Parasite really ups the creep factor with a slow building sense of dread. Mira Grant takes current medical technology and moves it into the near future in an all too believable direction. Much like she did in Feed and the wonderful Newsflesh trilogy, she has created an all too believable world. Instead of zombies, the world of Parasite is one where genetically engineered tapeworms are voluntarily implanted in virtually everyone to regulate our bodies and cure everything from allergies to diabetes.
We live in a world where we hear about antibiotic resistant bacteria and children and adults being so isolated from germs that they don’t build up tolerance for them. It’s very easy to believe that a medical industry that promises relief from this as well as better overall health and a freedom from pills and shots in the form of a tapeworm would be welcomed with open arms. It’s even easier to believe that a company that gets rich off this development will go to almost any lengths to protect its investment.
The heroine of the novel is Sal (Sally) who awoke unexpectedly from a coma, her body repaired -- thanks to her tapeworm, but her memory lost and her personality changed. She is both grateful and mistrustful of the company that is responsible for saving her. She chafes at her dependence on them and their desire to not only monitor her health but to study her. She loves her family even as they both care for her and mourn the person she used to be before the coma.
Grant does a great job of building sympathetic characters, as well as characters whose surface politeness makes you question their real motives. Where she really shines though is in the creation of absolute terror from her depiction of the sleepwalkers. Ordinary people who without warning shut down and seem to vacate their bodies. Sal’s encounter with this, first in a crowded mall and later on a sidewalk with a man walking his dog are absolutely chilling in the sense of fear and dread they create.
Sal’s fragility is a little annoying at times, but her desire to find answers is the driving force of this novel. The tension mounts steadily as Sal gets closer to the answers. The main mystery is pretty much understood by the end of the book, but the implications and resolution are left for the next book in the series. One I’m very much looking forward to. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.