Parasite: review

October 28, 2013 4.5 star books, crossover adult title, horror, Kate, mira grant, sci fi or futuristic 43 ★★★★½

Parasite: reviewParasite by Mira Grant
Series: Parasitology #1
Published by Orbit on October 29, 2013
Pages: 504
Format: eARC

Six years ago, Sally Mitchell woke up from a coma with no memory of anything but the hot warm darkand the sound of drums.  She did not know what humans were.  She did not understand language.  She remembered nothing of the seizure that caused her to drive her car into the path of a bus.  She had a completely new personality.  She was a completely new person.

Sal’s life was saved by an intestinal parasite.  Hundreds of thousands of people have a version of the same parasite in them, a parasite genetically modified to fight disease and infection in its host.  No one knows how Sal’s parasite managed to wake her from a coma, or why she has no memory and a new personality, or why, for that matter, she is terrified of teeth.  But as Sal and her boyfriend try to figure out what is going on, they learn that thousands of people—hosts to parasites—are turning into mindless, violent zombies, and it becomes clear that whatever happened to Sal six years ago is the key to this terrifying global crisis.

It’s weird: There were no surprises for me here, plot-wise, but I wasn’t, ultimately, bothered by my ability to predict what was going to happen.  It felt more like the inevitability of a well-plotted story than that of a bad mystery.  There were several points where I found myself going crazy with frustration because, “How did he not see the identity of that person coming?” or “Why are they not worried about being overheard?” only to have another character point out how dumb the oblivious character in question is behaving, and I’ve gotta tell you, that’s all I need.  I kind of hate that I require a pat on the head letting me know that the author respects my intelligence and that the characters’ mental blocks are a part of the story, but I do.  I really, really do.

And speaking of the author, she has a real gift for writing about mass destruction caused by overzealous scientists without preaching an anti-intellectual message.  Parasite is a terrifying story of corporate greed, and—as in the Newsflesh trilogy—there isn’t a real bad guy, but you could make a strong case for blaming both the pharmaceutical industry and the government.  The scientists who developed the parasite are driven, and the passages where where we first see them explaining, with all the arrogance of gods among men, how they developed the parasites, and later how they reacted as they realized that what they’d created could be a disaster, are absolutely fascinating, and they’re written like real scientific papers and news articles (and I laughed out loud when I saw that one of the articles quoted is from a 2027 issue of Rolling Stone).

And the characters.  Sal is an excellent, and super-weird, main character, and her complete memory loss and childlike need to re-learn even the most basic things are a perfect vehicle for exposition. Her trouble with colloquialisms is particularly fun. She (like all the major female characters created by this author, whether she’s writing as Mira Grant or as Seanan McGuire) is sweet and funny and intelligent, and she cannot really be bothered to care overmuch about her looks.  That last part is really refreshing.  I mean, in a lot of ways Sal is clearly an adult, but in others she is a six-year-old girl, and she regularly wakes up screaming in the middle of the night.  Her appearance is the least of her worries.

The rest of the characters feel real, too, but more importantly, they’re also pretty diverse.  Sal’s sexy, brilliant parasitologist boyfriend is a short half-Korean guy.  Proper Asian male love interests are hard to find, especially in circumstances where their Asian-ness is not a crucial part of the story, and I was excited to see a good one here. Actually, now that I think about it, there are important characters of a variety of different races, and one of the most heart-wrenching sequences in the book occurs between a lesbian couple.  The only problem I had with the characters—and the reason I gave this book 4.5 instead of 5 stars—is that some of the quirkier people we meet toward the end of the novel are way too similar to some of the weirdos in the latter Newsflesh books and the October Daye series.  I have no problem with an author writing two separate series about zombies created by Big Pharma OR that author re-using character archetypes, but it’s a little bit frustrating when both things happen at the same time, you know?

That aside, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  My friends are sick to death of hearing me talk about it (It’s been months.  I was absolutely insufferable at San Diego Comic-Con.), but I cannot shut up because it is so hard to find proper hard science fiction that is also exciting and accessible and really, really funny.  Read this book, guys.  Seriously.


