Parasite by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an eARC of Parasite through NetGalley. It will be released on Tuesday, October 29th.
Sally Mitchell is brain dead following a car accident when, just as her family is about to pull the plug, she wakes up. SymboGen, a company devoted to genetically engineering parasites for personal health, takes credit for her miraculous recovery. Sally had an "implant," which is what they euphemistically call these personalized tapeworms. The tapeworms excrete needed medication and bolster an immune system that would otherwise be near-paralyzed with allergies. (For more information about why these are scientifically viable concepts, read up on the hygiene hypothesis.)
Several years later, Sally is mostly back on her feet. She has no memory of her life before the crash, and it's been a long recovery process. She can speak and interact, but colloquialisms elude her. SymboGen has been taking care of her, and she has regular check-ups at their facilities in exchange for their taking care of her medical bills. She's never relearned how to drive, and is extremely cautious of other people's driving. She's dating Dr. Nathan Kim, a parasitologist at a San Francisco hospital, and one of the few people to opt out of an Intestinal Bodyguard.
Suddenly, people are acting strangely. It looks like sleepwalking, though the sufferers are awake and fine just moments before the onset. Sally witnesses two of these events, and they leave her deeply troubled. One of them winds up with a dog in her care, a well-behaved black lab named Beverly whose former owner scared her half to death when he came down with what is soon called the sleeping sickness.
The mystery deepens, and Sally soon finds herself in the middle of several conspiracies and coverups. Her father works for the government, and thinks she's the key to curing the sleeping sickness. SymboGen might have something to do with it. And Nathan's mother seems to have the most information of anyone.
If you have a sensitive stomach, you won't want to read this book after you've eaten. Some of the discussions of parasites might bother you. I was fine, but I find parasites more fascinating than gross. I did, however, read the most terrifying scene I've read since House of Leaves. When Beverly starts barking at the backyard fence, you might want to turn on a few more lights before you continue reading.
Parasite is the first of two books in the Parasitology series by Mira Grant. It shares the meticulous research, the near-future crisis, and the snappy dialogue of the NewsFlesh trilogy, but the similarities end there. This is an entirely different world, and an entirely different problem.
I'm intrigued to see where it goes from here.
I recommend this book if you like your medical thrillers well researched, and you need more plausible science fiction in your life. Parasite takes place in 2027, and most of it seems like a logical extension of current health problems. Mira Grant knows her stuff, and she writes well, while she's at it.
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