Feb 19, 2009

Peeps aka Parasite Positive by Scott Westerfeld

It's amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn out backs on them. Life is a hungry thing.
Peeps, also known as Parasite Positive, is probably the most original vampire story I’ve ever come across. Cal Thompson, aged nineteen, moves from Texas to New York to major in biology. Shortly after he arrives, he's infected by a sexually transmitted parasite. Fortunately, he discovers that he has natural immunity to this parasite, but it still causes several symptoms: heightened senses, extra strength (not superhuman strength, but as much strength as humans are capable of under extreme stress, all the time), extra speed, an accelerated metabolism, constant hunger and sexual arousal, and sparkling. (Just kidding!)

The parasite, you see, is responsible for the condition we ordinarily think of vampirism. Those who are unfortunate enough to be infected and don’t have Cal’s natural immunity become mindless creatures obsessed with hunting. Cal joins an organization whose mission is to control the infection, and his job is to hunt those infected, the Peeps. Beginning with those he infected himself, like his ex-girlfriends.

What we have in Parasite Positive is an unputdownable sci-fi vampire story. But it’s even more than that. Westerfeld ties in several mythologies, and he does so in a way that is completely consistent, believable and logical. Those infected with the parasite have also been called, throughout human history, werewolves or zombies, just to give you a few examples. And this is explained in a way that makes complete sense.

I won’t tell you everything—it’s more fun to read the book and find out the details—but Westerfeld backs everything up with real science. Cal’s story is alternated with short chapters about real parasites and the fascinating, gruesome, sinister and incredible things they do. I can 't overstate how much I enjoyed these interludes. Not only because they were extremely interesting, which they were, but because they really worked in the book. They were more than knowledge dumpring—they provided a context of sorts for what the parasite does in the story. You can't help but start thinking, "hey, if real parasites do all these freaky things, then this could be real, too." And it really feels like it could.

There were other things I loved about this book: the characters, or most of them. The writing. The great sexual tension between Cal and Morgan. The red-eyed cats. (I'd explain, but it's spoiler-ish. Aren't you curious, though?) The fact that it managed to scare me at times. I'm not at all easy to scare, but some of the underground rat-filled scenes left me very uneasy. The pacing, which was great for most of the story.

Which brings me to my only complaint: the ending felt too rushed, and itwas less than satisfying. When there were 20-30 pages to go, so many things were still unresolved that I started thinking it was going to end with a cliff-hanger, and that I was going to be left shaking until I could get my hands on the sequel. But in those last few chapters everything was resolved a little too fast. And perhaps because of the rush, certain things turned out not to be as mysterious or interesting as I was hoping they'd be. As the rest of the book had made me believe they'd be, really.

But this is an excellent book regardless. It turns out that the sequel, The Last Days, is more of a companion book. It does take place after this one, but it's about different characters. You can bet I'm going to read it anyway, though.

Other Blog Reviews:
YA Fabulous
Guys Lit Wire
Bookshelves of Doom
Mari Reads
Bart's Bookshelf
The Written World
Becky's Book Reviews

And more via Renay

(Let me know if I missed yours.)


  1. I'm just getting ready to start Uglies. I'll have to check this one out next.

  2. I really enjoyed this book. I need to read the next soon.

    Here is a link to my review: http://marireads.blogspot.com/2008/10/peeps-book-review.html

  3. Nymeth, have you ever read I Am Legend? If you like monster myths blended with hard science, you might enjoy it. (The Will Smith movie doesn't count.)

  4. I can't wait to read this! I think Westerfeld is one of my new favorite authors, even if I've only read 3 of his books so far. As soon as I'm done with all my challenges, I'm going to devour the rest of his books!

  5. Looks like a good one, Nymeth. I love how that cover on the right is the same as the Bible Illuminated, lol! I've been thinking of reading a Westerfeld book for some time, this might be a good place to start.

  6. Sweet!! A new vampire book!! I have Uglies on my night stand. Hope to get to it in the next few weeks.

    Nice review...as always!

  7. Great review, Nymeth!
    Ah... I think I know where's that sparkling joke comes from, hehe.

    Now you've made me want to read this book! Have to look out for it. ;)

  8. Nice! Gotta check this one out. I can just see people using this as an abstinence book now :p Don't have sex or you'll turn into a vampire!! lol...This sounds so so good! I do hate it when books are wrapped up too quickly, but it sounds like the rest of this one makes up for it. I can't wait to read more Westerfeld. After Ass Hat-Magic Spider I've been dying for more.

    And damn! No sparkling?!

  9. Em: I really want to read the Uglies series too.

    Mari, thanks for your link!

    Loren Eaton: I haven't, but it's on my list. And yep, I've heard that the movie is a travesty.

    Amanda: It's soon for me to tell after just one book, but I can definitely sense some favourite potential for me too.

    Amy: I hadn't noticed, but you're right! I hope you enjoy Westerfeld :)

    Stephanie, this is right up your alley!

    Melody: I couldn't help myself :P

    Chris: lol! And you know, the parasite can also be transmitted via saliva, so no kissing either. On the other hand, I suspect that the way sexuality is deal with in the book will make abstinence advocates want to stay well away from it :P And I was disappointed about the lack of sparkling :(

  10. I think Scott Westerfeld's books have one quality: unputdownable. I found Uglies very addictive too. I will haev to look out for this book.

  11. Scott Westerfeld is on my list of authors I MUST read soon. This sounds great!

  12. Great review. I'm in the Westerfeld mini-challenge, but I "have" to read Uglies and Pretties because my niece insists! After that, I think I'll this one to my list.

    Now I'm really looking forward to reading his books.

  13. crazy! maybe someday...

