Book Reviews Parasite

Published on August 8th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley

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Parasite – Mira Grant

Another nominee for the Hugo awards this year is Grant’s ‘Parasite’, this isn’t her first foray into sci-fi horror as her previous trilogy ‘Newsflesh’ similarly feature’s a medical-based calamity.

Parasite is set in a world where humanity’s immune systems have been compromised by the ever-evolving bacteria and viruses and our own cleanliness has made us weak. With people beginning to die, the Symbo-gen Corporation genetically manufactured a cure, a tapeworm that resides in a patient and monitors and destroys all manner of infections and management of bodily functions. Already it’s oppressively ominous, what with worms being put in people by a company that clearly hasn’t got a brand marketing department.

Sally Mitchell passes out at the wheel and becomes brain-dead, just as the doctor is explaining to the family that their daughter is never coming back, Sally opens her eyes. After 6 years of re-teaching everything from scratch, including speech and walking, Sal has re-named herself, got a boyfriend and has a job. Everything is going just peachy, except that Symbo-gen has an unhealthy obsession with her and people are basically turning zombies all over the place. Oh didn’t I mention that? People are randomly stopping in their tracks, going dead-eyed and then wandering clumsily.

Mira Grant makes no attempt at providing any sort of cover story for these events, making it pretty obvious that these 3 things; Tapeworms, Sally’s accident and Zombie people are clearly related. Somehow though, none of the characters seem to realize, with the inevitable reveal being quite an unguessable shock to them.

With the onset of violent symptoms and increasing drama, it becomes subject to a crazily perspective-defying element of human idiocy, when all of a sudden, despite the possibly world-ending scenario which is unfolding around these people, they still have time to worry about things like ‘respect’ and info-gathering, despite the main character not actually being equipped with any power (or agency) to help in any way at all.

I recently read Parasite Eve, which although far from handling such a ridiculous situation in too convincing a manner, at least managed to offer some scientific background and changed the perspectives enough that no one person could bring the novel down, however in Sally Mitchell is the naive and questioning child in all of us that is unrealistically not being shut down at the first instance of intrepid curiosity.The sequel to Parasite coming out later this year.

The novel plays out mostly like the instigating events of something like I am Legend, but lacking all of the tone and atmosphere, opting instead to play it like a Sci-Fi channel TV movie, one that has enough budget to make some form of special effects and genre actors that don’t think that they are making complete rubbish, but lacking a decent screenplay or director, coming out with a moderate essence of cheesiness hanging off it. It soon devolves into a bit of zombie horror but all of the boring administrative lead-up and none of the powerful political or media struggle or emotional resonance of human drama.

There are some interesting themes throughout the book, the question of mental health and state healthcare for one, the ideas surrounding how scientific breakthroughs are handled and whether the public is kept informed or seeks information is something that I found though-provoking. I enjoyed a few of the male characters as they were humourous and made a good antidote for the dullness of the main character, whose own shining moments were being picked upon for lapses in social conformity.

It’s a rather enjoyable book, with too little story dragged out over 500 pages, puzzlingly leaving itself open for a sequel. Somewhat immersive, it leaves us wanting to be in the world, even if that means being inside of anyone else but insipid Sally Mitchell.

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