Parasite – Mira Grant

About the Book

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.

504 pages (Hardcover)
Published on October 29, 2013
Published by Orbit
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I really, really don’t like zombies. They make me turn off almost instantly. I just get so absolutely sick of them. There is nothing about a zombie that interests me. Nothing. Period. Knowing that, you’ll probably realize that I never read Mara Grant’s Newsflesh series. I just don’t care enough. However, when I saw the details on this book, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve heard a ton about how amazing Grant is, and since this book isn’t dealing with the flesh rotting undead, I figured it was a must read.

Here’s the deal: If it walks like a zombie, talks like a zombie, smells like a zombie, and acts like a zombie, it probably is one, even if you call it a tapeworm.

Parasite is set in an alternative futuristic earth where good health is bought by people ingesting tapeworms that fix pretty much everything. And there abouts lies where I absolutely turned off mentally. Have any of you guys actually seen a tapeworm? Disgusting creatures and if you know what they do, you’ll probably know that you couldn’t pay most people enough money to actually willingly swallow/implant one of these things. Even thinking about it makes me gag.

There’s the real problem with the book. Before I can talk about anything else, I have to address the basic premise the whole book resides on. If I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to buy the fact that people would willingly implant a tapeworm, then what is the point? Yes, I understand that this is an alternative Earth. Yes, I get that people do weird things in the name of health, but I don’t think I will ever be able to believe that someone swallows a tapeworm because they actually decided to do it.

A little background and development bringing the reader through the social change that suddenly makes this absolutely disgusting practice acceptable and normal would have gone a long way to making me believe that any of this was actually possible. The thing is, the idea is there. The idea the whole book is based on is fascinating. Grant could have done so much with it, but the poor execution and exploration of the ideas posed in the synopsis just killed any zeal I had.

Parasite tells the story of Sally, a woman who wakes up after a horrible accident with amnesia. She is being studied and watched over by the drug company SymboGen. Sally is trying to find her place in the world, which is actually quite interesting, until she realizes that weird things are starting to happen around her. Shock of all shocks, Sally finds herself in the unique position of being in the middle of it all. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

The zombies that aren’t zombies come in at the point where wacky things start happening all around Sally. Their zombie-non-zombie-ness becomes really obvious toward the beginning when Sally is at the mall with her sister. These people “wake up” and start kind of shambling around like something you’d see on The Walking Dead. The way they are described, the way they act, the way they react, is exactly like a zombie. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, just call it a duck. Please. There is no need for pretense.

The sad truth of the matter is that I didn’t finish this book (I bet that won’t shock anyone). I honestly couldn’t make it past the halfway point. The entire premise just bothered me. I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to feel anything but frustration with the rather paint-by-numbers plot. The fact that everyone acts like a zombie but we can’t call them zombies because zombies have already been done before annoyed me.  Sally is an interesting character. Her narrative and inner dialogue is easy to fall into. She makes the world feel real, and she infuses the situation with plenty of fantastic atmosphere. Sally wasn’t the problem. The problem was everything else.

I know I’m being unnecessarily harsh here, but I can’t help myself. I had high expectations for this book. Mira Grant is a name I’ve seen lauded all over for her work with the Newsflesh series, but I couldn’t quite make it with Parasite. However, it isn’t all bad. Sally is a great character, and the premise is unique and interesting. It will appeal to plenty of people, and they will probably all love it. It just didn’t work for me.

And that’s fine. You can’t win ‘em all.


1/5 stars

8 Responses

  • Mez

    Actually, the swallowing thing works fine for me. As late as the 18th century you could buy tapeworm pills to take to reduce your weight. So I could buy that part.

    However, yeah, zombies. That would have ruined it for me, too.

    • True, I have heard of that before. I guess it just absolutely grosses me out to a huge degree. I can’t imagine any sane person doing it.

    • Someone used the “people used to swallow tapeworms” argument with me too, when I said the same thing as Sarah in my review. I don’t think it would fly nowadays. People used to use leeches too, and as recently as the 1950’s doctors told nurses to smoke at least 3 cigarettes per day to help kill harmful bacteria. Medical practices have changed a lot.

      (And anyway, aside from all that, the novel has many problems. I think Seanan is awesome, and I actually liked Feed, but this one just didn’t work – for multiple reasons.)

      • I just read your review, Stefan, and I agree with everything you say in it. It just doesn’t work. Honestly, it put me off from any book written by that author. I probably should give Feed a try… but I don’t know if I have it in me.

  • David Greybeard

    I’m not anti-zombie. I’ve read several zombie novels that I’ve enjoyed very much. So, we’re much different in that regard. Still, I found the novel to be so damn predictable, dull and slow moving. I also put the book down half way through. Don’t think I’m going to ever finish it. I don’t understand why this writer has made such a big splash lately.

    • The only zombie novel I’ve read and actually enjoyed was the Dead West book that Tim Marquitz, Joe Martin, and Kenny Soward put out. I thought that was fun. I don’t know what it is about zombies. I guess everyone has to have something that just turns them off. As for the book, I agree… it was sadly predictable and felt very paint-by-numbers to me.

  • Ouch.

    Yeah, zombies are a serious turn-off for me too, and there was only 1 zombie novel I’ve managed to read. By day. And it was difficult. The only reason I gave it a chance was because it was by an author whose work I’d enjoyed in the past.

    I thought Parasite was going to be interesting, and the initial synopsis didn’t mention anything that tripped my warning alarms for zombies. Then the reviews started popping up and mentioning them, and I suddenly decided that I’d probably be better off not reading this one after all, even if the premise is kind of interesting.

  • Nadine

    I had a different problem with the book. I guessed where the book was going and felt that rather than the big reveal at the end we could have had a interestingly tortured internal conflict where Sally jumps to the final conclusion and then is hoping like hell no one else has guessed and fearful of how they will feel about her when they do. Also the internal dialogue she would be having trying to figure out how she feels about herself and her place in the world would have been more interesting than what we ended up with.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.