Friday, 20 February 2015

Symbiont by Mira Grant

Symbiont by Mira Grant is the sequel to Parasite, which I reviewed in late 2013, and the second book in the Parasitology trilogy (well, I assume it's a trilogy). This review (and also the blurb) contains spoilers for the first book.
The SymboGen designed tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world's population began attacking their hosts turning them into a ravenous horde.

Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is, and how they can be stopped.
Honestly, that's not a great blurb. I've read worse, but it does skip over a lot of relevant nuance in the story. The parasite-induced zombie apocalypse was getting starting in the first book, but now it's in full swing. One thing I found both refreshing and interesting is how different this apocalypse is to Mira Grant's other series, Newsflesh.

Sal, the main character, came to the realisation at the end of Parasite that she was not entirely the human person she thought she was. In Symbiont, she starts off still coming to terms with what that means. The book is told mainly in first person and to show us what's going on outside of Dr Cale's lab, Sal gets into a lot of trouble that takes her to a variety of places. It's more plausible in context than I may have just made it sound, and does get around the need to provide the same background information solely in quotes and journal entries.

Symbiont introduces some new characters, two of whom particularly caught my attention. There was Ronnie, a human-tapeworm chimaera that Sal encounters at one point. The tapeworm part of Ronnie has been transplanted several times and is now residing in an adolescent black girl. But Ronnie started life as an implant for a male trucker and the worm part of him remembers this and feels entirely not at home in the girl's body. Basically, it's an interesting representation of a trans chimaera. Since the tapeworms themselves are hermaphroditic, chimaera gender comes from the interplay between the tapeworm and human elements of the person. Which I found interesting.

The other new character that caught my attention was Fishy, a lab tech recruited by Dr Cale. His backstory is that when the apocalypse struck, his wife went zombie and tried to kill him. Since then he's suffered a break from reality and thinks he's dreaming a very realistic video game. On the one hand, it's a plausible coping mechanism, and on the other hand, he provides sort of "fourth wall" commentary on events. (What's the book equivalent of breaking the fourth wall?) My favourite line was about the zombies having been "conceived by a creative team with an obsession for body horror". And the bits where he was talking about boss fights.

So, if you enjoyed Parasite, I definitely recommend reading Symbiont. It does suffer a little bit from middle book syndrome, but if you're invested in the story already, it's a nice volume that pushes the plot along. I am looking forward to book three coming out late this year (and I just saw the awesome cover for it; I really like the design aesthetic they've gone with for this series). I don't recommend starting with Symbiont, but I do recommend the series to fans of medical, apocalyptic and mild horror science fiction.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: November 2014, Orbit
Series: Parasitology book 2 of 3
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Google Play

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