Not a trashy book per se, but….

I’m barely 10 pages into Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures by Carl Zimmer—mind you, that means I’m still working through the prologue—and I’ve already cringed more times than I can count. Filaria that can cause your testicles to swell to the size of ottomans, and others that make you scratch yourself to death. Guinea worms that burrow their way out by way of the skin on your legs. A dizzying array of flukes and worms. Microorganisms that literally make your blood cells explode with their progeny.

This book is so awesome. I haven’t felt this excited about reading in a long, long time. I want to sit down somewhere quiet, gulp this book down and mentally go “AAAAUUUUUGGHH!” and flinch every 5 seconds.

p.s. Carl Zimmer is HOT! When I think about all the inarticulate, inept, humorless nerd heroes in romance, I just feel sad. Oooh, I feel another rant about the nerd/geek hero coming up….



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  1. Trisha says:

    Dude!  You have got to go and read Peeps by Scott Westerfeld now.  Am I beating Diana Peterfreund to the punch?  Seriously, in light of last week’s search for good YA, go and read this book.  There is a bit of romance, but the real draw is the plot.  For everyone sick of those tortured, angst-ridden vampires with French names, here you’ve got a guy named Cal who’s trying to track down all the girls he’s inadvertantly infected with a vampirism-causing parasite.  Cal is a carrier of the parasite and has all the advantages that come along with it, like enhanced vision and strength, without the psychosis, but the drawback is that vampirism is an STD.  Hello, celibacy!  Every other chapter of Peeps is a freaky, squirm-inducing summary of various parasites that are discussed in the Zimmer book.

    And, yes, please do rant about nerd/geek heroes.  I’d love to read it.

  2. Amy E says:

    Dude, I totally love fiction about plague and shit like that.  Maybe it’s part of the whole nurse-thing, I dunno, but germs fascinate me.  I really wanted to work in Infectious Diseases at the hospital, but damn them, I’d have had to take 2 more years of school to do it.  Alas, my money-tree had died from the drought and I couldn’t do it.

    I bet you’d like Frank Herbert’s book The White Plague.  It’s a bioterrorism book written before that word even existed, about a genetically engineered disease that only infects women.  It’s something like 95% fatal.  Really a very interesting read.

  3. Lorelie says:

    Eeeekkk.  Ew!  I’d turn into a full blow germaphobe if I read something like that.

  4. Geek/nerd heroes?  I was just thinking about this the other day ‘cause my son was looking for YA stuff for the high school math class he teaches.

    Unfortunately, most of the nerd hero books I know aren’t for YA readers, but for this crowd I can recommend Trust Me, by Jayne Anne Krentz.  Sam Stark is dreamy.

    There’s also Emma Holly’s Strange Attractions, a book that combines discussion of Schrodinger’s Cat and encounters with vibrating anal plugs on the same page.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the quantum physics material, but the menage action was hot.

  5. Estelle Chauvelin says:

    Please, rant about nerd/geek heroes.  Particularly if you have examples of books that do it right, because I need more of them.

  6. Deborah says:

    Is my new favourite ICK site. I can creep myself out and make myself (more) paranoid 24/7…

  7. Mm, I loved The Hot Zone when it came out. Loved curling up with that big ol’ hardcover book o’ horrors. My husband couldn’t even look at the cover. He’s got the OCD, you know.

    Have you guys heard of that new disease, Morgellons? (sp?) It causes little red and blue fibers to come out of painful sores in your skin? Ew. Nobody knows what the hell it is and most doctors will tell you you’re imagining shit if you tell them about it.

  8. Ha—speaking of the Hot Zone, that’s what my editor wanted to call the anthology I have coming out from Kensington/Aphrodisia spring 07.  I was like, ‘Uh, no—that title is already taken.  I don’t want anyone associating my sci-fi erotica with infectious diseases and deadly plagues.’  lol—we changed the name to Pleasure Planet.
    BTW, I love this blog.  i’m a lurker but i had to put in my two cents.  Also, I just went and ordered the Zimmer book from Amazon.  Looks great.
    Oh, and please talk about nerd heros.  I love beta males and smart is so sexy!

  9. Candy says:

    Thanks for the parasite-related recommendations, y’all. No, wait, I mean CURSE ALL OF YOU for making my wishlist even bigger and unwieldier.

    There’s also Emma Holly’s Strange Attractions, a book that combines discussion of Schrodinger’s Cat and encounters with vibrating anal plugs on the same page.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the quantum physics material, but the menage action was hot.

    Oh, yes, the menage action was hot hot hot—but the nerd hero’s personality disappointed me. Like I said before, nerd heroes should make references to Spock, but they shouldn’t ever sound like him, and B.G. violated that rule like DAMN. Also, I’m not exactly an authority on quantum physics, but I knew enough to pronounce with some certainty that holy crap was it ever mangled in Strange Attractions.

  10. Robin says:

    Eeeekkk.  Ew!  I’d turn into a full blow germaphobe if I read something like that.

    Oh, me, too.  Ever since I saw a picture of a tapeworm in my 7th grade biology textbook, I have been unable to tolerate ANY discussion or visual representations of parasites.

    For those of you who enjoy grossing yourselves out, though, is it like a masochistic pleasure, or a builing up tolerance kind of thing?

