Mira Grant’s first novel Feed was one of the best novels of its year, garnering critical praise, a legion of fans and making the short list for the Hugo Award.
It deserved every bit of that attention thanks in large part thanks to a new take on the zombie thriller and a couple of interesting twists along the way that made me eager for the next installment in the trilogy. Unfortunately, the final two segments of the Newsflesh trilogy never quite lived up to the high bar set by the first book.
But that doesn’t mean I was ready to throw in the towel with Grant. And when I heard she was working on a new series, I was intrigued to see if Grant could get her the groove back she had in Feed.
If Grant is trying to recapture the feeling readers had when reading Feed she may have succeeded too well. Parasite suffers a bit too much from a feeling of “been there, done that” for much of its run.
A decade in the future, medical technology has created genetically enhanced tapeworms. These tapeworms are ingested by everyone and help regulate the body, fighting off illness and keeping humanity alive and kicking. It’s also helped the world become virtually disease free thanks to the genius of medical corporation SymboGen.
Sal is a young woman involved in a near-fatal car wreck six years earlier. Just as her family was about to take her off life support, Sal woke up. But there’s a side effect of her miraculous recovery — she can only remember her life to the point she woke up. Memories of the first several decades of her life are missing and she’s forced to start her life over again. She’s also being studied by SymboGen (who pays all her medical bills) to find out what happened to her and if her tapeworm had anything to do with it.
Without warning, people with the tapeworms are becoming catatonic, almost zombie-like beings. Sal witnesses several outbreaks of the disease, leading her to question if this is somehow linked to the tapeworms everyone ingests and if SymboGen knew this could be a potential side effect.
For a large chunk of Parasite, I found myself wondering if this was a prequel novel or a tie-in to Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy and if these parasites might not be a possible explanation for the zombie-virus.
The novel also channels the Newsflesh trilogy with is structure and characters. Sal feels like a sister to Feed‘s Georgia. It’s not helped that both novels are told in first person narration as well. In addition, Grant presents opposing viewpoint documentation openings to each chapter of these novels.
All of it adds up to a novel that I liked but ultimately didn’t love. The story does have enough twists, turns and it ends on a fascinating enough cliffhanger that I will probably be back for the next installment. But how high it ranks on my to be read list remains to be seen. I’m hoping that once Grant finishes this series, she’ll either retire (Mira Grant is a pseudonym for writer Sean McGuire) or really push herself to do something different within the horror genre. Feed and (on some level) Parasite show she has the stuff. It’s just a shame that Parasite ended up being a bit of a letdown.