Review: Parasite – Mira Grant

Grant_Mira-ParasiteTitle: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Series: Parasitology #1
Orbit
Rating: 5 / 5

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.

I decided to do something a little different with this review; instead of reviewing the whole thing at the end, I’d do little progress reports, because, while I am, at the time of this writing, around 100 pages in, I’m having a lot of fun with it and am looking forward to finishing it. I’m planning to do three sections to this review, so without further ado:

Part the first

My initial reaction was that I was unsure of reading this book. I’d heard both good and bad things about Mira Grant’s writing, some say her writing is too involved, and some really enjoy the level of detail and research that goes into her books. Some people had a problem with the format, some didn’t.

So far, I’ve not had a problem with either. I really enjoy when writers don’t feel the need to dumb every little thing down to the readers–they assume their readers are at least intelligent enough to use context clues to figure out what they’re talking about (or, at the very least, the reader knows how to use a dictionary). When Grant feels the need to explain something, it’s done in a way that feels less like an explanation and more like part of the story.

Then there are the articles, transcripts from interviews, excerpts from autobiographies, etc. These little bits are dropped here and there in between the narrative from Sal, our main character, and leave a slightly unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Speaking of Sal, her experience alone is wildly unnerving. When we first meet her, she is waking from a coma, a result of a car crash that left her brain dead. She has no memory of who she was before waking up, and she has to relearn everything it means to be human and to be able to function in society.

At this point in the book, I have my theories about Sal and her thoughts and experiences, but I’ll keep them to myself, as I’m trying to write this review without spoilers.

Part the second

I finished the book in what amounted to one large reading session. The book picks up speed, in a way, after about 100 pages (which, by the way, is usually where I say, “forget it” if the book isn’t holding my attention, but in this case I made an exception). Everything develops slowly, but it feels like it happens fairly quickly, Grant’s writing is that well-done.

Grant makes us want to care about the characters. I felt absolute anger towards Sal’s parents, who are overprotective to the point of treating her like a young child, instead of a fully capable adult. I felt devastated at some of the losses Sal experiences. It’s been such a long time since I’ve cared so deeply about characters, and it was so refreshing.

The last thing I want to touch on is that the book eventually starts developing multiple storylines. There’s the story with SymboGen, the company who developed the tapeworm, there’s the storyline with the military, and finally the “sleepwalkers”, which is coming across as a zombie-like story. Grant previously did a zombie trilogy, the Feed series, and I am now curious whether Grant is going to go in the same general direction (a zombie story). I was actually hoping for something different, because of this. By “different”, I mean not a zombie-esque story.

There are still more books to come in the series, so I guess we’ll find out if it continues, but it also looks like a “human versus human” scenario in the middle of a possible apocalypse, which is very, very interesting to me.

As a quick mention, the theories I had about Sal were correct, and I very much am looking forward to Parasitology #2.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This has not influenced my opinion in any way.

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BFTA Review: Jonathan Maberry – Rot & Ruin

Maberry_Jonathan-RotAndRuin

Title: Rot & Ruin

Series: Benny Imura #1
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster Children’s
Rating: 4/5


In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.(goodreads.com)

I really enjoyed this book. Although I had a hard time getting around Benny changing his opinion of his brother so quickly, then backing away from it when Nix calls him on it, then going back to thinking highly of his brother, even though at the beginning of the novel he hates his brother and thinks he’s a coward. It was hard for me to flip back and forth so quickly, although I could see the change coming anyway.

The book itself was an interesting take on zombies. So often we don’t think of zombies as anything but shambling monsters, coming to devour your flesh (or just your brain, depending on whether you like scary zombies or cute, animated zombies whose worst enemies are sunflowers and peashooters). Rot & Ruin focuses more on who the zombies used to be, and, to an extent, brings the zombies into focus as more of a protagonist than an antagonist. Or, at the very least, innocent bystanders. I also liked how it touched on the definition of humanity in a world where it becomes easy to lose your humanity and become the monster.

I also liked that Benny didn’t suddenly become superman when he was without his brother. He didn’t magically adopt his brother’s skills, or develop some crazy skills of his own. He keeps his same, crappy skill-set; after all, he hasn’t been working at zombie hunting nearly as long as Tom or Lilah, but once his brother shows him what he really does, Benny shows the same compassion his brother does towards “Zoms”.

Really, I liked the book, and I’m adding it to my “buy” list.

Originally posted 31 March 2011.

ARC Review: Eric Shapiro – Love & Zombies

img from goodreads.com

Title: Love & Zombies
Author: Eric Shapiro
DarkFuse
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Release Date: 25 June 2013

The zombie apocalypse has already ended. The government nipped the problem in the bud before it got out of hand. But now Henry, an aspiring filmmaker in Los Angeles, is getting a request from his old friend Sam Kranson. Sam Kranson says they need to go run an errand in Las Vegas. There’s a hefty payday for the job. And it involves capturing a real live zombie.
But that can’t be true, can it? Are there zombies out there in the Nevada desert? Or has Sam Kranson finally lost his mind? And more importantly: Will Henry’s loving girlfriend Teresa strangle him if he goes on this adventure with Sam?
Part horror, part comedy, all madness and suspense, Love & Zombies is a lunatic burn through three days in the life of Henry—days in which he battles to stay alive, and get back to his love without becoming (un)dead. (goodreads.com)

**WARNING: This book contains lots of adult material, and is definitely not suited for younger readers and those who don’t like reading about adult things like sex and drugs.**

So… I don’t really know where to start with this one. It’s a novella, only 75 quick pages on my Nook, but there are parts that just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, hold my attention. And oh, man, did I try.

