Parasite by Mira Grant (read: Seanan McGuire) is up this year for the Hugo Awards (Get it here). It’s McGuire’s sixth Hugo nomination, and, I’m just going to say that if she doesn’t get it, I’ll be pretty disappointed (though Wheel of Time is a brute force in this game and Ancillary Justice has been winning all of the awards).
There’s a lot going on in Parasite. So, let’s set the stage.
About forty years from now, the world’s medicinal care is largely taken care of by “Intestinal Bodyguards,” tapeworms that secrete medicine ranging from high blood pressure medication to birth control. They’ve been credited with eradicating most illnesses and allergies. SymboGen, the Intestinal Bodyguard creators, are a huge force, ruling over the market and the health care field.
Their golden girl is Sal. After spending years in a coma, her family was going to pull the plug; everyone told them she would never wake up. But, when they take her off life support, Sal wakes up. Her Intestinal Bodyguard had saved her. Granted, she has no memory of her former life, but she’s alive, and by all accounts much nicer. She’s got a job working with animals and a nice doctor boyfriend. The only problem in her life now is that SymboGen is constantly monitoring her.
Then everything goes crazy. People, seemingly at random, start sleepwalking. They’ll be going about their daily business and then all of a sudden, no one’s home. The sleepwalking sickness doesn’t seem to have any pattern, source, or cure. What’s worse, it’s victims are starting to become violent. And, they want Sal.
The characters in this novel are well written. Though the dialogue sometimes gets a little too aware and pushes the wittiness, the characters have clear and relate-able motives and they felt very real. Though some aspects were, at times, a bit over-emphasized, you knew it was intentional and McGuire made sure to balance the characters overall.
The plot was believable and extremely well researched. It wasn’t ever overly suspenseful, but it maintained a steadily increasing sense of wrong-ness about the sleeping sickness and SymboGen. It left off on a cliff hanger after multiple plot twists. (The big one I saw coming.) I’m glad it’s only a few months to wait for the follow-up novel, Symbiont.
4.5 out of 5, easily.