Posted: January 12, 2014 in Book reviews

By Mira Grant.

It’s 2027, and humanity owes its continuing good health to a tapeworm developed by a company called SymboGen , an intestinal parasite that can sit inside a human body, repairing damage and even dispensing drugs. For Sally Mitchell the intestinal Bodyguard ™ has proven even more miraculous. Six years before she was involved in what should have been a fatal car crash, but despite major trauma, and a long coma, she recovered thanks to her trusty tapeworm.

Her recovery wasn’t without cost however, Sally lost her memory, and had to learn to speak and live again, becoming effectively a different person, even going so far as to rename herself Sal.

Sal is still under medical care courtesy of SymboGen, and still effectively the ward of her (Sally’s) parents, but she has a boyfriend called Nathan, and a job, and for the most part she enjoys her life, until a mysterious infection starts to turn healthy people into brain-dead, shambling hulks. Nicknamed sleepwalkers they start out harmless, but soon start to develop into something altogether more dangerous, and soon Sal and Nathan find themselves drawn into a conspiracy which has global consequences.

Ok, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and this is somewhat correct. Parasite had a great cover, and it has an interesting premise. Of course if I’d realised quicker that it was the first part of a trilogy I mightn’t have bothered, because as it stands I’m not that eager to buy books 2 and 3 if they’re anything like this one.

As I say, the premise is interesting, and it isn’t like Mira Grant can’t write, she clearly can, but the execution of this novel is flawed on multiple levels, some of which are down to the author but quite frankly many of which are down to the publishers. For starters it’s a big book, clocking in at over 500 pages. Now this in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when dealing with a big conspiracy, because you can bounce back and forth between characters, see myriad events that impact upon the story…except that in Parasite you don’t. Pretty much the entire story is told first person from Sal’s perspective, and whilst at times she’s involved in pertinent events, at others she’s just living her life, which means a great deal of the book is pretty mundane. We get to see Sal buy plants, go to work at the animal shelter, go shopping, have rows with her family, and many other dull things. This makes the book a little bit of a chore to read at times.

There are some bits that aren’t from Sal’s perspective, but all these amount to are little articles and/or excerpts from biographies that sit between each chapter. Quite frankly they don’t add much to the story, all they do is bulk the book out, and to be honest the book’s plenty long enough without them.

There’s a couple of twists at the end, one of which I admit I didn’t see coming. The trouble is the other twist, the BIG twist, is the one that painfully obvious from the start of the book, and one you can’t believe the author imagines would be shocking when we finally get there.

There are some major plot contrivance, and characters doing stupid things/not telling people what’s going on for ridiculous reasons that might just about make sense in a sitcom, but not a major novel.

I wouldn’t recommend this book. It needed some heavy editing to cut it down to something more manageable, and if this had happened it might have made for more of a page turner, but as it is for me it was just an unenjoyably long slog.

  1. I reviewed this for SFX and really enjoyed it, but then I’m a fan of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. My main problem with Parasite was that after those books, Parasite didn’t feel especially fresh, and, as you say, the ‘shocking’ ending is no surprise at all.

    • starkers70 says:

      It’s the first book of hers I’ve read. Can’t say I’m predisposed towards reading anymore, although I have heard good things about the Newsflesh. I think my main complaint was that it was just so long for what it was!

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