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Parasite (Parasitology #1)

Parasite - Mira Grant

I received this book from Orbit Books as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.  Thanks Orbit!


While we're at it - another caveat:  I'm a science person.  A research science person at that.  And I worked under a parasitologist.  Imagine that.


Parasite is the first book in Grant's new Parasitology trilogy.


This book was a complete mixed bag for me, honestly.


Basic plot:  Sal(ly) is a young woman who is in a car crash and ends up in a coma.  Later on, she wakes up, but with complete amnesia.  Though her body was breaking down, to the point where the doctors wanted to yank her on life support, she has a bioengineered tapeworm that brings her back to life (hold on there, I'll get back to that).

She learns to live again (adorably learning new idioms through the book) and learns how to function as an adult (with a boyfriend and everything), but she lives under the thumb of her parents (and her father just happens to be head of AMRIID) and SymboGen, the company who is terribly interested in researching how this came to pass (it's their tapeworm).   In the middle of all of this, people start coming down with a "sleeping" sickness where they start wondering around in some sort of sleep-walking state.  They don't start out violent, and they aren't out to eat a bunch of brains, so they aren't your typical zombies, just the pre-George Romero, "walking around like a zombie" zombies. 

The book ends on a cliff-hanger, which drives me batty.   I don't mind trilogies or series as long as the stories have some sort of resolution, this one just ends with a big AHA moment.  It lost a star just because of that.  I am a fickle reader.


So the foundation of this series is the idea that since we're all living in such sanitized environments (not the same thing as sterile, authors and other people), most of our health issues are due to overactive/bored immune systems, which is not a fictional theory.    A company engineers a tapeworm-worm which will 1.  keep the immune system busy without causing harm and 2. do some beneficial stuff while we're at it (secreting insulin for diabetics, other drugs or therapies as needed, etc.).   This company supposedly plays fast and loose and unleashes (or sells, whichever you prefer) this worm on the public without much testing and things happen.   There are hospitals, mega-hella-corporations, the military, secret underground labs and all kinds of other craziness in this book that make it fun.


I give Grant mad props for lots of nice science-y parts (and YAY! worms, because they're cool), but there are some parts that are not-so-realistic (though I'm sure it makes for a better story).   I think, as a lay-person, especially if one were a a paranoid conspiracy-theorist lay person, this book probably doesn't even involve a suspension of disbelief.   If you have a basic understanding of how research, the FDA or the pharma-complex works (actually works), this book might be a bit much to swallow.


And it is another not-so-common play on the whole zombie phenomenon (without actually being about zombies... really).


I do really like the way the book is structured with laboratory notes, video, personal notes and the first person with Sal (who, for the record, is not someone I'd want to hang out with).


Overall, interesting premise, good story telling, if too unbelievable (for this science person).  There was a considerable dash of cheese (overly-contrived plot devices), but it worked out to a decent book.  Pacing could have been a bit better, but all in all, I'm mostly disappointed in its thriller un-resolved ending.