Medical science has come a long way since 2014. SymboGen, a powerful pharmaceutical company, has figured out how to cure the world’s medical problems. After many years of secretive research, they came up with a solution by splicing several types of DNA to a specific species of tapeworm, which is then ingested in pill form, where it thrives in a human’s digestive tract, regulating anything from insulin creation and diabetes, to migraines, to arthritis. It appears, on the surface, like a miracle. As more people are implanted with these tapeworms, medical issues become a thing of the past.
Sally Mitchell was officially declared brain dead after a horrible car accident. SymboGen purchases her machine-assisted body to implant their latest medical marvel. One day she simply revives, only without any memory of who’d she once been, nor anything about what had happened to her. As Sally—or Sal as she prefers to be called since being ‘reborn’—has the task of relearning how to do everything her former self was able to do. In the process, she falls in love with one of the doctors whom she meets at SymboGen, and they embark on a relationship. Little do either of them know that Sal may very well be a secret weapon that SymboGen has been creating, and it’s not until the advent of “sleepwalkers” (those whose bodies and brains are taken over by the tapeworms) that both Sal and her boyfriend begin to suspect that something is amiss.
In Mira Grant style (whose name is a nom de plume for bestselling author Seanan McGuire, of the October Daye urban fantasy series), she presents us with another mega-corporation whose process and future goals include controlling the masses, this time through pharmacology. To say that their efforts go terribly awry is an understatement. Positing a different take on the medical thriller/zombie apocalypse genres, Grant takes us on a deeply disturbing journey through Sal’s new life of intense paranoia (but it’s not paranoia if there are actually people out to get you, is it?) and failed attempts at putting together puzzle pieces that seem not only cut from different puzzles, but created on completely different planets.
There are numerous twists and turns in Parasite, this first installment of the Parisitology trilogy. Grant knows her stuff here, and doesn’t hold back. While Sal’s character can come across as overly whiny and victimized, she understands far more than she lets on—a kind of “Columbo-esque” approach to problem solving—and her seeming naiveté is a good tool for her to glean as much information as she can in order to save all those whose tapeworms have not yet taken over.
Using accurate and detailed medical processes and research as the basis, Parasite is a germaphobe’s worst nightmare come true. Grant easily picks up the mantle that Michael Crichton left behind, and turns it into a compelling story of the dangers of genetic manipulation.
The second installment, Symbiont, is due to be released in November 2014.
This review appeared also on the ShockTotem.com website.