Parasitology: Contagious New Novels

Reading a fictionalised account of an outbreak that renders its hosts hopeless is pretty scary when the Ebola virus is the source of decidedly non-fictional headlines. But that’s why Mira Grant‘s ‘Parasite’, the first novel in an intended series (Book 2, ‘Symbiont’ hits UK bookshelves in November), manages to prey on our nightmares like the best horror does – because it’s rooted in reality.

parasitology book 1

‘Parasite’ may have to contend with the character/world-building exposition that weighs down many a first tome in a trilogy or series, but you can tell Grant is at home here. The ‘Newsflesh’ writer sets her cautionary tale in 2027, where trail-blazing SymboGen have revolutionised modern medicine with a little creation called an Intestinal Bodyguard – a parasite that lives inside its human, keeping them healthy without the need for pills, injections and more. What could possibly go wrong?

If you’ve seen ‘Jurassic Park’, you’ll know that “life finds a way” and Grant’s sci-fi conspiracy thriller with added shuffling zombie types certainly recalls Michael Crichton’s paranoid parables. The action centres around Sally, a twentysomething miracle marvel after SymboGen take the credit when she survives the seemingly insurmountable consequences of a mysterious car accident. Sally is kept under the watchful eye of SymboGen’s co-founder Dr. Banks, all while attempting to traverse a new life away from the girl she was before the accident: a girl she can’t remember. Parasitology expert and long-term boyfriend Nathan Kim provides some respite away from her required return check-ups at SymboGen and a strained domestic life with a family, including a government-employed father, who can still remember the old Sally and seem to be waiting for Sally’s own memories of that girl to return.

Then, of course, shit happens. It’s hard to review this taut, Hugo-nominated page-turner without spoiling the twisty-turny fun, but suffice to say those parasites aren’t exactly the life-saving, world-changing remedy they’ve been made out to be. Excerpts from interviews with Dr. Banks and his MIA former colleague, Shanti Cale, precede each new chapter and help build an impending sense of doom as we reach this first book’s game-changing conclusion. And, above all, it’s fun – the zombie horror and bad science elements don’t get in the way of some biting one-liners and, in Tansy, a third-act character that just screams ‘spin-off’.

So, November – hurry up with your apocalypse! ‘Symbiont’ will be ready to infect, courtesy of Orbit Books, on November 25.

Giveaway: Win First 2 ‘Shambling Guide’ Books by Mur Lafferty

mur lafferty prizes

Remember reading my review of the latest thrill ride from Mighty Mur herself, blogger-turned-author Mur Lafferty? Well, if you wanted to hop on the ghost train into Zoë Norris’s world of ghouls and travel writing, then you’re in luck.

Thanks to the guys over at Orbit Books, Nicetogeekyou has the first two books in Lafferty’s ‘Shambling Guide’ series to give away: that’s one copy each of ‘Ghost Train to New Orleans’, out this week in the UK, and its sassy predecessor ‘The Shambling Guide to New York City’ which will go to one lucky winner.

Simply RT, follow @nicetogeekyou and @orbitbooks on Twitter via the Rafflecopter widget below and you’re well on your way to being announced as winner when I choose one lucky entrant on Thursday 13th March. Good luck!

WIN Mur Lafferty ‘Shambling Guide’ books – enter this Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop On Mur Lafferty’s Train to Hell

If you’ve visited New York City in the past year and kept an eye out for water sprites, sexy succubi and man-eating snake demons, then you have most likely read Mur Lafferty’s ‘The Shambling Guide to New York City’. If you did all that and have never heard of this book, then you should probably be worried; more importantly, you should seek it out immediately and prepare to be introduced to the NYC inhabited by Zoë Norris, Lafferty’s heroine and editor of travel guides aimed at a supernatural audience.

mur lafferty shambling guide

Thankfully, Lafferty kept Zoë alive following the devastating earthquake that ended the first book (‘earthquake’ here translates as ‘battle between Zoë’s zoëtist, golem-raising love rival and the rest of New York City’) and brings her back for its sequel ‘Ghost Train to New Orleans’. The setup is practically the same: sassy human book editor tasked with writing a guide to a popular US city for visiting ‘coterie’ (demons, scary monsters, etc.) and, along with her eclectic writing staff and assorted sidekicks, gets dragged into some dangerous and wildly entertaining situations. What makes ‘Ghost Train’ an especially fun ride to take is that, following the setup and denouement of the first book, Lafferty can build on the template and characters and throw us some cool curveballs from the get-go.

The opening chapter updates us on Zoë’s situation: it’s a month since the climax of the first book and she’s since lost friends including best pal Morgan and mentor Granny Good Mae, gained a boyfriend whose zombie-reversal magic herbs have been flushed down the loo (oops), and has been talking out loud in Central Park to practice her newfound ‘citytalker’ abilities. She could probably use a good trip to clear her head, so it’s a good job she has a night train to catch to The Big Easy to begin researching and writing her team’s new travel guide.

To reveal more would be to spoil the surprises in store, but suffice to say the New Orleans setting is the perfect playground for Lafferty’s offbeat and often ghoulish characters to run amok. Early on, we’re informed that NO is ‘the unofficial coterie capital of the US’ and anyone gasping for a return to the swampy supernatural terrain of ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ will feel right at home. From the moment Zoë steps on the memorable bullet train that transports her from New York to Louisiana (Hogwarts Express who?), it’s non-stop fun and death-defying games as a new mystery presents itself.

the shambling guides 2

Lafferty’s done it again with this charming blend of comedy, horror, romance and travelogue that’s not quite like any other entertainment property around at the moment. You get the feeling the series could run and run, due to the fun in uncovering the underground world of other prospective cities – indeed, Gaiman fans might consider the approach a US spin on ‘Neverwhere’ for the blog generation, with snippets from Zoë’s fictional guide revealing more about the destination’s devilish attractions throughout. Zoë is a key entry point for the reader, as we identify with this all-too-human lead (an alter-ego for Lafferty, perhaps?) as she navigates these unfamiliar places and situations populated by super creeps and assorted nasties.

I’d already visited New York before consuming Book One but, if it wasn’t already (it was!), New Orleans is now on my hit list following Book Two. Lafferty’s adventure in the bayou is like a well-seasoned pot of gumbo, offering up rollicking set-pieces, memorable characters, zippy dialogue (“Are you objectifying to women fighting monsters?”) and a geek-friendly tone throughout that positions Lafferty as one of us. In short? This is perfect flight-of-fancy reading for a gloomy morning commute – you may even start to wonder if your fellow passengers are on their way to a publishing office populated by vampires and death goddesses.

Mur Lafferty’s ‘Ghost Train to New Orleans’ is the second in the author’s ‘The Shambling Guides’ series, and is available to buy from 4th March in the UK, published by Orbit.

Intrigued by the weird world Zoë inhabits? Look out for an exciting giveaway this week and you could be transported there – more details soon.