Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Friday, November 29, 2013
Title: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: horror, science fiction
Series: Parasitology #1
Pages: 504
Published: October 29 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley 
Rating: 3.5/5

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 wouldn't suffer through 500 page tome about sapient tapeworms if it was for any author besides Mira Grant. I'm still rather .... apprehensive... when it comes to horror novels, but when it comes to Seanan McGuire's alterego, I am willing to give anything a chance. This is the author that convinced me I could like a zombie novel. If she can do that for a non-horror-fan like me with the Newsflesh series,  I have nothing but hope for the forthcoming Parasitology books.

I decided to 100-page rule Parasite. I was interested, but a book with a similar premise (The Troop by Nick Cutter) had been far from a good fit earlier this year. Usually I don't wait that long to tell if I will continue, but I know from experience that Grant's novels can begin in a rather plodding fashion.  Like Feed and especially Deadline before it, Parasite suffers the most from a meandering pace. It just takes too long to get going. There is a ton of set up needed in order to get the reader up to speed and that can make for some dry reading. It does end up being worth the time and effort, so stick with it.

And those first hundred pages are good. They aren't great, but they're enough to hook an audience. The basic set up behind the life of protagonist Sal/Sally Mitchell is interesting, and the author's plotting/creativity are a big draw. I did think her writing could have been more subtle --- there is one BIG twist in particular that feels telegraphed to the audience beforehand. I mean, I was happy to have my theory proven right but I'd pick being surprised over that anytime. Besides that small issue, Grant excels at envisioning and selling dire, futuristic worlds. It's not zombies, but a self-aware and motivated parasite makes for a great antagonist. The call isn't coming from inside the house anymore -- it's coming from inside your own body.

Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is an author that writes with conviction, be it about biters or about walkers. Sal herself may be uncertain about what is going on, but under Grant's able hand the narrative is strong once it hits its stride. She refuses to coast on the horrifying premise and pure gore -- instead, Parasite dives into government testing, corporation coverups, and big conspiracies. It's smarter than a purely action-driven novel is, though a bit more action would have gone a long way.

The book is a dense 500 pages, but it's 500 pages packed full of the creepy and horrifying. Still, it provides an excellent launching point for the series. The facts are established, there have been several surprising twists, and the first book ends on a well-done cliffhanger. There are some parts I would strongly advise against eating while reading, because there are some truly stomach-turning moments to be found. The science may not be as airtight as the author would like, but the way it is handled and explained seems functional, at least for a first book.

Parasite is very much a first-in-a-new-series novel, but it holds up rather well under the pressure. The foundation has been laid to create a truly special series and Mira Grant won't disappoint.

1 comment:

  1. HELLO FELLOW NEWSFLESH FAN. WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN MY CULT I MEAN CLUB? Just kidding, well about the official organization of some kind, not about the over-the-top Newsflesh fangirling.

    I loved this book, both because I thought it was really good and the aforementioned fangirling. My theory on the majorly telegraphed cliffhanger is that it was intentional to build suspense and confusion. Mira Grant can be so surprising when she wants to I felt like this had to be all part of a master plot.

    Did you like the Don't Go Out Alone snippets? I kind of wish Orbit would republish it as the creepiest kids book ever.


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