Review: Parasite (Parasitology: #1)
I love a good medical thriller and this one certainly intrigued me. The idea that tapeworm can help people overcome serious medical conditions is an interesting concept. Of course, as in all the best medical or technical thrillers, altruism is rarely the driving force. Instead corporate greed plays a large role. Parasite is no exception to this rule.
After a devastating car crash Sally is given an implant to allow her to return to a relatively ‘normal’ life. However the implants can only allow us to retain so much of ourselves. In respects, Sally is like a child, having to learn some things from scratch and having to develop new memories. This causes great confusion and distress at times, particularly when family members have memories she does not.
When Sally encounters people who have become infected by a strange virus – causing them to become almost zombielike in behaviour – it is very difficult for her to know who to trust. The hospital staff who monitor her with regularity and whose implant has allowed her to live? The family who have continued to support her despite the fact she is now in many ways a stranger? The scientist promising answers, even when she’s taken the implant experiments to a startling new level herself?
As with many medical or futuristic thrillers it is important to suspend disbelief a little and accept the unusual and odd. I love the concept that was developed in this novel. I love the idea that something we are doubtless squeamish about could actually be beneficial. I love the idea that, like many things, greed and a desire for more power and money would push people to take this further. There are also elements I would not have expected such as a scientist driven by a weird kind of love and compassion for her experimental creations.
If this novel had one key flaw it was in the dialogue, which could sometimes be a little clumpy and unrealistic past the point of the aforementioned required suspension of disbelief. I’m all for suspending normalcy for the idea of a good story but sometimes the interactions between the characters did not ring true. For a story like this to work for me, the characters really have to be believable even if the circumstances go way beyond anything I would normally conceive of.
That said I was pleased to learn that there are going to be further installments in this series. I don’t normally read series; I am too impatient to wait for the next volume. However, I can see this working well as I’m sure each story will have enough in it to work as a standalone without needing to read from book #1 forward. I feel that the strength of the ideas put forward in the first volume suggest excellent things to come and I’m quite confident that further character development will make future books excellent additions to this genre.
Funnily enough, I know very little about tapeworms, and therefore I cannot comment on the accuracy of the medical information. However, accurate or not the novel does what it is supposed to: it entertains and it raises interesting questions about the ethics of medical techniques, medical research and the lengths we may potentially go to in the future to prolong human life. The question is, at what cost?
Parasite is certainly an enjoyable read. I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys science fiction and/or medical, technical or near future thrillers and it’s well worth watching out for future titles.