Parasite by Mira Grant

parasite

4 out of 5 stars.

This review will contain spoilers, so stop now if you need to. 

This book is a fantastic combination of zombie horror, Sci-Fi technology and medical mystery. A corporation has figured out how to solve almost every human health problem using genetically modified tapeworms. Something starts to go wrong when people begin acting strangely, however, and it is up to our heroine, who escaped death thanks to her helpful parasite, to figure out what secrets the tapeworms and their creators hold.

The layout of this book is really neat, with in-world quotations and news bits starting each section to give context to the world we are looking at. Sal (the protagonist) is caught between adulthood, biologically being  an adult, and childhood, since her tapeworm-fueled resurrection left her with no memories of her life before, and she is missing crucial physical and social skills. She is an awkward mishmash of naive child, rebellious teenager, and independent adult. It makes for quite an interesting character. I found myself easily sympathizing with her and imagining myself in her place.

The really interesting thing for me, though, is the theoretical ethical dilemmas this book presents. Once we find out the tapeworms are sapient, we have to ask the question of how much human good (complete freedom from illness) can outweigh enslaving another species? Does it matter that we ourselves created the species? And if (or rather when, since this is a Science Fiction novel) they turn against us, how much can we fight back? Usually when fiction presents another sapient species for us to come into contact with, it isn’t something in our gut, solving our problems and keeping us alive. Having a first contact scenario presented in the framework of something created on-planet that we already coexist with, and even in some cases need, is a really neat break from the usual “they come from outer space”.

The details of every day life that are sprinkled in (like Sal’s boyfriend’s passion for carnivorous plants, or her fights with her parents) make the earth-shattering implications of the books’ disasters intimate and real. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for a neat twist on the zombie genre, or anyone just looking for a really compelling read.

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