‘Symbiont’ is the second book in Mira Grant’s ‘Parasitology’ series. Originally promoted as a duology, it has now been extended to trilogy length and, unfortunately at times, you do get the feeling that what you’re reading is just there to fill a few extra pages.
The sleepwalker plague is now spreading rapidly and throwing the country into chaos. Sal Mitchell and her friends know it’s caused by the Symbogen intestinal parasites intended to help the human race, but the company behind them, Symbogen, is working hard to keep this knowledge from the rest of the world. As society disintegrates, Sal must work with Dr. Cale to find a cure, while Sherman tries to build a sentient tapeworm society and Dr. Banks will do anything to make a profit. With two species vying for control, moral lines are blurred and the choice between wrong and right is never clear. Can Sal help her cousins emerge into sentience without destroying everyone she loves or will only one side come out of this alive?
The premise of the ‘Parasitology’ series is really interesting from a science point of view. It features tapeworms that have been genetically engineered to provide medical assistance for humans (very plausible), but that manage to cross over the blood/brain barrier and integrate with the human brain. Of course, the science isn’t perfect – this is Science Fiction – but enough attention has been paid to details to make it feel like a plausible step forward and this makes it a really intriguing story to follow.
However, while ‘Parasite’ (book one in this series) took a normal situation and took you down a twisty path filled with surprises, ‘Symbiont’ feels like it hasn’t moved things on very much. There aren’t any major events that really hit you and it definitely had the feel of a middle book in a trilogy. I found that the dramatic moments lacked impact and the characters didn’t seem to grow very much, it just meandered along as if it was waiting for something to happen.
Despite all that, I still found it an enjoyable read. It’s a fairly easy read and, even though not a great deal happens, it still carries you along with it in a light-hearted way. I really want to find out what happens to the sleepwalkers and the sentient parasites. I want to know how society copes and whether Dr. Banks gets away with it all. It isn’t a great book but the series has totally captured my imagination, so I’m still looking forward to reading the concluding instalment. I just think that maybe we could have got there a little sooner.
(pub: Orbit. 516 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-356-50193-2)