I heard “parasitic tapeworms” and I just nope-nope-noped my way out of the room and across the street and into the next town of Nopeville where I put up my nope flag and set out my nope-chair and opened a bag of nope-corn and let my nopetopus roam freely, as it was meant to do.
You see, I am a horror wimp. Psychological horror I can do (to a point), but things about zombies and gore-porn and even Se7en was too much. Friday the 13th kept me up for a week straight. I read Newsflesh (Zombie political thriller, also by Grant), because an internet book club I’m a part of was reading it, after I’d noped my way away from that one for months.
I also devoured that entire series in less than a week- the book club went at the pace for a chapter a day, and I was womanfully going to hold to that…. and my resolved shattered in about 4 days, to the point that I finsihed book 2 while at work with no wireless, and took the long route home so I could poach wireless from the library to download book 3 so I wouldn’t have to wait an extra 30 minutes to get home to start reading it. And also there were three nights in which I did not sleep.
Mira Grant writes some hella compelling stuff, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, a friend of mine who is on Mira Grant’s beta squad (which she adorably calls her Machete Squad) said that Parasite caused more sleepless nights than Newsflesh ever did, and tapeworms are gross, hence all my nope-ing. But the lure of a new Grant and a posted sample of the first chapter was too strong and here I am, having DEVOURED this book in about 24 hours.
(I also had seven days total off this past summer, working two jobs, so I was EXHAUSTED, which means that even as my brain is going “THAT WAS SOME SCARY SHIT YO” my body was having none of the insomnia shit. So that’s nice.)
What Grant writes is medical-horror (as opposed to her alter-ego, Seanan Maguire, who writes urban fantasy), and Parasite is set in 2027, where a corporation has come up with tapeworm-based implant that helps reduce allergies, and can be used to dose medication (birth control, insulin, that kind of thing). Most people in the world have them, and they’re very useful in areas where getting medication regularly is difficult. People are living longer. Life is good!
Until, of course, it all goes horribly wrong, and people start coming down with a sleeping sickness that makes them eventually turn violent. Life is bad. Then it gets worse.
One of the things that Grant does best is world building. She’s done the research and it shows (and y’all know how much I love having the research show). (I also know, from talking with her, that she knows the effects a tapeworm has on the human body. Because she’s that dedicated.) She works very, very hard to make sure her world can sustain the plausibility test.
One of the ways she does that is by prefacing each chapter with excerpts from an in-world book about American advertising, talking about how the company that developed the implants convinced the American public that this was a fantastic idea, or from an interview with the CEO and founder of the company, and a few other things that make the world of the book richer. I mean, it was great to see why on earth anyone would think it’s a good idea to put a tapeworm in your belly. It’s like Mad Men, only instead of selling slide projectors, Don Draper is selling intestinal parasites. And people are buying it!
Another thing that Grant does (and she does this in everything of hers that I have read thus far, whichever name it’s under) is she makes a concerted effort to make sure her world is populated with diverse people. She makes characters that are, narratively and descriptively, specifically non-white and non-straight, and that’s awesome. It adds another layer of realness.
Now, I imagine that there’s someone who could get all high-horse and go “SCIENCE DOESN’T DO THAT” and to that I say, good. Because if our horror writers only wrote about science that actual does that, that would either be incredibly boring, or incredibly terrifying. (I have a feeling that Science, as a rule, has a “Challenge Accepted!” attitude, and WILL do that, so….thanks, Mira. You may have killed us all.)
The only real problem I had with this book is that it does feel a bit like a sophomore outing to me (Like I said, I read ALL of Newsflesh in one fell swoop with barely a breath in between books, so it’s jsut one long book in my head). There are a couple of characters that feel like retreads of similar Newsflesh characters, which feels a little bit lazy. They do, eventually, differentiate themselves, buuuuuuuut for most of their time on the page, I was going, “Really, but you did this already.”
That aside, I devoured this book, not unlike a tapeworm. And I am now anxiously awaiting the next one, because WHAT IS GONNA HAPPEN OMG. And when a series has me feeling anxious about how long I know it’ll be before the next book comes out (and it’s currently scheduled for release in 2014, so we’re not talking George R. R. Martin levels of waiting here), that’s a good sign.