(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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.
Parasitology was originally meant to be a duology, not a trilogy but in the end I don’t think Mira Grant could have fit all of this into two books. Yes, some people will probably complain this is just a bridge to the last exciting installment but there is a lot of important stuff going on here. And despite all of the information that is thrown at us (perhaps because of it), Symbiont is a thrilling page-turner.
At the end of the last book, we found out a very interesting fact about Sal: she’s a parasite, just like Adam and Tansy. Sally Mitchell died the moment her brain was damaged in the crash; Sal the parasite took over her brain and gained control of her body. This revelation has some fascinating implications, some of which I can’t go into because of spoilers but the most interesting one had to do with her relationships. How does Nathan feel now that he knows he’s dating a parasite? He takes things surprisingly well because the parasites who have managed to integrate properly with the human brain are surprisingly human. They have social issues like Tansy’s propensity for death threats and Sal’s use of slang but they’re self-aware, they have emotions and they have a very similar survivor instinct. The really troubling thing rising from this revelation is what about the sleepwalkers, the zombie-like creatures who are just humans whose parasites took over the brain? I don’t want to spoil too much but let’s just say there’s a key thing that separates parasites like Sal from those in the sleepwalkers.
Sal is really growing as a character. Of course she’s not a kick-butt badass like you would expect the main character in a virtual zombie apocalypse to be, but she’s not a wimp. Sal goes through a lot in this book and she comes out the other end stronger. She’s far from perfect but she does learn to be more self-reliant and self-sufficient. For the first time since we’ve met her, she ends up being alone for an extended stretch of time and it’s very interesting to see what she does when faced with a horrible situation. At the same time, we learn a lot more about the secondary characters like Dr. Cale and Dr. Steven Banks, the head of SymboGen and the man who has essentially caused this entire sleepwalker mess. None of the secondary characters are what they pretend to be, especially one character I won’t name who was one of Sal’s friends.
With the global situation spiralling out of control as more and more SymboGen parasites become self-aware, you’d think that Symbiont would be a never-ending series of depressing events, each worse than the last. While that’s certainly true at first, you at least get hints that there might be hope out there despite the different factions competing over the fate of the human race. There’s SymboGen, who wants to make a profit out of this by modifying the sleepwalker parasites. Then there’s Dr. Cale, whose motivations remain unclear. And finally there’s that unnamed secondary character who wants the total destruction of the human race as we know it. Sal and Nathan are stuck between a rock and a hard place and sometimes it seems like there’s no real ‘right’ or ‘good’ side. But they’re not going to let the human race go down without a fight. It will be interesting to see how Mira Grant decides to resolve the situation in the third book, Chimera. Although we have a lot of our questions about parasites answered here in Symbiont, there are some very critical questions left open by the end of the book.
So here we have a second book that’s not only exciting, but satisfying in terms of answering questions readers have while posing new questions for the third book. Sal has grown immensely as a character and Mira Grant’s end of the world scenario is terrifyingly plausible and realistic. With great characters, plenty of excitement and some amazing world-building, you can’t go wrong with a Mira Grant novel. I can’t wait to read Chimera.
I give this book 5/5 stars.