- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (October 29, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0316218952
- Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
Sal nearly lost her life after being struck by a vehicle, so close that her family was days away from pulling her from life support. Then she woke up. Her miraculous recovery was attributed to the Intestinal Bodyguard, a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the worm boosts the host’s immune system, protecting it from illnesses. Now, six years after her accident, Sal is struggling to get her life back to normal. When she awoke she had no memory of her life before. She had to learn to talk and walk again, essentially reborn. Now, nearly every human has this tapeworm living inside them. SymboGen is ecstatic with the popularity of their miracle treatment. However, as of late, a noticeable side-effect has reared its ugly head. In some cases, the tapeworm makes its way to its host’s brain, taking control of the body it once protected. The repercussions are deadly, the “sleep” the victims experience varies; some simply “shut off” mentally while others turn murderous, striking out against those closest to them.
Although Parasite set over twenty-five years in the future, it is a very timely novel. As of late, a lot of studies have shown that our own bodies, so full of antibiotics after being inundated with them as both treatments of illnesses as well as in our food, do not have an immune system powerful enough to stand up to horrific diseases. The flora that once resided in our digestive system has all but disappeared, forcing the creation of a whole host of innovative treatments for disease. Therefore, the world that Grant builds in this novel is so plausible, so believable, that it adds a completely different factor of fear.
Grant starts off each chapter with text somehow relevant to the storyline, including test from unpublished manuscripts and footage from SymboGen’s research. This addition is ingenious; it gives the reader necessary backstory and additional information to the history of the Intestinal Bodyguard. Had Grant added this to the novel itself, it would have changed the pacing or would have added unnecessary bulk to the length of the novel. That’s not to say that Grant rushes into the climax of the novel. Instead, she carefully builds up Sal’s character, allowing Sal to be the focus of the story, instead of the implant itself.
Sal’s character is extremely well-developed. Due to her accident, although she is in her mid-twenties at times she seems naive and infantile. She’s a blank slate, naive in how to properly interact with people socially. The reader can sense, and empathize, with her frustrations. Her boyfriend, Nathan, a parasitologisit, is her saving grace. Although he is extremely interested in Sal as a medical miracle, he is truly in the relationship due to love and commitment. He serves as Sal’s saving grace and sounding board, providing a level of understanding to her situation and what she must be experiencing. Their relationship adds a sense of humanity and tenderness to a novel that might otherwise feel sterile and scientific.
Parasite is the first in a new series by Grant. Fans of Grants Newsflesh series will be pleased to learn that her unique sense of humor and snark make an appearance in this series as well. While technically it’s too early to say just how fantastic this new series will be, if this first book is any indication of what is to follow, I am sold. Parasite is an incredibly intense and addictive read. I will be impatiently awaiting the next title in this series, Symbiogenesis, due out in November of 2014. Highly, highly recommended.
As if the novel was not enough, check out these ingenious videos to accompany the book: