Sally Mitchell is the first person to be saved by their SymboGen implant; a genetically modified tapeworm that has changed medical treatment worldwide. After a near-fatal car crash, she was pronounced brain dead only to reawaken moments before the plug was pulled. Six years later, Sal prefers not to be called Sally; she isn’t that girl any more. In fact she has no memory of the life she lived before.
Reading Parasite made me aware that I know a fair amount about parasites. What may seem like a far-fetched cautionary tale is rooted in science fact. Tapeworms have been known to have beneficial qualities as well as a whole bunch of unsavoury side effects. They can travel beyond the intestines in your body. There are plenty of parasites that actually exist that control their hosts in the most extraordinary ways; I have watched many a natural history documentary that screamed science fiction except that they are real.
And we are facing a world where our immune systems are back firing and excessive use of antibiotics are creating resistant strains. It’s not so hard to see science turning to living, symbiotic cures for all our ailments. Even Sal’s recovery put me in mind of one of the miracle survivors of rabies I read about in Rabid; having to learn to walk and talk from scratch as an adult is an arduous, but thankfully rare, task. It does make Sal an amazingly endearing characters and that is where the strength of this book lies beyond the science; in the amazing characterisation.
It’s refreshing to have a love interest that is already established. It makes it not about the romance but Nathan is a wonderful supporting presence and possibly the perfect boyfriend. His in depth knowledge of parasites is also handy in the circumstances. Sal is at times naïve and sometimes slow on the uptake but considering she is only mentally 6 years old, she’s doing pretty well and is full of character and self-awareness. She is kind to animals and she likes learning new slang but she’s also happy to admit when she doesn’t understand something. She also call in the experts instead of running straight into danger by herself. Smart girl.
There is also one of the best canine characters I’ve read. You can tell an animal loving author through the qualities of the animals in the pages and Beverly is wonderfully expressive. I think you’d be able to tell she was a Labrador even without being told; the full body tail wag is a dead giveaway. I worried about this dog more than some of the humans! Tansy was also a fantastic character who made me laugh; to say more about her would involve spoilers I’m afraid.
It’s a story with a lot of leads that will help you work out what is going on well before the characters. Well, before Sal, because I think there are many that know a lot more than they are letting on. Perhaps because the science and theory seemed right to me, and strangely familiar, I wasn’t distracted by it in the early stages and I instinctively guessed the big secret right away. However I loved the characters so much it didn’t matter that I felt the conclusion was inevitable but some may find it predictable. Then there’s always the chance that I could be wrong, especially with one or two things that, at the time, seemed to throw me off the scent.
There were parts of Parasite that reminded me of Feed and others of her writing under her own name, Seanan McGuire. I think she’s managed to meld the best of both worlds into this and I look forward to more. The ending is definitely an opening for a series.
Parasite is published by Orbit and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 29th October 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
Shelve next to: Feed by Mira Grant
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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