Parasite by Mira Grant, Parasitology #1

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.

What really won me over to read Parasite was the synopsis and the promise of the book, I am always on the lookout for these types of books, I have already read a couple books in this setting, namely the books of Scott Sigler, Ancestor and Infected and Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns. The books were huge enterprises have privatized certain essential things really speak to me and when lab settings come into play I am even more stoked to reading these kinds of books, since I am an molecular biologist myself. The thing that I want to read about doesn’t necessarily need to be accurate though I like to see it, but I want to be scared and freaked out, I can extrapolate about genetic engineering for myself, but reading this horrible vision of personal-healthcare-gone-bad... really really bad was just brilliant, for me Mira Grant really hits that spot.

Read the synopsis for yourself. A parasite to cure all illness, who doesn’t want that? SymboGen has managed to achieve this in the near future, and it’s not really that far away only 14 years into the future. So the year is 2027 and most of the people of Earth have an parasitic tapeworm living in them. They don’t need to pop a pill when they get ill, the parasite takes care of it. The perfect world... well if only... It might seem like the best solution but with these medical “wonders” there is always something that the scientists has overlooked... You might say that Parasite follows the standard medical thriller/horror script well it might, but that is only in the rough lines, when you look into detail to the storyline and how Mira Grant writes up her story it’s brilliant. From the first page when you get introduced to the narration and how several things came to pass it really felt like I was there looking over the shoulder of the lab technicians. Besides the recordings where you see Dr. Shale working on the project making breakthroughs in science or getting negative results, there are also paper clippings from a personal diary, interview and other things that show more of the story of what all happened in the run up to the final disaster. I really like how these things were introduced besides the normal storyline that follows Sally, it added a definite bucket load of the right kind of flavour!

The main storyline of Parasite follows the protagonist Sally Mitchell. The opening scene features here on a life support system and in a coma, they are about to disconnect her from the system. She ended up in this coma after a terrible accident when she hit a bus in her car. But just when they are about to plug her out of the life support system she miraculously wakes up from her coma. However with a lot of memory loss and she has to learn to read and write from the beginning, this really is the start of the story and in the earlier chapters you really get the focus on Sally and how she is recovering from her accident. Sally is under strict control of SymboGen, since she was earlier implanted with a worm and it is said that it must have saved her life, however since she woke up from being almost dead she is a special case and is monitored quite closely with weekly talks. I was really pleased with how Sally was shown, though we don’t see much of the “old” Sally, only in a few references from which we can make out that she wasn’t the most easy girl to live with. The new version of Sally is also far from it, but I do think this is strongly owed to the fact that she had a terrible accident and is still recovering from it. You can clearly see that she is frustrated with not remembering a lot of things; from personal relations with her family and friends to how the world works, it was very neatly captured in all how Sally acted. Besides Sally there are quite a few secondary characters that leave an impact in the storyline for starters there is Sally’s new boyfriend Nathan Kim, a parasitologist, he has a brilliant mind, but has refused to take on a the Internal Bodyguard and also kindly refused to offer to work for SymboGen. Nathan is playing the role of a supportive and sweet boyfriend to Sally, supporting her in all her struggles, initially I thought this would be it, but there is a nice twist nearing the ending of the book that turns some tables around regarding Nathan’s character. Next to Nathan there is also the CEO of SymboGen, Steven Banks, he was one of the three cofounders of SymboGen and now the boss. Steven Bank character is exactly what you can expect from someone running an “evil” million/billion dollar medical cooperation. He thinks that money can buy everything, and has little regard to what disasters might accompany several experiments. However I do have to say that eventhough his character might sound like a stereotype, he is quite far from it, I think this is really owed to the fact how the story eventually starts to unfold. His character gets a nice ring to it by the earlier mentioned excerpts, his are from a personal interview wherein he relates just how super the Internal Bodyguard is, but as a reader you get to learn a much more darker side to how it was engineered...

And this brings me to the science aspect of Parasite. I do have to say that this was very detailed and I really enjoyed reading how the lab practices went, how the Internal Bodyguard was designed, what was taken into account, not too much human DNA, fusing different strains together with a bridge etc. It sound dangerous and in some cases quite freaked me out especially when you get the lowdown on which parasite was used to link it all and what kind of dangers it brought on. Mira Grant really did her homework on writing and integrating this science bit into Parasite, creating more than often a nice heart-pounding fear inspiring moment. Not all of the story takes place in just the lab setting, about a quarter in several weird things start to happen (this shouldn’t surprise anyone though), but what happens I will keep to myself and is for you to find out. From this point onwards the story is thrown into a rapid pacing, a lot of revealing are being made and the part of Sally’s father and his job added a nice few layers to the ambience of the story, especially the stuff that happened in the contained areas. The part of the book that really left me agape was the part when a letters and an eventual phone call takes place, I had some thoughts as to who it might be and I guessed correctly, some of you might have the same feeling that this was kind of predictable, but the stuff that happens next. WOW. I was blown away with how Mira Grant made up the huge plot twist with the Internal Bodyguards. The ending of the book with Sally was also a bit predictable if you had followed the clues, but I do feel really sad for Sally, Mira Grant managed to pull me into her character and I started to feel for her, it’s quite an emotional ending and I am very curious as to how the story will start to unravel in the sequel.

When I started reading Parasite I had no clue as to where the story might finish. Mira Grant shows that she knows just how to write an excellent horror/thriller story inspired by a pharmaceutical company with a monopoly position. Parasite is a pulse pounding thriller that is leaving me with a definite aftertaste wanting more. I really liked the focus on the science part with the genetic engineering and though it is shown in basic detail it still inspires me with this fear of anything is possible and I don’t want to think about what some of the big current pharma companies are up to behind their closed laboratory doors. The accuracy and confidence that Mira Grant uses to write these science scenes really help to bolster the overall feeling of danger and unpredictability that has to accompany such a book, it leaves you on the edge of your seat. The increase in pacing after the halfway mark when some important revealing have been made was nicely done, this really threw me as a reader even further into the story and i just had to finish Parasite. The characters, and namely Sally, well designed and are fleshed out into the details. Using the accident of Sally and her subsequent recovery, and the duality that was accompanied added a great many layers to Sally’s character. Parasite leaves the first story of the Parasitology trilogy on a nice cliffhanger moment which I am eager to see explored in the sequel. I have high hopes for this series!


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