Symbiont

January 27, 2015 - 9:59 am No Comments

Symbiont
Parasitology Book 2
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: 25th Nov 2014
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Earlier this year I had the absolute thrill and pleasure of reading the first book in this series, Parasite. With authentic science and plenty of research, engaging characters, particularly Sally, and a great cliffhanger, I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment. But what about the second book in the series?
As with the first book, this sequel uses a combination of regular narrative, diaries and reports. The first report dated 2027 starts with wheelchair bound Dr Shanti Cale (Dr Nathan Kim’s Mom) talking about the symbionts (SymboGen implant) an organism bred to live within the hosts stomach to prevent everyday illness. Unfortunately, some of those implants in Paradite started to travel into the brain stem, taking over the human host sending them crazy and aggressive, or medically diagnosed as suffering from the ‘sleeping sickness’.
Despite being pretty fit and active, Mayor Paul Moffat was dying. As Paul gives a speech, slowly but surely his implant moves up through his body, eating it’s way into his brain until nothing is left of who Paul was. Luckily he wasn’t able too recognise himself biting into the flesh of the woman next to him. Now it’s too late, despite USAMRIID and the CDC getting involved; the tapeworm parasites are winning.
Just a few pages in, Grant recaps the penultimate event of the first novel in finer detail, packed with emotion, as Sally/Sal and her boyfriend Nathan discover the truth about her identity. She has to learn to come to terms with it, accept who she is and help in the fight to come.
As well as first person narrative from Sal and the reports and diaries, Grant utilises the rather fun chimera character Tansy as a narrator, with her own skewed worldview and derogatory viewpoints of pretty much everyone else, making for fun intermissions between the tension.
At its heart, or its core if you will, Symbiont is a version of a zombie apocalypse story, however, the grounding in science, the dual personalities and chimeras as well as the diverse reactions of the parasites makes this so much more. Yes, the parasites sometimes eat flesh, but sometimes, like Tansy and Adam they think and feel too. The implants have reached sapience. And for those who are incoherent we have varying degrees of activity from Romero type shambling to 28 days Later. A lot can be learned about identity and how we see ourselves in this book, and it pushes against the stereotypes and boundaries of gender and race.

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