So this appears to be one of those books that you’ll either love or hate. The narrator talks to the reader quite often, there’s a lot of adult material (and when I say a lot, it’s A LOT). There’s discussion of sex, drugs, and all the usual things that go with “adult material”. There’s plenty of bad language. I don’t think I went one page without reading the eff-word. But did that bother me? Not so much.

The idea that the zompocalypse had already passed, and that the government had already “taken care” of the problem is a slightly new spin on the idea. Most zombie novels are either about the outbreak, or take place after, when zombies are already all over and it’s a lost cause. So points to Shapiro for taking a new route with the idea.

This is not to say that there weren’t parts that irritated me. There are parts that feel more like male wish fulfillment than anything else. Lots of sex, violence, general mayhem, the works. At times, it felt a little over-done, but nothing completely unbearable.

But the bit that really got my goat? At one point, Sam, Henry the Narrator’s partner-in-crime, lets loose a series of rounds from a (sub)machine gun. In a car. And there’s no mention of anyone’s ears hurting, eardrums blowing out (which is actually very, VERY likely to happen). I realize it’s a bit nit-picky, but truthfully, pretty much any firearm is probably going to make your ears go “ouch”, especially in a car with the windows up.

And really, one last touch that I actually really liked? The very first page describes the general stages a person goes through once they’re bitten. At first they feel fine, then they’re ill, then dead, then un-dead. It’s a really nice touch and actually leaves no room to be confused about the stages of the change, which is really nice.

Overall, I really liked the novella. It’s a fast-paced, (mostly) zombie-filled romp in the Vegas Valley desert. The only part that’s zombie-less is the beginning, and it’s a quick buildup to the undead.

I received a copy of this novella from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are mine and were not influenced by the publisher or author in any way.

ARC Review: Anne Michaud – Girls & Monsters

Cover via Dark Fuse Publishers website

Cover via Dark Fuse Publishers website

Title: Girls & Monsters
Author: Anne Michaud
DarkFuse
Rating: 3 / 5 (average)
Release Date: 30 April 2013

This dark but uplifting collection of five Young Adult novellas includes:
Death Song: Liz is in love with Joe, but the monster of the lake has other plans for them.
Black Dog: Scarlet is engaged in a struggle for her sanity, but according to the voice in her head, she may be too late.
A Blue Story: When Katherine’s beloved dog goes missing, she fears her strange new neighbor might be involved.
Dust Bunnies: Christiane faces her childhood arachnophobia and ends up confronting even greater fears in this test of sisterhood.
We Left at Night: Brooke and her family must abandon their home and their lives to make it out of a disease-plagued town overrun by zombies.
Girls & Monsters is for everyone who has ever been brave enough to confront their childhood fears…and lived to tell about it. (goodreads.com)

Since this book is five separate short stories/novellas, I’ll write my review this way, also. The rating of this review is an average of all five stories.

I don’t want to say too much about each story, because they’re pretty short and I’m trying not to have spoilers in this review, but just in case, here’s my big warning for **SPOILERS**. You’ve been warned.

Death Song: I love when mermaids aren’t the perfect Disney-esque creatures I’ve grown to hate. The only thing I wished was for more characterization. I wanted to feel more for Joe and Liz, but everything felt superficial. But the touches about the mermaid being linked to all water, even being able to use the pipes in buildings to get into bathrooms, was nice. 3 / 5

Black Dog: This one was so confusing for me. I had no idea what was going on the entire time. Scarlet is haunted by a voice in her head, she goes on a trip to England, meets a boy, but the dog she’s seeing isn’t having all of that. Scarlet is terrified that the schizophrenia that her aunt was diagnosed with previously is hereditary, and the ending was a bit… weird. I kept wondering whether the ending was all in Scarlet’s head, like she was wishing it would happen, or if it had actually happened. Or if the whole trip to England was one whole death-trip (a la Christopher Pike’s Road to Nowhere). Definitely bizarre, but pretty good. 3 / 5

A Blue Story: Definitely disgusted me (at least, the big reveal did). I really don’t know how to feel about this story. Stories with pets are always horrible (especially when Bad Things happen to the pets–cutesy romances are all yays for me), but I was hoping for a HEA, at least for the dog. Katherine gets a job working at the local pet store, but quits on her first (second?) day. Her boss, Matt, helps her out with investigating the new, creepy neighbor, and I just want to know why. Why, Matt? I didn’t get it. Of course, the big reveal was horrible in a horrifying sort of way, but what made it more horrible is that you just don’t know. You don’t know. Two weeks go by between Katherine’s dog going missing and the ending scene, so the reader is left wondering just what the heck happened in those two weeks. And the last few paragraphs of Katherine moving into her new dorm at college? Left me with a feeling of “Oh, God, no.” 4 / 5, if only for the “NO” ending.

Dust Bunnies: Spiders. I. Hate. Spiders. This one sent me for such a tailspin. Turned creepy, dog-sized spiders into fluffy companions. NO, and not in a good way. I just couldn’t with this one. Arachniphobia too great for me. 2.5 / 5

We Left At Night: Zombies! Oh, yay, zombies. A slightly different take, as we don’t actually see much of the zombies and they seem more like the infected from The Crazies, but then they act like vampires and I was like, buzh? The entire story takes place during one evening. It’s a little confusing (the narrator is doing homework at one point, even though school has been closed for a week). This seems to be a slow-moving virus. The actions of the military are very weird, sporatically showing up and disappearing as needed. As much as I like zombies, this one was just too off-the-wall for me. 2 / 5

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are mine and were not influenced by either the author or the publisher.