomplish before Christmas, incuding getting up-to-date with reviews. I’ve been super ill and tired lately, as well as the usual festive busy-ness (I went to Lincoln with a friend yesterday and had the best time ever), but I couldn’t not write about Symbiont. The first book in this series, Parasite, was one of the best books I read in 2013, so I started this the second I got my grubby little paws on it.
The SymboGen-designed parasites were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts, turning them into a ravenous horde.
Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the parasites are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is and how they can be stopped.
Whilst I enjoyed this book a lot more than the second book in the Newsflesh series, I’d have to admit that Mira Grant isn’t the best at mid-series novels. Symbiont is reasonably good, but falls prey to most of the traps that these things usually fall in to – a lot of talking and travelling around without a whole lot of plot advancement. It’s probably safe to say that Symbiont could be removed from the trilogy and the story would remain more or less the same.
I did like this book, as I love the world that the author has created. I find the concept of Intestinal Bodyguards fascinating (if slightly gross) and really well thought-out so I’ve been looking forward to engrossing myself in the concept again. We don’t learn much on top of what we already knew, but then it was explained so thoroughly in Parasite that I don’t think we really needed much more.
The between-chapter blog posts and character interviews remain, which add interesting background information. The addition of Tansy’s chapters really interested me though. They’re brief but brutal, and completely add a stream of horror throughout the novel.
Where the concept falls down slightly, however, is the slight change of tone from the last book. It picks up almost exactly where Parasite left off, but there’s quite a large jump in the way the tapeworms are viewed. We’re instantly expected to see them as being equal to humans, having as much right to survive as us, but that’s asking a bit much this early on. It’s as if it tries to pose a moral question that doesn’t quite work. It’s like asking, ‘Hey, if you had to run over either an ant or a person, which would you choose?’ and expecting someone to seriously ponder the answer. The best thing about Parasite was how it made tapeworms taking over the world seem believable, but it’s lost a little of that now.
Sal seems to accept her new situation incredibly quickly. The narrative attempts to explain it away by saying ‘Oh, I guess I always secretly knew!’ but no, that’s a cop-out. Show me the reaction! It was such a killer ending to Parasite, but it’s cheapened slightly by the failure to deal with it properly. Mira Grant has a habit of creating huge plot twists, but then almost taking them back in the following book.
I kind of liked Sal in the first book, but she’s getting annoying now. The melodrama about travelling in cars was always irritating but there’s more wandering about in Symbiont, so there’s more snivelling. It almost seems like so many people complained about it after Parasite that Sal constantly reiterates how reasonable it is for her to be scared of cars. And I do mean constantly. Shut up already.
This review sounds as if I didn’t like Symbiont, but it wasn’t that bad. It’s just very middle-bookish. The ending is very interesting and I can’t wait to see where Mira Grant goes with that. Well, assuming she doesn’t backtrack on it…