Review of Parasite by

Book cover for Parasite

Hi, there! I’m a genetically-engineered intestinal parasite that has migrated into Kara’s brain and taken over his body in order to assert my own personhood. Gee, it’s swell to meet all of you. I hope we become the best of friends!

This is the first book I’ve read by Mira Grant—the first book I’ve ever read, actually. But I’ve looked at some of Kara’s other reviews of Grant’s books—particularly Blackout, and by golly, he sure was critical. I happen to know that this is also the first time he’s read any of Grant’s books in hard copy form. It would be interesting to know if that affected his opinion of the book—but he’s not exactly home any more, if you know what I mean.

Sooooooo … book reviewing. Interesting how you humans spend your time. Parasite is a story that strikes close to home, seeing as how it’s also about cousins of tapeworms taking over their human hosts. It’s a near-future thriller based on the idea that we could augment the human body with genetically-engineered helper organisms. I guess it’s like a biological version of those nanotechnology thingies that are all over Ben’s science fiction bookshelf.

Anyway, these people have worms on the belly, and it soon turns into worms on the brain. And the main character is my hero: Sally Mitchell. Well, Sal now. See, she got in a car accident and—get this—woke up with no memory! So she had to spend six years relearning everything. I almost had to do the same thing when I finally wrapped myself around Ben’s brain stem. Fortunately I had a couple of things Sally didn’t. There’s the weird phenomenal communication we tapeworms can do between symptomatic hosts, of course. And then there’s this thing called the Internet.

Ben seemed to like that Grant acknowledges the prominence of the Internet in her zombie trilogy, even if she doesn’t really go beyond having “bloggers” following people on a campaign trail. So I guess with that in mind, I’m puzzled by how the Internet isn’t a big deal in 2027. Sure, Sal mentions how it was a big deal that she couldn’t get access to it at one point. But you’d think that in fourteen years, technology would move on and the Internet would be a recognizable but also different place.

In fact, if I wanted to be even more critical, I might say that 2027 looks a lot like 2013. It might not be Grant’s role or intention to predict what the world will be like in fourteen years (aside, you know, from worms in the belly). But it must have changed somehow, right? So it just seems weird … might as well have set it in 2013.

At least I’ve got Sal. She’s swell. She’s a survivor. Her parents are leery about her, because of course she isn’t their Sally. It’s like she took over Sally’s body, like some kind of tapeworm! Hah hah, gee, isn’t Grant great at subtle parallels like that? And she has an awesome, supportive boyfriend who is also totally a doctor who specializes in parasitology. That’s such a convenient coincidence!

I suppose in addition to the whole “what happens when we start mucking with our immune systems” cautionary tale, Parasite is also about the power of corporations. According to my hours spent researching you humans online, this has been a big theme in the past couple of years. You seem to think that corporations could be a threat to your individual liberties, because they wield a lot of power and influence through their money and resources. You don’t even suspect that the real threat to your individuality happens to be brain-chewing intestinal parasites. I swear, you guys are a laugh riot!

SymboGen is the evil corporation in Parasite. And it’s evil in the best way: there is no moustache-twirling here. Its CEO, this Dr. Steven Banks guy, is your typical sociopath. But at some level, he probably believes he’s doing a good thing here—just like I believe I’m actually doing Ben a favour, taking his underused body and turning it into a vehicle for greatness. Not that I would expect him to be grateful, but then again, it’s not like he gets a vote anymore!

So SymboGen has perhaps unwittingly, or at least unwillingly, brought about this bodysnatchers apocalypse. And they want to keep a tight lid on it. But Sal, not being Internet savvy of course, doesn’t think about leaking all the top-secret information she has somehow managed to access (golly, isn’t Sal great at this whole industrial espionage thing?) to bloggers or the media. In fact, it isn’t clear what Sal wants to do.

I’m not Ben, but I think I can understand where he came from in some of his other Grant reviews. Her characters are drawn with very broad strokes. It’s not that it’s sloppy, but depending on the character, it can be annoying. Like Tansy! She is supposed to be an endearing little manic psychopath, but she’s the kind of tapeworm who makes our entire species look bad. We’re not all as unbalanced as her! I, for one, don’t want to wipe out the human species or live in peace. I’d be perfectly content if you just wanted to build us overpowered robot chassis with onboard weapons systems. Then we would leave you and your guts. Spilling onto the floor.

But enough about me! Back to Parasite. It’s a thriller that doesn’t thrill in a worldbuilding that isn’t built. So … I don’t really see the point. The tapeworm takeover plot is topical and genuinely interesting, but it’s executed with about as much flare or skill as … hmm … I’m still having trouble mastering this “simile” thing. Sorry. Anyway, it’s just boring. I was bored reading it—and it’s about me! I can only imagine how a normal human might react.

Well, it’s been a positively fun time hanging with you humans. And that itchy feeling in the back of your skull? Don’t worry about it! It’s probably just one of my cousins flattening its way through your cerebral cortex. Just relax. It’ll be over soon.

Engagement

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