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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Parasite by Mira Grant

I'm going to start something a little different on the blog. It falls under the category of I-do-other-things-than-just-play-computer-games. One of my personal goals is to read/listen to at least one book every month. I do this with every Nebula and Hugo nominated book, and I also make forays into science and philosophy. But mostly I like science fiction. I always have.

So today I created a Goodreads account and started updating it with ratings for everything I've read in the past few years since I've done the book a month to-do. I'll eventually add to my read list everything I can remember reading - which is a lot. I've linked that read list to my Reading Library age. There are two new widgets there. One for what I am currently reading and one for everything I've already read. The already read list is not in the order of most recently read, but hopefully I can fix that.

I am also going to review the books I consume. The review will be on my Goodreads page and I will also post them here (and thus to Facebook and Google Plus.) I am not going to try to hide everything in the book so as to avoid spoilers, so I will but these review behind a cut. I will promise I won't give away any endings. With that revealed, my first review is below the cut.



[caption width="308" align="alignleft"]Parasite by Mira Grant Parasite by Mira Grant[/caption]Parasite is the first book by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) in her new series Parasitology. Her previous award-winning work was the series Newsflesh. Mira it seems has a thing for zombies and a penchant for making their existence more believable than most Zombie books I've read, but more on that behind the cut.

The best thing going for this book are it's every day characters. The protagonist is not only believable, but I think I've actually met her! Unfortunately I've also met the antagonist. I use the terms protagonist and antagonist very loosely because they are what the entire writing industry uses, but Sal Mitchell and Doctor Stephen Banks are not a good versus evil pairing in any such simplistic relationship. This isn't a book about superheroes and villains. It's about everyday people trying to muddle their way through difficult times the bast way they can. That makes this book more real than most I've seen in this sub-genre. It was quite refreshing.

Now for the not so good. I had the entire story figured out by the end of the first phase of the book. There is an art to foreshadowing. It's a very difficult thing to give hints enough to keep the reader from becoming confused, and not hitting them over the head with a clue bat. The most frustrating thing I found while listening to Parasite (I do books while I commute) was the total lack of surprise involved. At no point did I ever say to myself, "I didn't see that coming." The fact is, there are no real surprises and that kills any chance of a thrill. A thriller this book is not.

That said, there were some very suspenseful scenes where I wasn't sure who'd get out alive. Those scenes kept me riveted, and I can only hope future books of the Parasitology series have more of that sort of writing. If I might make a suggestion to the author, take a page out of George R.R. Martin's playbook. No character should ever be safe, and don't be afraid to throw babies out windows.

I hear what you're thinking. If Parasite falls short of being a thriller, and has just enough suspense to make that grade at a B-, how does it do as a sci-fi? At first I thought the book had gone too far in its portrayal of science gone horribly wrong. Then my sweetie posted a link to this science article: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/cat-parasite-modified-effective-cancer-vaccine. It ooked be the F@#$ out. It seems Mira got it way more right than I gave her credit. I apologize Mira, even though you had no idea I felt that way. I wish I'd read that article before listening to your story. I'd certain have had an easier time suspending my disbelief.

Now, to readers I need to say the science involved with what Mira describes does not exist today, and will not exist in the foreseeable future. One day humans may be capable of that level of genetic manipulation, but right now we're hard pressed just to understand our own genome. We have even less understanding of the genomes of other organisms. The article I linked uses an organism as a vehicle. It does not integrate parts of that organism's genome into another's. So please, don't let this book fan your fears. It's fiction. Take it as such.

To sum up, Parasite is well worth reading/listening to on the strengths of its characters alone. As a sci-fi, it does surprisingly well. As a thriller it falls short but does manage to get the blood pumping with some well done suspenseful scenes. Just don't expect to be pleasantly surprised during any of it. Expect to have the tracks laid for follow on events, even if that requires Mira to drop railroad ties on your head. I gave Parasite four stars out of five because the characters were just that good IMO. It is currently nominated for a best novel Hugo award.

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