An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.  


Win a copy of Parasite! 

Check back with us tomorrow, when author Mira Grant joins us with a special guest post. We’ll also be giving away a copy of the book.



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43 Responses to “Parasite: review”

  1. spartoo ugg

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I have a deep fear of parasites. They completely freak me out, also that cover is terrifying. Because of this – and the fact that people were “in character” wearing gloves and masks handing out this book at BEA – I went right past it, shuddering. I’m still not sure that it’s for me. HOWEVER, I like your points about “the inevitability of a well-plotted story” vs “a bad mystery.” I get so frustrated when characters don’t notice obvious details, but I love that the author has other characters comment on that. Like she’s onto you and what you’re thinking. The fact that you call this MC weird is very appealing. The details of her memory loss and effort to regain regular life skills is fascinating, as are all the quirky/real characters. But I usually avoid books about this level of mass destruction. In any case, so happy you loved this one!

    • Kate Bond

      The mass destruction is… well, I’m not going to say anything, for fear of spoiling, but I think it’s less egregious than you’d expect, and there are people working on….um…fixing it.

      And the MC is super-weird.

      If you liked what I had to say about the author’s writing style but find this subject matter to be distasteful, try out her October Day series, which starts with Rosemary and Rue. She wrote it under her real name, Seanan McGuire, and it’s good, solid urban fantasy.

  3. Rachel

    Wonderful review, Kate! I have a copy of this but I keep shoving it off. I love the fact there’s humor, that would seem to break up some of the heavier aspects of a science fiction read. I still haven’t read the Newsflesh series! I must pick that up soon.

  4. Kim

    This book freaks me out. Just the premise makes me shiver. I’m glad that the characters sound so great. It’s also good that, even though you could predict what was going to happen, you still enjoyed the book. Great review!

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, there wasn’t really a mystery to be solved. I can’t explain it. I just… I loved it so much, Kim. I really, really did.

      And I’m freaked out my anything to do with bugs, blood, or medical stuff, and I was totally fine with this book. YMMV

  5. Candace

    Her characters sound really great. I’ve been reading other reviews of this one and it sounds fantastic! I also love that her characters are diverse. It is hard to find an Asian love interest, so that’s good she does that.

  6. Sunny Duvall

    Okay, as I said in your most recent post, I haven’t read anything by her, but she sounds fantastic and now I’m really wanting to read this book! It sounds like a great, thinking book, but like you said, not TOO much. And YAY for great, REAL characters. Unrealistic things, such as people, are not high in my favor at all. Love the review!

  7. Heather Roddenberry

    Ok, you’ve convinced me. And also reminded me that I am an idiot for not yet reading the Feed series because I have heard nothing but great things about it. I am a total sci fi nerd and I like that you say while this book is smart it’s also accessible–because as much as I love sci fi, I’ll be honest, some of the really hard core stuff goes right over my head. Sounds like Parasite wouldn’t do that to me. And that you’re so enthusiastic about it just makes me want to read it all the more. Mission accomplished Kate:)

    • Kate Bond

      It’s interesting–all the science talk just makes it feel real, like something that could actually happen, rather than like Mira Grant really wants me to know how smart she is. Does that makes sense?

      And Heather, what are you doing? Why haven’t you read Feed?

  8. Jasprit

    Ha I love your passion and enthusiasm for this book Kate, I actually saw it up on NetGalley a few months back but didn’t download it. Epic fail on my part. I love it when you’re able to go into a book, predict a lot of what is going to happen, but this still doesn’t end up taking away your fun reading experience. Also I like it when the rest of the characters bring a whole lot more to the story. Don’t worry I think you’ve convinced me of giving this story a try! Gorgeous review Kate! :)

    • Kate Bond

      Oh good! All I want is for everyone to read all the books I like. And this is one of those.

      A lot of people missed out on the NetGalley thing. I think maybe the cover design made it look like something…um…different from what it is, I guess.

