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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Parasitic Vampires

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

... and no, these vampires don't sparkle in sunlight.

Cal is a 19-year-old Texan vampire living in New York City. Okay, so technically he's a carrier for the parasite that makes people into full-fledged vampires, so as far as being infected, he's sane and in control. Cal works for the Night Guard, an organization deep underground that tracks down Parasite Positives or "Peeps" for short (the preferred term for vamps) and medicates them so that they are no longer a threat to society.

Signs you may be infected? See in the dark: check. Start craving extra-rare meat: check. Shun the things you once loved: check. Of course, the eventual cannibalism and lack of conscious communication are pretty good giveaways too. Oh yeah, and the flock of rats, also carriers, that make up your brood. Pretty sexy lifestyle, right?

Cal is following a trail of his progenitor and of those individuals he accidentally turned (the parasite is transferred through saliva, blood, and sex-ed related bodily fluids). Once he tracks down his ex-girlfriends and some tenants who mysteriously disappeared from the same floor in a swanky apartment building, he starts to notice some anomalies: some of these Peeps talk, and some even seem to recognize him, which shouldn't really be possible. Throw in a red-eyed, gloating cat that commands a group of thousands of rats in a subterranean complex and the unmistakable smell of ultimate evil. Then add the fact that only one out of one hundred people are supposed to be "immune" like Cal is, but somehow he finds four in the same contamination group, and Cal starts questioning everything he's ever been told.

Oh, plus there's the enforced-celibacy thing: how is he supposed to deal with Lace, the too-smart and too -interested human who won't let him off the hook? It is, to say the least, kind of distracting.

Part supernatural, part action/adventure, part medical thriller, and part dopey-kid-trying-to-figure-things-out, Peeps is a fun, smart, and compelling read. Westerfeld weaves evolutionary theory throughout the action. Every other chapter addresses the existence of a real-life parasite--it's life cycle, evolutionary strategy, world impact--in a snarky way that makes it both gross and interesting. In addition, Westerfeld includes recommended additional reading (non-fiction!) and a helpful list in the back on how to avoid parasites; here's my favorite:
"If your burger oozes red,
Send it back; them worms ain't dead."
Westerfeld's fun and action-filled style keeps the plot rolling, and twists and turns along the way are smooth and effective. If you're looking for a supernatural/vampire book that doesn't include an over-stressed love triangle, this is definitely a keeper. I really enjoyed it. (Kirkus Reviews agreed with me and gave it a starred review... very wise of them.) The sequel, The Last Days, was published September 2006.


Age 14+ (some mature content, mostly glossed over)
Copyright September 2005
ISBN: 9781595140838
Available as an eBook
Image from www.scottwesterfeld.com

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