My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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.
Because I’m old and cynical, I rarely get excited about things. New release movies? No, I’m sure they’re going to suck. Christmas Day? Naw, the music and sparkly snow leading up to it makes the holiday awesome. Parasite‘s release? HELL, YES. I KEPT IMPATIENTLY STARING AT THE RELEASE DATE ON GOODREADS OVER THE PAST THREE MONTHS BECAUSE I COULDN’T WAIT.
Parasite chronicles the story of Sally “Sal” Mitchell, a young woman who nearly died in a car accident six years ago. She wakes up with no memory of her preceding life and discovers that she was, at one point, clinically brain dead. She, like the rest of the population, has a medical tapeworm living inside her, which regulates her medical conditions–no more asthma, no more diabetes, no more anything. And thus her recovery is attributed to the tapeworm and heralded as the next step in medical evolution.
Sal has been subjected to scrutiny by the SymboGen corporation, which engineered these medical marvels. She’s working a menial job and trying to make sense of living life as a twenty-something under constant surveillance by her legal conservator parents and a sleek, clean pharmaceutical company.
Until the world starts falling apart. People begin zombie-fying. And then dropping dead. And then things get worse.
The problem with this review, however, is that I am unable to meaningfully talk about the book without a spoiler. I’ve read a few of the other reviews just to get an idea of whether what I’m about to say is a spoiler or not, and apparently it is. The problem I have is that, like, ten damn pages into the book, I was like, “Ah, ok.” And then the book kept going on like we weren’t supposed to know. So I was all, “Uh, am I supposed to know this? OK, I’m not. Wait, am I? Yeah, I am–Nope. No. Wait.” According to the other reviews, the reveal happens 50% of the way into the book. So you’ve been warned.
Others have found the book dull in the beginning 40%, but because it was completely and transparently obvious that Sal was a tapeworm, I found it fascinating. It shows her trying to fit into a world that doesn’t make sense. She has to cope with disturbingly undisturbing dreams of being somewhere warm and dark with “drums” keeping her safe. She had to learn that you can’t walk around naked or pee in the middle of a lab if they ask for a sample. She has to deal with a father and a mother who treat her as though she’s an imposter in their daughter’s body while trying to be kind to her at the same time.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was how the overgrown tapeworm in the room was presented. For the first 75% of the book, I was frustrated at Ms. Grant for stringing us along when it was completely and transparently obvious. For the last 25% of the novel, I was frustrated at Sal for not admitting to herself that she was a tapeworm. By the end, I was shouting out loud and making half-crazed tweets about how Sal needed to figure things out, so help me, God, all to keep myself from having a heart attack.
***END SPOILER ALERT***
Parasite is relentless. The weirdness factor is high, the menace of the SymboGen corporation is palpable, and Sal’s struggle is real. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes near-future medical science fiction, and I’m dying to read the next book.