  9. K.

    This sounds like one packed and loaded book. I have never read a single Mira Grant book but it’s always been in the back of my head — you just bumped it up to the front :)

    When I get those pats on the head and getting my self-righteous ass handed back to me because I underestimated the author, I blush too. Anyway, you’ve really sold me this one to me, Kate. Thanks!

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, I always blush when I get huffy because I think I’m so smart, and then the author straightens me out.

      How have you not read Newsflesh? How? How how how? Read all of teh Mira Grant books, K. Seriously.

  10. A Canadian Girl

    I haven’t read any of Grant’s novels but I’ve heard good things about them on this blog. I really like that the love interest in this one is Asian but it’s not, like, a huge deal. I feel like whenever I read a story with PoC characters, their colour/race/ethnicity is repeatedly pointed out.

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, I LOVED that he’s just incidentally asian. And there is no commentary about how much cream there is in the coffee of his skin tone. Incidental PoC make stories feel more modern, and that was certainly the case here.

      And you have GOT to start some of this lady’s stuff! It’s too good to pass up!

  11. Joyous Reads

    I’m possibly the only person in the book loving community who hasn’t tasted the brilliance that is Mira Grant. Everyone seems to love her writing! This one is pretty interesting (though still about zombies).

    Great review, Kate. I’ll probably succumb to the peer pressure sooner rather than later. :)

    • Kate Bond

      We love her in a very specific way, you know? She is so emotionally and intellectually honest, and she never does things just to be clever. I feel like she’s my best friend, and I’ve never met her in person.

      Obviously, I think you should read her stuff.

  12. Sarah Johnson

    I recently came across this book and it sounds interesting. I honestly hadn’t been jumping to read the book, but your review has convinced me that I must. Great review, Kate!

    • Kate Bond

      It’s really good. I know a few people have had a little trouble getting through the first quarter of it because there’s a lot of setup, but it’s very interesting stuff, and the story that follows really pulls you in.

  13. Wendy Darling

    It’s so fun being in Sal’s head in this book–and I totally agree, while I saw most of the twists coming, it didn’t bother me at all. I enjoyed this so much, and I’m excited to see what crazy surprises she has in store for the sequels!

    I do agree with you on some of the similarities to characters in Newsflesh, though. I don’t mind that some of the structure/set up feels familiar, but in the last third or so I started to notice parallels a lot more. Still, the book was a lot of fun. It’s not her fault if it’s hard to outdo her own genius. :P

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah. How do you write ANYTHING after Newsflesh? It’s too perfect.

      I just hope the next book in this series takes us in a totally different direction from the other series. I want to love it as itself, without being reminded of her other work. And since Feed was so emotionally wrenching, while this is a little more cold and detached, the former series has a higher place in my heart.

  14. Meg M

    “There were no surprises for me here, plot-wise, but I wasn’t, ultimately, bothered by my ability to predict what was going to happen. It felt more like the inevitability of a well-plotted story than that of a bad mystery.” < ---So much yes! While I didn’t think this was quite as amazing as Newsflesh, (which is a nearly meaningless string of words because I think Newsflesh is the best ever and I doubt anything will ever top it,) I loved this book so very much and cannot wait for the sequel. I agree with you assessment of the similarities between her quirky characters in different books,there were actually a bunch of things that reminded me of her other work, but it didn’t really bother me. Possibly because I had my fangirl goggles on, but what’s a girl to do? Great review and I’m glad you liked it so much!

    • Kate Bond

      Look, no one will ever write anything as good as Newsflesh. That series is absolute perfection.

      And the similar characters don’t bother me because, really, every author does that. Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen…I think it stands out more here because some of the re-used types are VERY distinctive, you know?

      Btw, I’m enjoying your reviews over at Cuddlebuggery!

