Reviews > Published on October 29th, 2013

Bookshots: 'Parasite' by Mira Grant

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review



Who Wrote It?

For fans of zombie novels, this one takes the familiar tropes in a slightly different direction, one which brings some freshness to the genre.

Mira Grant, author of zombie infection novels Feed, Deadline, and Blackout; who also writes under her real name, Seanan McGuire.

Plot in a Box:

In a near future where people use bioengineered tapeworms to keep them healthy, those tapeworms go incredibly wrong.

Invent a new title for this book:

Worm Zombies

Read this if you liked:

Grant’s earlier books (mentioned above) qualify, I think. Anything that sits firmly at the junction of science fiction and horror.

Meet the book’s lead:

Sal Mitchell, brain dead after a car accident, is brought back to consciousness by her intestinal parasite, a bio-modified tapeworm, and irrevocably altered.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Jennifer Lawrence

Setting: would you want to live here?

Not at all. It seems all good—the bio-engineered parasites help keep people healthy and disease free, but eventually it is discovered they are causing some serious problems.

What was your favorite sentence?

He looked at me like a man who had crawled out of his own grave.

The Verdict:

Grant is very good at creating characters that the reader cares about. Even when I was questioning Sal’s decisions, I understood why she was making them and I felt every moment of loyalty and every moment of betrayal.

Sal is a special individual in her world, the only known example of someone coming back from brain death with an intestinal implant. But soon creatures known as sleepwalkers start appearing, essentially living zombies, and it’s clear they’re connected to the implants.

Sal’s unique position makes her perfect for unraveling the secret of what’s really happening, and positions her to become a pawn of various people and factions all trying to manipulate the situation for their own ends. But Grant does a good job of establishing Sal and her strength, so we stand with her through all of these ups and downs.

One of the drawbacks to the novel, however, is the fact that it’s written in the first person, and as sometimes happens in these cases, it creates some distance between the narrative and the horrific events that take place in the book. I never really felt enough horror even when terrible things were happening.

Also, while I love the concept for its sheer creativity, and it breathes new life into the zombie genre, I found it on the verge of being a bit ridiculous. Without giving anything major away, one of the big reveals strains credibility, and that helped pull me out of the novel. Your mileage may vary, but I found it to be almost too much to swallow. Almost, but not quite. 

Add to that the fact that the final revelation seems blatantly obvious and I think the book stumbles where I was hoping it would stride.

However, the characters are strong enough that I would be wiling to follow them into another novel. Grant also infuses the book with humor, which helps balance the horror aspects and keeps the book ultimately human. Also, despite the obvious nature of the ending revelation, what matters more, to me, is how the main characters deal with it, and how it affects their storyline.

For those fans of Grant’s other work, Parasite is probably firmly in line with what you like. For fans of zombie novels, this one takes the familiar tropes in a slightly different direction, one which brings some freshness to the genre. Be aware, though, that some of the science is a bit nebulous.

About the author

Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, is due to be released in October 2014. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at and and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he's a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His personal website is and he tweets, @rajanyk.

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