It didn’t take long for Mira Grant to make her way onto my “must buy” list when I was in the middle of reading her very compelling Newsflesh trilogy. So, when I noticed a few months ago that she had a new book coming out this month I made sure to mark it on the calendar and set an email alert so I wouldn’t forget to buy Parasite and read it as soon as it was released. The most interesting thing about the Newsflesh trilogy was how it was a zombie story without really being about the zombies the entire time. I went into reading Parasite hoping that a similar approach could be taken to a parasite because I really liked that style of writing.
As it turns out, Mira Grant met me about halfway on my desires. Parasite, in my opinion, is not as strong a book as Feed, but at the same time, it’s one of the stronger books I’ve read this year. The biggest difference is that this time I’m limited to a first-person narrative, which I always find to be incredibly hit or miss as to whether I’ll enjoy things or not. Grant did a good job with this narrative because the main character Sally Mitchell was very solidly written, and that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to a first-person narrative.
The premise of Parasite is that of a near-future society where most people have a genetically tailored tapeworm in their guts that helps keep them healthy. These tapeworms help eliminate things like allergies, auto-immune diseases, the common cold, etc. They don’t cure everything, but they have done enough that the medical world has been changed in landmark fashion. Sally Mitchell begins the book by recovering from a coma brought on by a horrible car accident. As the book progresses she begins to learn some things about herself, her family, the corporation in charge of developing the tapeworms, and the tapeworms themselves. I’m not going to cover any other plot details because there are a few twists that I would spoil by doing so, but take my word for it that the world has been well thought out and the general science behind what the author is setting up seems to be reasonably solid.
My favorite part of the book is Tansy, a character that shows up around the halfway point and who makes some interesting, and rather thought-provoking, statements from time to time. She’s also a bit crazy and when you learn her true nature and origin you’ll find yourself thrown for a bit of a loop.
The one thing that sort of disappointed me about Parasite was how easily I was able to pick up on the big twist towards the end. I hadn’t put together all of the main details about what the author was going to reveal, but I had most of them and when the big moment arrived it wasn’t as surprising as I had hoped. I was hoping that I was being misled on purpose like Grant does with the Newflesh books so that the thing I thought was going to happen was only a small side morsel of the really big plot event. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, but the twist is still pretty compelling anyways and sets things up for the second book nicely without leaving the reader feeling like they are sitting on the edge of a cliff with no decent fulfillment.
If you’ve read Feed you are going to like Parasite. If you enjoy books that have a bit of science in them to help set the stage then you’ll like Parasite as well. Even if you’ve never read a book in the vein of Parasite, you should still give it a try because you might enjoy it more than you think.