  15. Keertana

    AN ASIAN CHARACTER! Woot! Unfortunately, I’ve yet to fully complete ANY series by Grant! I really liked Feed, but struggled getting through it and have been too intimidated to pick up the sequels. Similarly, I read the first two October Daye books and enjoyed them too, but I kind of wasn’t loving them enough to want to continue and now I’ve practically forgotten everything that happened. :head desk: I am determined to finish both series before starting this one, though, so…hopefully soon! Great review, Kate!(:

    • Kate Bond

      If you had trouble with the beginning of Feed (my little sister can’t quite get into that one, either, for some reason), this one may be a little tough for you, too. There’s a lot of setup with medical and scientific stuff early on. It’s so, so good, though.

      And the Toby Daye books get better as they go–she loses the love triangle and stuff.

  16. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I have this one sitting on my shelf. So, you’re saying that I need to pick it up and read it this very instant even though the thought of a parasite — no matter how “good” — is one of the main characters (not a thinking or speaking one but still). I might have to gird my loins and do so.

    • Kate Bond

      I get super passy outy with medical stuff, and things with blood, and general grossness, and I was fine with this, so I think you probably will be, too.

      You have to read it. You really, really do.

  17. Nikki Vanderhoof

    Wow this sounds so good! I haven’t read the Newsflesh Trilogy yet but it’s on my list. The psychology of the MC is what is really fascinating to me, however. I’ll be extremely interested to find out about why she woke up from a coma with an entirely new personality. Sounds very interesting. And I’m with you, there just isn’t enough hard scifi that’s not just trying to redo Space Odyssey and the like. It’s refreshing to see that authors are realizing their books can contain the entire myriad of emotions that people go through. That just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it can’t be humorous. Such is life anyway.

    • Kate Bond

      I think I’m going to be giving a lot of people this book as a Christmas present this year. It’s soooo good.

      And fair warning about the Newsflesh trilogy: it is one of the best things you will ever read, and it will rip your heart out, hand it back, and then, when you least expect it, snatch it back out of your chest and stomp on it. And then it will hand it back and bathe in your tears while you recover.

  18. Mel@Thedailyprophecy

    I agree with everything you said. This is my first book from Mira Grant, but it’s very promising and I can’t wait to read more. (Now starting in feed). I love that this book is about my field and how I was able to see the amount of research that went into creating this story. I don’t see many sci-fi books with such a believable storyline :) It’s very well-created.

    I also loved Sal. She is such a fascinating, weird and adorable character. Her romance with her boyfriend was cute :) I can’t wait to see more of them and to find out where Grant is going to.

    Great review!

    • Kate Bond

      Oh man, Feed is going to make you sob uncontrollably. It’s so, so good.

      And I loved how sweet their relationship is. It could so easily have been creepy because of Sal’s childlike qualities, and I think the author did a really good job of making sure that never happened, and that he was one of the only people who treated her respectfully, like an adult.

    • Kate Bond

      Yes, under the pen name Mira Grant she wrote the Newsflesh trilogy, which is one of the best series I’ve ever read. Under the name Seanan McGuire, she’s written a lot more; most of it Fantasy. She has a great Urban Fantasy series following a character named October Daye.

  19. Kate @ Ex Libris

    This isn’t the type of book I would pick up normally, but after reading this review I think I might! This is n;t an author I’ve read before, so I’m always up or a new (to me) voice.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    • Kate Bond

      She’s a wonderful writer. If you like Urban Fantasy, her October Daye series, which starts with the book Rosemary and Rue, is really lovely.

      This book is maybe more of a medical thriller than a zombie horror one, so I think it could appeal to a pretty wide audience.

  20. Liviania

    “only to have another character point out how dumb the oblivious character in question is behaving, and I’ve gotta tell you, that’s all I need.”

    I need that too. If people act dumb in a book, I have to know that someone realized it was dumb.

    And I’m not surprised this is good; Seanan McGuire is a great writer.

    • Kate Bond

      It’s funny how important it is to know that the author knows that what seems like a big reveal to the characters is obvious to readers.

      And, yeah, she’s brilliant. One of my absolute favorites. Even her worst works are among the best in the field, for my taste.