TPG reviews: Symbiont, by Mira Grant (Parasitology #2)
A disappointing sequel
THE ENEMY IS INSIDE US.
The SymboGen designed tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world’s population began attacking their hosts turning them into a ravenous horde.
Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is, and how they can be stopped.
My rating: 5/10
…right, I can’t think of any other way to start this, so…SPOILER WARNING.
Nothing happens in this book.
…okay, so maybe that’s a little unfair. Stuff happens, sure, but none of it really leads anywhere. The protagonist, Sal, simply lurches from scene to scene with precious little sense of progression, as though her only goal is to bloat up the page count as much as possible. Plus, the book doesn’t so much end as it just stops, with absolutely everything of note left to be resolved in the last book. I was annoyed by this. Really annoyed, in fact. I just cannot recall the last time I’ve seen so little resolved in so many pages.
This is, by the way, essentially a zombie novel. In Parasite, we were introduced to a world where almost everyone has a genetically modified tapeworm in their gut. Said tapeworms secrete medicines, improve their hosts’ immune systems, and generally make the world a healthier place…at least, until they start taking over peoples’ brains. Most of the afflicted are reduced to shambling zombies, thinking of nothing but their next meal. A few of the parasites retain their hosts’ faculties, however, becoming far more dangerous as a result…as well as introducing a number of moral dilemmas into the mix.
All of that sounds like something I could get behind – and for the first half or so of this book, I totally was. The early scenes in the newly-ruined San Francisco are remarkably tense, and the cast of characters continues to impress. Dr Shanti Cale – a genius biologist with just a little too much sympathy for the worms – was a particular favourite this time around. New arrivals include “Fishy”, a half-mad survivor convinced that he’s living in a video game. Fishy wasn’t believable in the least, admittedly, but he was so hilarious most of the time that I honestly didn’t care.
And then, of course, there’s Sal – Sal the tapeworm, who killed her host months earlier without even realising it. This is technically a spoiler from Parasite, though the “twist” was so obvious it might as well not be. Sal made for a particularly interesting protagonist here, with her otherness convincingly portrayed – though, it does seem awfully convenient that her non-human traits only start to surface now rather than before. Nathan Kim, Sal’s entirely human boyfriend, remains on hand to help her come to terms with her status and leads to many of the novel’s more interesting moments.
So…yeah. I’ll still probably pick up Chimera at some point: having gone through the first two books, it seems a shame not to finish to the series off. All I can hope is that Chimera provides a thrilling and rewarding experience all the way through – something that Symbiont, sadly, fails to accomplish.
Read Symbiont or Parasite? Plan to? Feel free to leave your thoughts down below.