  11. Sanachan says:

    I can’t read books like that, because I will get every disease in it just from reading! No really, it’s true. Over the last year I’ve taken both Human Variation and Darwinian Medicine, and every time we studied epidemiology I would come home convinced I had some new and horrific disease. When I coughed, I had multi drug resistant tuberculosis, when my back started to hurt I had spinal meningitis, and every time my stomach got upset I had some new stomach parasite.

    It drives my husband nuts, and I do no better, but seriously, reading about diseases makes me a little crazy, even as they fascinate me. So I’ll have to shudder vicariously through you.

  12. Candy says:

    Robin: funny you should ask that, because somebody else asked me that same question last night. It’s hard to explain why being horrified is so fun, but it’s sort of the same thrill I get when I read a good horror novel, except this book appeals to my science-geeky side, too. I think a lot of it has to do with the adrenaline rush.

  13. Mel says:

    You might like Robert Desowitz’s nonfiction essay collections on tropical parasites.  I wasn’t too keen on his style, but there is ick galore and some interesting politics.

  14. Doug Hoffman says:

    In med school, parasitology was my favorite class, and the only one where I could memorize stuff without even trying. Take the guinea worm—Dracunculus medinensis. And I swear to you, I did not google it. For all I know, I’m remembering it dead wrong.

    Parasites give the coolest scanning electron micrographs, too.

  15. The fascination with horror, the macabre, and “grossing yourself out” is still quite a topic of debate among psychologists.  I’m a fan of the genre, personally.  I’ve always liked Stephen King’s analogy of sewer alligators in the subconscious – where reading and/or writing such things keeps the horrible part of your self sated, and alleviates the need to act on sadistic urges. (I think it was in Danse Macabre?)
    So far as books about disease, naturally as a SK fan I loved the Stand, and read it every now and then when my misanthropic urges start to become overwhelming. The Hot Zone was interesting, but my favorite disease book is The Blood Artists, by Chuck Hogan. Fiction, with a very awesome concept, although I admit to being clueless about the validity of the science.

  16. Waterhouse says:

    It was Dance Macabre.
    The book has been sitting on my shelf for years with that paragraph highlighted.

  17. Waterhouse says:

    I’ve always thought the way King ties horror fiction – good horror fiction, anyway – to the basic primal desires and fears that don’t get much expression in modern life is pretty much dead on.
    What do most scary movies or books come down to, really? Fear of death. Fear of infection. Fear of the dark. Fear of the unknown. A few others….

  18. Waterhouse says:

    Oh yeah, has anyone here ever read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend? One of the best ‘infection’ type stories ever.

    HP Lovecraft was also very good at this kind of thing – The Colour Out Of Space, for example.

  19. Shaunee says:

    Recently I saw an episode of the Fox series “House” where a 16 year old female patient was inexplicably having heart failure.  That she was fatally allergic to damn near everything had nothing to do with it.  In the climatic scene the amazingly brilliant doctor has an epiphany, does a quick pelvic exam in the elevator whilst the girl is going into v-tack or fib or whatever the hell it’s called when they have to bring out The Paddles, and finds a TICK IN HER VAGINA!!!  He pulls it out with a triumphant flourish and it is GINORMOUS—very clearly bloated with blood.  This parasite was the cause of the strange paralysis the girl experienced and the heart failure.

    I haven’t been able to walk outside barefoot since.

    Doesn’t have much to do with gross-out fiction, but I wanted to contribute something to the conversation.

    Oh and if you really want to be grossed out, watch this show on the Discovery/TLC channel(s), I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s all about the disgusting things people eat.  Against all odds and everything that is good and holy, cheese riddled with live maggots is a delicacy.  You spread it/them on a cracker and…

    God I can’t even think about it without shuddering.

  20. Nanna says:

    “and finds a TICK IN HER VAGINA!!!”

    Oh dear God! *vomits* Even if it is fictional, that just creeps me out!

  21. Shaunee says:

    The tick was all twitchy feelers and squirmy, too.  Clearly distraught at being removed from its happy place.

  22. Nanna says:

    Ewwww! That’s just… gross. I have an inexplicable fear of ticks and it’s just… EW!

    The books does sound interesting though. When I was little I loved leafing through the medical encyclopedia and looking at pictures of parasites.

  23. Diana says:

    Yes, trish. YOu beat me. I was out of town AND on deadline, so I’m way behind my blog reading. Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps uses the ZImmer book as one of his refrences.

    Go read Scott. now. he’s the best.

  24. Lorelie says:

    Ever since I saw a picture of a tapeworm in my 7th grade biology textbook, I have been unable to tolerate ANY discussion or visual representations of parasites.

    When I was about 10 my Godmother told me this horrific story about how she was in Africa somewhere (she really had been there, she’s a journalist) and watched docs cut five huge tapeworms from some kid’s stomach.  She told me the kid got them by biting his fingernails.  I was scarred for life.  To this day, when my husband wants to torment me, he chases me with his nail clippings.

    And I watch House religiously but I don’t think I’m going to be able to watch that episode.

  25. Vaginal ticks shall now be my newest nightmare, thank you all very much.  I second Waterhouse’s recommendation of “I Am Legend” by Matheson, but sadly have not read the Lovecraft.
    Is it irony that I just turned 33, and my verification is “feel33”?

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