Published on Oct 29th 2013 by Orbit
The first thing I thought of when I read the blurb of Parasite was Animal Planet's Monsters Inside Me. Yes, that super-gruesome documentary that can kill your appetite or make you throw up, depending on when you watch it, if at all. And tapeworms! I remember there was an episode where this girl went blind because tapeworms had eaten away her retina. Gross, I know, but for real.
I mention this because it may have something to do with why this book fell flat. I was, quite simply, disillusioned. I went in expecting some freaky horror-show about parasitic tapeworms and while the idea was right there, the horror was not. Hardly one or two scenes stood out for their creepiness. The rest was bland and so much tamer than what Animal Planet had me expecting.
Parasite envisions a future where people can opt for genetically engineered tapeworm implants to oversee their health and thus do away with manual medication. SymboGen is the corporate giant behind these revolutionary tapeworms and when a nearly-dead Sally wakes up from a coma, SymboGen claims the tapeworm implant saved her life. Sally, however, is a slate wiped clean. She remembers nothing. Six years later, Sally is still struggling to fit in with a family she doesn't remember, even as she's unwittingly becoming the poster-child for SymboGen.
The first 40 percent of this book is all talk and no action. Okay, there's some action but that is like a tiny island in a sea of dialogue. Mostly, we get to follow Sally around and hear her talk. Sally talking to her father. Sally talking to her boyfriend. Sally talking to the staff at SymboGen. Sally talking to the co-founder of SymboGen. A lot of these conversations are meaningless jibber-jabber. They are also very boring, since Sally is not particularly witty.
There's a big brain-bending revelation around the 50% mark, which is where the book truly shines. There's another big revelation that you can logically infer from the first one, even if you are no genius. Except, it takes Sally the rest of the book to arrive at that conclusion. Yeah, she's not particularly bright either.
Actually, I'm not sure what to say about Sally. I'm just going to quote what one of the other, more interesting characters had to say about her:
"She's annoying, she's whiny, she has the learning curve of lichen."
Yeah, that sums it up. Except I feel guilty because the poor girl has amnesia.
Also, many events in this book are hinged on happy coincidences. Sally's sister is a scientist, so is her father and so is her boyfriend. There are other things too, that I cannot delve into without giving away spoilers.
VERDICT: Parasite could have been shorter and scarier. A great idea like that should have resulted in a great book, but the extraneous stuff got in the way. Overall, Parasite was just okay. And it definitely did not scare me.
If you are looking for parasites of the scary kind, watch the Animal Planet documentary. Provided you can stomach it, of course.
*With thanks to Netgalley for the ARC*