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Friday, January 16, 2015

Symbiont (Parasitology 2) by Mira Grant

“Humans have been trying to clean up the world ever since they figured out soap and water. I think that’s what their Devil really taught them…
…That was the true fall from grace. You can’t be part of nature if you’re trying to be clean all the time.”

SymboGen, pharmaceutical pioneers, designed a solution for the world health crisis. They've genetically altered a tapeworm to combat allergies, diseases, and even act as birth control. Main character, Sally Mitchell becomes the poster child for SymboGen, after almost dying in a car accident and being saved by her patented Intestinal Bodyguard. But once the Intestinal Bodyguards begin waking up and attacking their hosts’ bodies, Sally begins to search for answers and discovers that the last six years of her life were a lie…

Symbiont’s one-liner synopsis, “The enemy is inside us,” doesn’t quite cover it. The enemy is inside us, but it’s also next to us, down the street from us, chasing us…The enemy is everywhere. The enemy involves mad scientists, military doctors, genetically altered tapeworms, blood relatives, and corporate jackasses. With the exception of Sal’s boyfriend, Nathan, no one can be trusted. To Dr. Cale and Steven Banks she the world’s most valuable prototype. To Sherman, she’s a weapon to be controlled and wielded. To her own father, she’s a science experiment gone wrong. And now she’s torn between humanity and her species; saving one might mean having to destroy the other…If the warring sides don’t kill her first.

The story opens with the delightfully disgusting imagery of a 3-foot tapeworm swimming through a politician's aorta… And after that, I really couldn’t put it down! But I will say, as exciting and creepy as a parasite-apocalypse is, I was surprised to find Sal was remarkably less likable this time around. The innocence that made her so endearing in Parasite made her seem so enormously stupid in Symbiont. For example, Dr. Cale who’s proved herself to be untrustworthy and unhinged wants permission to perform brain surgery on Sal…The obvious answer should be a resounding, “Hell no, I’m not letting a crazy person root around in my brain!” But Sal, no matter how many times she gets stabbed in the back, is determined to trust bad people. There were times when the villainous types were doing their evil villain monologues and I just wanted her to stand up and say enough’s enough… and her responses were never angry enough for me. Why isn’t she angry? She keeps saying she’s not going to let herself be controlled anymore and it’s consistently a lie to herself.

I was surprised at her so complete attitude change on Adam and Tansy: instead of being creeped out by their nature and obvious character quirks, she threw herself into loving them wholeheartedly.  It wasn’t so much character evolution, as it was just more convenient for the author to move the story along. I was worried she was going to start calling Dr. Cale: mom. Thankfully, she didn’t.

Despite Sal’s failure to achieve any major character development, the characters around her grew more complicated by the second. The fact that most of them are evil didn’t hurt any. You’ve got Sherman, the lab assistant who just happened to be a giant tapeworm in some dude’s head; he wants world domination and he’s got a pretty damn good plan to get it. You’ve got Dr. Cale, the new age Dr. Frankenstein, looking to fix the problem her “children” have created. Steven Banks, genius corporate scientist, looking to manipulate the new health crisis to a profitable ending. And how could we forget, Colonel Mitchell; the cold bastard who wants to save the world, scrubbing it free of the tapeworm menace, and doesn't feel too bad about donating his daughter as a lab rat to do it. And then there’s the brain damaged, parasitic zombie horde getting in the way, making every step a little more dangerous, no matter which character you wind up rooting for.

I enjoyed this book even if I wish more thought had been give to Sal’s character. I was certainly disappointed to hit the last page and realize I had to wait to find out how it all ends. I want the third installment now…

Rating: 4/5

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