Review: ‘Parasite’ will embedded itself in your mind

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Grant_Parasite-HCWhether she’s writing under Mira Grant or Seanan McGuire, I always find reviewing books by this author somewhat puzzling. After all, every single book of the Newsflesh trilogy was nominated for a Hugo. Heck, between the two names, Seanan was nominated five times on this year’s Hugo ballot breaking and setting records all over the place. So at the end of the day “she writes really good books,” no matter how eloquently it’s phrased, seems ridiculously redundant. Smarter people in much greater numbers have already made that clear.

I suppose the main reason why each book needs reviews is the fact that we as readers are waiting for the inevitable book that just falls flat. There is this thing call statistics that supposedly applies to most people. However, Parasite is not that book.

Parasite isn’t a book that fits comfortably in any one genre, so it might be hard as a reader to decide based on the cover information whether or not it’s a good fit. There are some universals about the caliber of the book that probably appeal everyone though. One, there’s a good balance of action vs. exposition. Without exception, I’ve always found the first book of a new series will be a little weighted toward world building and character establishment. It’s kind of necessary, and Parasite certainly fits into that mold. But Grant never lets her story slow down. No matter how much information is being handed out, she mixes it with action, intrigue, or humor.

Parasite is structured to appeal to several different types of readers. It can be read quickly as an action story with chases, escapes, and lots of sneaking around. It can be read as a psychological, character based story where growth and self actualization is the key. It can be poured over, Wiki at the ready, as a scientific novel filled with oddly accurate details. It can almost be read as a humorous novel as well except for all the running and screaming. Because it’s also a horror novel. Not in the mass amounts of blood and gore, madman with a chainsaw way…though Tansy does reinforce the idea of checking in the backseat before you get in your car. Rather, it’s the kind of horror that stalks the streets in daylight and looks back at us from the mirror. Because this is a book about what we as humans are capable of doing in the name of science, progress, business, and even in the name of protection.

One of the best things about Parasite is how Grant obviously recognizes her reader’s intelligence. She never stops to make sure we’ve gotten everything and provide tidy summaries of what we should know at each point, but she also makes sure that all the answers are there if we want them. (Mostly. I’ll let her tell you about the kid’s book on Thursday.) She also has built a plot twist into this book that is quite possible to catch early on – particularly if you’re reading the excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. And rather than assume no one would see it coming, she cleverly plays it so that whether you saw it coming or not, the reveal has an impact for the reader.

So why pick up Parasite instead of rereading Feed to get your Grant fix? At the risk of sounding completely mental, for me the thing that really set Parasite apart from Grant’s other books was the joy. Yes, I am aware that it’s a book about the apocalypse. But you see, so very much of the Newsflesh trilogy, naturally, focused on despair and finding it in yourself to go the distance one inch at a time. There were many, many beautifully human moments in them, but ultimately they lacked the “just this once, everybody lives!” moments the Toby Daye series excels at. Parasite is a beautiful marriage between the two styles. Yeah, it might be the end of humanity, but hey, we’re going out in a blaze of awesome and mad science. Even beyond that though, the story of Sal learning to become a person after losing all her memories…not just a person, but her own true self no matter what anyone expects her to be, is nothing short of gorgeous.

So whether you’re looking for a spooky Halloween read, a mystery, a thriller, a fantasy, or a science fiction, give Parasite a whirl. And no. Three books a year and countless shorter works don’t change the fact that Mira/Seanan is one of the most consistently amazing authors out there. She and Brandon Sanderson should meet up for drinks sometime. Set up the Earth’s Mightiest Writers club. “I have an allomancer.” “We have a Luidaeg.”

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