Parajunkee's View Vampire Reading Challenge Review #2
Warning: contains spoilers.
The second book I read for this challenge was Parasite Positive by Scott Westerfeld, which I found in a charity shop by chance. I didn't realise until I got it home that it was the same as the book 'Peeps' which I had had on my Amazon wishlist for a while... apparently Peeps is the title the book is published under in the US.
Carriers of the disease can live for centuries; are immune to other human diseases; eat a LOT of red meat; are stronger and faster than normal humans and are equipped with night vision. So far, so vampire standard, pleasing the traditionalist in me. However, carriers are always, ahem, 'ready and willing', shall we say - the parasite inside them wants to be spread and infect other people, and carriers spread the disease via blood, saliva, and certain other bodily fluids.
Unfortunately, only one in a hundred people infected by the disease becomes a carrier - the rest turn into raving, cannibalistic maniacs, repelled by sunlight, and anything that reminds them of who they once were. After watching a few girls he's made out with go bonkers and start eating people, the unsuspecting Cal is recruited to the Night Watch - an organisation of carriers and normal humans protecting society from the illness of vampirism - and a lifetime of celibacy, because driving girls crazy in a literal fashion is apparently not much fun.
This book is heavy on the science - between chapters, the reader is given short bursts of information on real-life parasites, which at first I thought I would find a bit hard going, but these segments are still written in Cal's wry voice, with funny little asides, and so managed to hold my attention.
As if having to track down and contain one's insane vampiric ex-girlfriends was not bad enough, things take a twist for the seriously weird when Cal and his human friend Lacey (who, by the way, later becomes a carrier when she is infected by Cal's vampire cat), who is determined to unearth the truth about Cal and his exceptionally strange behaviour, discover that something far older and more destructive than vampires is living underneath Manhattan - and it's hungry.
I quite enjoyed the fact that Westerfeld's novel was actually very believeable - every symptom and myth from vampire lore was explained in relation to the parasite theory, including cruciophobia (fear of crosses), the hatred of sunlight, and vampires turning into rats and cats (rats in particular are attracted to murderous peeps; every peep has its own 'brood' of rodent minions). My favourite twist was the fact that vampirism turns out to be an evolutionary defense against this greater enemy.
There is a very obvious set-up for a sequel (The Last Days), but I may not go to the effort of tracking it down, since the vampire elements fade into the background somewhat following the discovery of the creatures lurking below ground. Whilst the discovery of this subterranean enemy was excitingly written and loaded with ominous atmospherics, I didn't quite feel that the 'bad guys' (giant worms) quite lived up to the hype. However I did really enjoy this book so I may be tempted, just to find out what happens next.