Sunday, March 30, 2014
Parasite by Mira Grant
If You Like: tapeworms * zombies * amnesia
In Parasite, people have been living with Intestinal Bodyguard, genetically modified tapeworms created by SymboGen Corp, for many years. These implants are designed to eliminate the modern day ills attributed to the hygiene hypothesis: autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, MS, depression, and cancer to name a few. With the availability of personally tailored implants. people quickly accepted these life changing creatures. As the years went on, some people realized that these common implants contained more than SymboGen acknowledge with increasingly terrifying results. Though initially a medical addition that could change life for the better, the Intestinal Bodyguards were beginning to hijack their hosts into sleepwalking, zombie-like people with no trace remaining of who they once were. Sally, now Sal, Mitchell nearly died in a violent car crash six years ago, but was saved by her implant. Though she has always been skeptical of SymboGen’s motivations in backing her recovery, she is increasingly suspicious as the true nature of the sleepwalkers is revealed.
Common fears of big pharma paired with limited general understanding of what really makes us function provides the perfect blend of conspiracy, cutting edge science, and paranoia in Parasite. In some ways, the current anti-vax and anti-medicine views that so many take make the widespread adoption of the Intestinal Bodyguard seem a little far fetched. On the other hand, this creation is the perfect combination of traditional and alternative medicine that it may just hit the sweet spot of adoptability. Seeking a natural way to receive all the promises of modern medicine is just irresistible. We all want to believe there is a miracle cure out there. We also want to believe that it won’t be discovered by an equation or a chemical compound, but by looking to nature for inspiration. This is what makes the Intestinal Bodyguard the perfect solution. On the other hand, this panacea is so alluring that it is easy to be too lenient in questioning its makeup. People also believe that things derived from nature are never as harmful as those being dispensed from a prescription bottle. Unfortunately, the hybrid that is the Intestinal Bodyguard is anything but natural, instead it is a carefully cultured cure-all that is just a little too close in genetic makeup to its host to be easily irradiated. The line becomes blurred between ours selves and our bodies, making it harder and harder to understand what truly makes a person. What seems like an innocent implant at first becomes a living nightmare when you realize that the same people who gave it to you don’t really have a definitive way of taking it back.
Parasite questions just what people are willing to do to feel better. Humans are a delicately woven composition of innumerable microbiota. Every day it seems we learn about a new role that the creatures living inside of us play in every aspect of our lives. They hygiene hypothesis is not some far-fetched scientific theory, but considered a possible cause of much of what ails us. Already we look to symbiotic relationships with those things that seek to make us their home in order to improve our health. So many look to yogurt and other probiotics as a cure-all. Some even consider becoming willing hosts to parasites, not unlike the theory that SymboGen extorts. Just how different is purposefully cultivating a tapeworm than actively seeking a hookworm infection to cure inflammatory bowel disease. Now we seek immunotherapy to cure our allergies, injecting the allergen itself to make it a part of us. How different would having a creature secreting those same medicines inside us really be? There is so much we do not know about the biosphere that makes up who we are. We think we know, but it will be years before we truly understand the role that bacteria play in our intelligence, personality, and physicality. Is it too hard to believe that these creatures could take us over and make us into someone entirely new? With the significant impact they already have, would that really be altogether different?
If you strive to be a good host, read Parasite.
Grant, Mira. Parasite. Hachette Book Group, 2013. Audio edition.