The story in Parasite is about Sal, who had a car accident six years ago, was declared brain dead and then woke up from her coma just when her parents had agreed to turn off the life support. But Sal doesn't remember anything about her life before the accident and had to learn how to live (talk, walk, be a functioning member of society) from scratch. The good news was that because it was her SymboGen implant that miraculously saved her, SymboGen has been footing the bill for all her medical treatment and rehabilitation (not an insignificant boon, given the US health system, heh).
A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite — a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.
So Sal is happy with her life working in an animal shelter and (slightly less happy with) having regular tests and shrink appointments. But then an epidemic breaks out. People start contracting the "sleeping sickness" and acting like sleepwalkers or zombies (I think Grant is fond of zombies...). No one knows what's causing the sleeping sickness and, more worryingly, the news isn't reporting anything about it either. Sal and her boyfriend (who is also a parasitologist) get caught up in trying to work out what's going on with the sleeping sickness and why it's being hushed up.
I really enjoyed Parasite. Sal is an interesting character with lots of little quirks that were well thought through, for example her anxiety around cars. There was one aspect of the plot (which I can't be specific about because spoilers) that was a bit too coincidental, but the characters in the story were quick to comment on the coincidence, making it more believable.
One really interesting aspect (and this paragraph is going to contain a really minor spoiler) is that about half way through Sal (and the reader) learns something very shocking, so shocking that she blocks it out. It was interesting how different characters reacted to her denial and how her own thought-processes worked around it.
Overall, Parasite was an enjoyable read that was difficult to put down (and can be blamed for keeping me awake reading). I'd call it a medical thriller and similar to the Newsflesh books, but not as violent and bloody (a bit gory and there was more vomiting than I would've liked but one must expect these sorts of things in this sort of book). For those readers wondering whether it's for the faint of heart, I'd say it's borderline. The characters (and the dogs) were the real highlights which made Parasite a pleasure to return to. I am very eagerly awaiting the next book in the series (oh, and although the story isn't finished in Parasite, it also isn't a cliffhanger, which I'm sure will make some readers happy). I strongly recommend Parasite to fans of Mira Grant and medical thrillers.
4.5 / 5 stars
First published: November 2013, Orbit
Series: Yes. Parasitology book 1 of ? (probably a trilogy, I would guess)
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley