Six years ago, a car crash left Sally Mitchell with total amnesia. It’s been a long road back, but she’s finally regained some semblance of normality with a steady job, a boyfriend, and a family she’s grown to love.
Life would be pretty great if it weren’t for SymboGen breathing down her neck.
SymboGen is the world’s foremost pharmaceutical company. The benign tapeworms they implant in their customers have all but eradicated illness in the developed world, and the company is certain Sal’s tapeworm is responsible for her miracle recovery. They’re happy to cover Sal’s crippling medical bills, provided she lets them study her post-amnesia development. Sal is far from happy with the situation, but she doesn’t have a choice--until a mysterious illness sweeps the nation and convinces her SymboGen knows far more than they’re letting on.
To be honest with y’all, I started PARASITE with a fair measure of trepidation. While I liked Grant’s first three UF novels (published under the name Seanan McGuire) just fine, they didn’t really click for me. I feared I’d feel the same way about this offering.
So of course, I loved it. Ain’t it great when that happens?
On a purely structural level, PARASITE is cinematic in the extreme. It’s easy to envision the story as a film or a ten-episode miniseries. Grant deploys action, dialogue, and telling detail in such a manner than each scene crackles with tension, even when there’s little going on. A sense of menace hangs over everything, making it apparent the characters are three steps away from a shitstorm of epic proportions. Anyone who’s read more than ten books (or seen more than ten movies) in their life will spot the revelations coming ten miles off, but this in no way affects the novel’s awesomeness. Grant makes everything so interesting that it’s impossible to hold the story’s more predictable elements against it.
This is due, in large part, to Sal herself. She's a fantastic character, and her perspective on the situation keeps the story flowing even when there’s little overt action. The book’s early chapters, which mostly serve to set the scene, are fascinating as much for how Sal relays the information as for what we learn. It helps, too, that a lot of what she comes up against is almost as new for her as it is for us; and even when she knows the subject well, she has solid reasons for rehashing it inside her head. This keeps her perspective fresh and interesting, no matter the topic.
Sal’s relationships, too, are fascinating. Her amnesia has left her in a position where she’s had to rebuild her connection with her parents and her sister, and Grant does an excellent job of unpacking what that means for the lot of them. Sal herself has no memory whatsoever of her previous life, so she wrestles with the tension between her family’s expectations and the person she currently is. Her anxieties and frustrations are realistic and sometimes heartbreaking.
Sal also has a wonderful, fully-developed connection with Nathan, her boyfriend. I love that they aren’t a typical thriller couple, navigating a relationship fraught with secrets and hidden agendas. They’re honest with one another, and it’s obvious how much they care for and respect each other. The necessary narrative tension in their relationship comes from outside forces, not from internal struggles. This makes for a refreshing change from the norm.
There’s also a great deal of interesting science, which I fear I’m not equipped to comment on in any meaningful sense. I have very little practical knowledge of scientific stuff myself, but I’m a total sucker for SF that presents its facts with verve and enthusiasm. Grant most definitely does that. I thrilled to every detail, even though I doubt I could explain any of it to anyone.
Finally--and this is a deeply personal joy--I love that Sal has a dog. Everything’s better with a dog.
All in all, this is awesome stuff. It’s convinced me to seek out Grant’s Newflesh Trilogy, and perhaps to try her as-McGuire Incryptid series. (My library doesn’t have the middle volumes in the October Daye series.) And of course, I eagerly await the sequel to this gem.
While I always advocate your local library as the absolute best source for books, I recognize this may not be an option for everyone where every book is concerned. If you're in search of another way to read PARASITE, you can try:
- Kobo (e-book; for purchase; coupons don't work)
- The Book Depository (paperback; for purchase)
- Amazon (paperback & Kindle; for purchase)
- Audible (audio; for purchase)
I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book through one of the above links.