Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Title: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

If the name Mira Grant rings a bell, it may be because I reviewed the three books in her Newsflesh trilogy for you last year.  Grant did a great job with zombies, so why wouldn't she do the same with tapeworms, amiright?  YAY, ZOMBIES AND TAPEWORMS.  I guess you shouldn't proceed in this review if you dislike icky things?

Alrighty, well, the first thing I liked about this book is the scientific detail.

And then, the first thing I kinda disliked about this book is the scientific detail.

(Let's back up.)

If you've read the Newsflesh trilogy, you know that Grant is really, really good at giving her sci-fi villains (in that case, zombies, in this case, tapeworms) a solid scientific foundation.  This isn't like The Walking Dead where we just kind of have this virus that's turning people into zombies, and you don't get a lot of detail about it, but you just accept the fact that people are now eating other people and YAY NORMAN REEDUS.  Nope, Mira Grant makes sure you know exactly how, biologically, that was possible, and I thought that was a super cool spin on the usual zombie novels that I see.

At first, I was intrigued by her explanation of the whole tapeworm situation in Parasite.  Basically, in the not-distant future, a health care company developed these tapeworms as implants to live in everyone's intestines, because the overuse of sterilization and hygienic cleansing caused us to all be getting sick all the time (a true scientific theory even now), and the tapeworms could be used to deliver medicines and other treatments in order to prevent these infections from occurring.  Okay, got it, I am on board, I like where this is going.

However, in the last third of the novel, as the action picked up, the science got to be a little TOO much at times.  Kind of hard to follow, and more than a little confusing in some parts.  Don't get me wrong, I like some guesswork with my plot twists and such, but this started to feel less intriguing and more frustrating after a while.  By the end, I think I had a pretty good handle on what was happening, but at some points I do wish the science was dialed down justalittle so that I could sit back and enjoy the action a bit more.  I do respect the fact that her scientific detail seemed to be extremely well-researched though.  Can't knock that, because it's impressive to see in a fiction novel these days.

Beyond the whole issue of the science--if you liked the Newsflesh trilogy, I think you will enjoy Parasite too.  The action moves along at a pretty similar pace, there are lots of unpredictable twists, and the characters all have a bit of that spunky nature that I came to expect from Georgia and Shaun in Newsflesh.  I found the protagonist (Sal) to be a little hard to believe at times (she's supposed to be fairly naive because of an accident that she was in 6 years ago, but still manages to be rather cunning when it counts...), but overall it's just a fun cast of characters to dive into.

Final verdict: despite the occasional feelings of confusion that I battled during this book, I'm definitely interested enough in where this is going to be eager for the next installment in the trilogy.  I don't feel as completely invested as I did after I read Feed (the first installment of Newsflesh) but you've hooked me, Mira Grant--I'm in for at least one more ride.

Readers: I think the most important question here is, would you seriously be willing to harbor a tapeworm in your intestines if it cured all of your ills?  Assuming it would never take over your body and try to kill you, of course...
Also, special shout-out if you liked my Norman Reedus mention.


  1. Love your review!! I love the cover of this book, but am still deciding if I want to read about tapeworms. I like how you said everything is thoroughly researched and explained and not like ok here are zombie with no explanations. I'm kind of a baby though when it comes to icky stuff, so I'm still thinking. Your review makes me lean towards say yes though :)

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Book Blog

    1. It's not over-the-top icky, I promise. That might come later in the trilogy though. Ha!

  2. Ah, the inevitable Parasite discussion question: would you do it?

    In real life, no. I just don't think all the things that would have to happen to make me comfortable with it would happen in my lifetime. That was sort of the biggest issue I had with this book, is that our "near future" was WAY too "near" for everyone to have accepted this as a completely normal thing, and the people who were still wary and choosing not to be implanted were the outliers.

    Now, if I were dropped into some hypothetical situation where I was born around the time all this research was going on, and slowly, over the course of years and years and years, more people started getting them, and there weren't any negative side effects... then I'd consider it. (And that's not even to say that something couldn't turn bad fifty years down the road, but I'd feel much more confident about it.)

    1. I'd agree with you there. I thought it was interesting that, other than Sal's boyfriend, there didn't really seem to be any true resistance movement against the tapeworms. I don't think it would be QUITE that easy to get so many people on board.

  3. Hot damn, that Norman Reedus just kills me. Darryl!!!!!!!! I can see what you're saying about the science getting out of hand... Once they meet the mad scientist and she started explaining the different variants I got a little lost, but all in all, I enjoyed myself. Would I tapeworm myself? Probably. I know, since they got all evil and started taking over bodies that's a bad thing, but who am I kidding? I'm not one to question accepted medical practices. I'd have been one of those crazy broads back in the day asking to be bled and purged. I'm trusting that way. Dumb, but trusting.

    1. LOL at the "bled and purged" comment! I am one of those people that reads all the literature against standard medical practices (ie. anti-vaccination stuff, etc), feel somewhat skeptical as a result, but then I end up doing the standard medical practice anyway. So...I'm like an informed lemming, at least.

  4. I adore good science in books, so I must read this. I think this year I'm going to do a bit more planning the books I want to read, so hopefully I'll actually remember that :) Thanks for the great review!

    1. Oh yes, if you are into the science aspect, this is for you! Would love to see your review if you get to read it.

  5. Good science is something you won't find in this book. The science is HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY bad.

    1. I would love to hear more about your perspective on this (since I'm not very up on my science!). From a layman's perspective, even though the plausibility of the idea of a tapeworm implant seemed rather low, it at least came off as rather well-cushioned in scientific ideas. What in particular was bad?

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