March 16, 2015
Symbiont by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First of all, I'll say I was rather hesitant to read this book, as I only gave the first book in the trilogy, Parasite, two stars. I finally decided to check it out of the library, and I'm glad I did. I'm happy to report that as far as I am concerned, this is a much better book than Parasite.
Part of the first book's problem was the unfortunate telegraphing of the Big Plot Reveal: the protagonist's Intestinal Bodyguard, the genetically engineered tapeworm that inhabits the gut of nearly the entire human population in this near-future medical thriller, has left her intestine and migrated to her brain, saving her dying body and awakening to full sentience. So our plucky heroine, Sal, is not only six years old, she's not "human" at all. (This rather interesting theme is woven throughout the book: What, exactly, is a person?) I figured this out loooooong before Sal did. That was the main reason, along with Sal's flat, passive, nigh helpless personality, I gave the book only two stars.
Fortunately, this book addresses all these problems. Sal exhibits considerable growth throughout this book's pages; she'll never be a kickass physical fighter, but she starts taking charge of her life. This includes accepting who and what she is, and learning to control and use the unique abilities her hybrid existence gives her (including sensing the presence of "sleepwalkers," zombie-like humans whose tapeworms are awakening but who have not or cannot make the full integration into sapience as Sal has done; and using tapeworm communication, via pheromones, to control said zombies). Instead of hiding behind her boyfriend, as Parasite-era Sal mostly did, this Sal steps out, plans, and takes risks, and ends up sacrificing herself for the group. (Not literally, although this plot twist is rather interesting--Sal and a small group are trying to rescue another "chimera," Mira Grant's term for a fully integrated tapeworm/human, and to get her comrades out alive, Sal pretends that Sally Mitchell, her body's previous personality, has awakened. She's pretending to be a person who is dead, a person she knows nothing about. The book ends on this cliffhanger.)
Everything about this book is vastly improved--the characterizations are deeper, the pacing is better, the plot flows nicely and makes more sense, and I didn't figure out what was going to happen only a few chapters in. I'm now looking forward to the third book, Chimera, coming later this year.
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