“Parasite – Parasitology #1” by Mira Grant

Intriguing, well thought through idea but not enough to sustain 504 pages.

If “Parasite” had been 300 pages, I would have been on the edge of my seat. It was 504 pages and I was waiting for it to end.

Actually, it didn’t end. It just stopped on a big reveal that fell flat because I’d worked it out 400 pages earlier. “Parasite” is the first book of a trilogy. It’s not really a stand-alone novel. It’s more an extended pilot for the series. If reading the first five hundred pages piques your interest then you have the opportunity to find out how things work out by reading the next two books (1,100 pages between them).

I’ll be stopping here. I’m all parasites out.

I really liked the idea that the novel was built on. It’s original, disturbing and has been made to sound as if it’s based on plausible science. It does a good job at looking at how corporate greed and personal ego can over-ride public safety, how history changes depending on who writes it, how weak the US government can be when confronting serious money and how much personal identity depends on memory.

There were some interesting characters: one narcissist scientist, one so-obsessed-she’ll-do-ANYTHING-for-the science scientist and one Army Colonel who has no idea what a control freak he is. My favourite character was Tansy, a remarkable creation: scary, unpredictable, often funny, sometimes even intentionally, always at least two cards short of a full deck. She is also the most honest, grounded and well-informed character in the book.

Sadly, the book isn’t about Tansy, it’s about Sally or Sal.

I was interested in Sal at first. Although she’s in her twenties, she can only remember the six years of her life since the car accident that left her in a vegetative state, from which, at the start of the book, she recovers from just in time to stop her life support being switched off and her organs donated.

The longer I spent with Sal, the less interested I became. She seemed weak, erratic, unable to put the big picture together despite having all the data. I kept wanting to shout at her to stop feeling sorry for herself and work it out already. Well before the last page of the book, with its big reveal that would have been a shock to nobody except the stubbornly obtuse Sal, I lost all sympathy with her.

I think the book would have benefited from editing. Each scene was fine but not every scene was necessary. Cutting a few out would have improved the pace and increased the tension. Some of the text was also lazy or redundant. The worst example was this description from Sal:

“…my hair was a matted mass of tangles and knots that gave way with an audible ripping sound”

Can you imagine a ripping sound that isn’t audible?

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