Parasite by Mira Grant (book review).

The year is 2027 and medical technology has advanced sufficiently for allergies to be a thing of the past, for drugs to be delivered automatically without the need for hard-to-follow pill regimes and long-term health problems are managed effortlessly. How has all this been made possible? The use of genetically modified tapeworms. Swallow one in pill form and your tapeworm will secrete any necessary substances straight into your body. Sometimes they can even work miracles. Sally Mitchell’s family was preparing to switch off life support when she woke up, saved by the tapeworm. Yet amongst the miracles, some serious side effects are emerging and Sally holds the key to stopping them. If she can’t find a way to succeed, the people she loves may soon disappear for good.


‘Parasite’ is the first book in a new series by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire). I’d not read any of her previous novels but after zooming through ‘Parasite’ I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for them.

There aren’t many novels out there where tapeworms are central to the plot and I think this book shows that an opportunity is being missed. Presenting genetically engineered tapeworms as the miracle medicine of the future is a brilliant idea and comes across as extremely plausible. There are dashes of biology in this that I found really interesting and I thought the whole thing was extremely well thought out.

The main character in the book is a young woman called Sally. After being saved by her tapeworm when she suffered horrific injuries in a car accident, Sally has been subjected to endless medical tests by the company that manufactures the tapeworms, the delightfully named ‘Symbogen’. She comes across as a woman who is fed up with the way life is going and who just wants the freedom that normal people have. Coupled with her extensive amnesia this makes her quite a vulnerable character and she certainly displays some childish attitudes at times. Her boyfriend, Will, features quite prominently, too, but is far less developed than Sally as a character. He’s just another generically polite, hardworking young doctor with a fascination for carnivorous plants.

It’s hard to write much about the plot without revealing spoilers and I was a little bit annoyed by the amount given away in the blurb. It revealed some of the surprises too early and, perhaps because of that, I was slightly disappointed by how predictable most of the events were. There are some clichés in there that also felt a bit unnecessarily contrived and it would have been nice to have seen one or two more genuinely unexpected moments as they would have boosted the story to the next level.

Having said that, even with the slightly predictable nature of the plot, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ’Parasite’. It made me smile and I fully bought into this tapeworm themed story and thought it was brilliant. I’m also really glad that there are more books to come in this series. While I felt this book was heavy on easy to spot plot twists, having reached the end of it, I have no idea where Grant is going to take it next. There are so many possibilities and I can’t wait to find out which ones she chooses.

Vinca Russell

May 2014

(pub: Orbit. 502 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $20.00 (US), $22.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-316-21895-5)

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