15 March 2014

Book Review: Parasite (Parasitology #1) by Mira Grant

“Sometimes humanity is the reason we can't have nice things.” 

Goodreads description (x): 
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.

My rating: 5 out of 5 hoots

Set in the future with snippets of present time, this advanced world is quite similar to the world we live in now except for a few inventions we've made along the way, and a major medical breakthrough that comes in the form of a single pill. A pill which encases a tapeworm, the "implant" almost all humans seem to have now to treat allergies, chronic illness, and even manage medications like birth control. It is the sought after panacea. 

But we soon learn from Sally Mitchell, or Sal, after she wakes up from a coma and begins an adventure of opening "broken doors," that we just can't solve everything with one tiny pill and expect no consequences, no...side effects. 

Through sections of "interviews" with the main researchers/scientists who developed the Intestinal Bodyguard (aka tapeworm), we learn their thoughts both before and after the IB is released to the public. Other POVs were an interesting touch--especially since they were crafted in such a way that we are able to judge the characters a little bit. For instance, from one of the magazine's interviews with a researcher, it's clear that the character is full of himself. While we still can form that same reaction from the rest of the book, it doesn't hurt to heighten our perceptions. 

All of the characters in this book were splendid, whether you liked them or not. From Sal, the girl who is fearing what she might find but never regretting her choice to discover it, to a character who wears overalls and totes guns around, to even the Labrador Retriever named Beverly with the big brown eyes. You can't deny the existence or the importance of a certain group of characters, either--the people who have become infected with the "sleepwalking sickness." Basically, you can say it's a major side effect of the tapeworm, or you can say it's a sort of hint. For the characters. For us, even? You can decide. 

Mira Grant definitely delved into some research with this book. I was so surprised to see genuine scientific and medical facts while reading. With science fiction, of course an item doesn't necessarily have to add up to our world's definition of things, but when it does, I kind of squeal. 

I also found that I could relate to many situations in this book both intellectually and emotionally because of my health. There's a lot of a hospital/hospital-like setting (SymboGen), which is described in such detail that it's uncanny; at one part, I even felt like I was in an ultrasound machine again. There was also a lot of medical jargon that I actually understood, for the most part. But what I was most pleasantly surprised at, and what I found myself most able to relate to, was all the talk about parasites and finding a cure, which was strewn throughout the entire book. It made me anxious, but it was the main theme of the book...and I like books that get my adrenaline going a bit.

I can relate a lot of this to Lyme disease because a tick is a parasite and most Lyme disease sufferers have parasitic infections that come along with the LD. Actually, a former doctor told me once that 80-90% of people (not just people with Lyme disease) have or have had a parasite at one time or another. Ready for that sushi now?!

The only real problems I had with this book were 1) Dramatic irony to the heavens. I hate becoming impatient with a character that I like. If it gets to the point where you seriously want to slap them, it's a no-go. And 2) One particular theme repeated over and over--WE GET IT WITH THE "DRUMS." 

Even that couldn't keep me from loving and highly recommending this book, though. 
Just the first book in its series, I can't wait to read what Mira Grant has to offer next!

(Also, check out this awesome Parasite-inspired website!)
To end the post, here's one of the videos from the site, talking briefly about the very real "hygiene hypothesis" and more. 

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