  14. I'm so glad you liked this book! I love when fantasy novels are so well thought out that they feel plausible, and this is the best example of that I can think of. (Also, yay biology!) :) However, I'd warn against getting too pumped about the sequel - it's very different in tone and plot, and in my opinion doesn't hold a candle to the awesomeness that is Peeps.

  15. One to read! Thanks for the review ;0)

  16. LOL! Sparkling!

    Now I'm really curious to read the book. I have a couple of friends who really didn't enjoy it, so I've been avoiding it so far... but the fact that everything is backed up with actual science has me intrigued. Thanks for the awesome review. :)

  17. Awesmome review!

    I just started diving into all-things-Westerfield.

    I pretty much scarfed down Uglies, and I'm nearing the end of Pretties.

    His worlds feel so REAL.

    Really looking forward to checking out Peeps. <3

  18. An original vampire story? Awesome! I'll have to check this one out. Thanks for the review.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  19. This sounds amazing, it's going on my list!

  20. I've read Uglies and I'd really love to read more by this author eventually! He's an amazing writer.

  21. I agree with you 100%. I had a blast with this book, but the ending didn't really work for me, either. Still, it was awesome.

    I've had THE LAST DAYS on my library list for ages and ages now. I really ought to take the plunge and actually read it.

  22. I plan to read this as soon as I finish the series I have on the go by him! It looks good. :)

  23. This sounds really cool. I just read a vampire story where one of the sleuths hypothesized that vampirism had an organic cause, but they didn't go into it much. I'm really curious to read a book where that's the focus of the story.

  24. I love vampire stories and really admire writers who can bring something new to the genre! This sounds very cool although and when I get to I'll have to remember to read it in the daylight hours :)

  25. No sparkly vampires? So what's the point then? ;)

    Seriously, I've been meaning to read some Westerfeld for ages, and your twitter tweets convinced me to put a reserve on this one at the library, a choice only proved right by your review. Really looking forward to this one now. :D

  26. Oh, no! Not another one to add to my list! I'd managed to resist so far, but now it's all over...

  27. Violet: That they do!

    Nicole, I hope you enjoy his books :)

    Beth: I've heard wonders about the Uglies series too. The mini-challenge is so tempting.

    Care: good crazy :D

    Fyrefly: That's such a shame :/ Ah well, at least I won't go into it with crazy expectations :P

    Lynda, you're welcome!

    Court: :D I hope you do enjoy it! I don't think I've come across any negative reviews yet. And the sience is just awesome.

    Nicole Marie: Thanks! They do feel real :)

    Anna: It can be hard to make them original, but he managed!

    Alexa, I hope you enjoy it!

    Ladytink, he really is.

    Memory: Yeah, it was too bad about the ending. But still, what a great book!

    Kailana: And I have to read the Uglies series after the sequel to this!

    Jeane: That sounds like a cool story too, actually.

    Iliana: reading in the daytime is a good idea, yes :P

    Bart: I wondered too ;) I really look forward to your thoughts on it.

    Darla: lol, I sympathize :P

  28. I've heard so much about this author lately. I really need to pick up one of his novels and give it a try. Great review as usual.

  29. Haha sparkling! I have this on my shelf and I love his Uglies series. I also have the first in the Midnighters series. Ah so many books to read...

  30. Thank you oodles and gobs for this review. I'd been wanting to read this, but heard a few negative reviews. Ugh about the ending though.

  31. Hello Book Twin! That "sparkling" thing made me laugh a lot!

    Gee, I think I'll have fun reading this too! I like fantastic stories that make sense (hmmm, I think I just confused myself there). And vampires! Give me vampires any time!

    Still, you gotta read the Uglies series. And Midnighters too :P

  32. This one sounds like my type of book. Thanks for the review!

  33. this sounds so good, great review!
    in this genre its good when the author explains things so it makes sense. It seems more believable that way.

  34. Oh man, I MUST get my hands on this one! Better yet, I must get this one for Rich (and then I can, of course, borrow it)...this is so up another of his fascination alleys. At least, the science part, but I know he'd love reading this book. Parasites and the way they can affect other species behavior through the things they do to their hosts' brains is definitely something that he's obsessed with. In fact, that Robert Sapolsky essay (Bugs in the Brain, I think it was called) that he had me read just last month was about this very thing. So cool...yes, I must have this book! Thanks, Nymeth!!!!

  35. Dar, hope you enjoy Westerfeld!

    Lenore: I know...one of my shelves is going to fall on me and crush me someday :P

    J. Kaye: It was too bad, but ultimately it didn't take away fron the book that much, mostly because the rest of it was so great. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Lightheaded: Indeed I gotta...I never ignore my book twin's recommendations :D

    Michelle, sorry it didn't work for you!

    Alice, you're welcome :) I hope you enjoy it.

    Naida: Yes, I like it a lot too.

    Debi: You and Rich are going to love this, then :D And I want to read Bugs in the Brain even more now. Actually, I loved the parasite interludes on this book so much that now I want to read a whole book on the topic...if you or Rich have any recommendations I'd very much appreciate them!

  36. I'm enjoying the Uglies series so much and I was planning on reading this one too... but it just struck me as strange that I'm more intrigued with the Parasite Positive version than the Peeps one. Weird that the same book with a different name/cover can have that much of an effect. lol
    Great review as always :)

  37. Excellent I picjed both of them up on a whim a little while ago and am really looking forward to reading them after I finish the Uglies series. I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope you do read the companion book.

  38. Okay, I read and reviewed this one. I didn't really get the same feeling that it would be a cliffhanger, but I think that's because I was reading so fast for the read-a-thon. The ending was disappointing though, but for different reasons. I loved all those interludes though. They really show how this vampire parasite could be plausible!

  39. I've recently read both and you'll really like The Last Days. It also has fancy things going on with the chapters(read peeps!). All in all it's a good book.


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