Parasite Eve Paperback – May 20 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Japanese pharmacologist Sena's biochemical horror novel, which won the first Japan Horror Novel Award, has lost something in translation. Notwithstanding the many academic footnotes, the author fails to suspend disbelief in the book's outlandish premise;that mitochondria, subcellular organelles, have secretly evolved and developed an intelligence superior to Homo sapiens. Alternating between past and present, the story opens with a car crash that imperils the life of Kiyomi, the wife of scientist Toshiaki Nagashima; that "accident" sets in motion the mitochondria's elaborate scheme involving a parasitic kidney transplant to inherit the planet. The plot reaches almost farcical levels when the cell component manipulates organic matter to form podlike human simulacra, complete with fake genitalia. Readers expecting the thrills or suspense of Curt Siodmak's classic Donovan's Brain or even Michael Crichton's Prey will come away disappointed. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Comes just in time for summer getaway reading…
Oozes with enough violence and sexual perversity to make Caligula blush.”
“Hideaki Sena, a pharmacologist, microbiologist and now pop icon, knows all too well how to combine the scientifically plausible with the psychologically unimaginable… Have fun with it, by all means, but don’t keep it on the bedside table.”
—Susan Salter Reynolds, L.A. Times
“Parasite Eve combines Michael Crichton’s scientific cutting-edge plausibility with David Cronenberg’s abject flesh/sex horror. Throw in Frankenstein and The Blob, synthesize, and enjoy.”
“Sena’s work in pharmacology and microbiology lends this Japanese import a sense of discovery and fear that resonates when new science is not fully understood. SF and horror fans who liked Suzuki Koji’s Ring…will find Parasite Eve a chilling tale on a cellular level; recommended.”
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is one horror novel that really gets under your skin, and the final third of the novel is filled with many graphic, scary moments. To put it one way, imagine if Dean Koontz and Michael Crichton decided to team up and write a book together.
Sena's background in Pharmacology is evident here--the scientific jargon is at times overwhelming (even to me, and I have a biology degree!). This fact will turn off some readers. As to the complaint that the book is too gruesome--come on! Are we forgetting about Clive Barker's early stories/novels and the splatterpunk craze?
If anything, PARASITE EVE's release in English is a welcome step into bringing over more Japanese literature to America, whether it is horror, science-fiction, or contemporary. It just seems appropriate since many American writers are translated into Japanese, but not vice-versa.
I enjoyed PARASITE EVE. It's a different kind of horror story, and kudos to Vertical for bringing it to these shores.
Imagine, if you will, a mitochondrion that goes wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
Toshiaki Nagashima has a job that he loves, as a research associate at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and a wife, Kiyomi, that he adores. Life is very very good. Until he receives the phone call telling him that his wife has been involved in a traffic accident, having run into a tree, and is feared to be brain dead. Kiyomi is on the list of kidney donors, and immediately matches are sought for her kidneys, so that the donees can be put on standby, prepared for transplant. One of these is a 14 year old girl, Mariko Anzai. Mariko had been a transplant recipient just a few months before, having received a kidney from her father. But it had not worked out, and she is back on the list. When the call arrives about the new transplant, Mariko doesn't tell her father about it, as if she doesn't wish to go through another transplant. But why?
All the tests come back that Kiyomi is indeed brain dead, as her husband and her parents wait for news. Although she has signed up to be a donor, it is still required to gain the consent of the next of kin, which is Toshiaki. The grief-stricken man, consumed by an overwhelming heat which makes his head spin, consents, but with one stipulation - in exchange for giving up Kiyomi's kidneys, he wants her liver, to use for a primary culture. The doctor warily agrees.
Dr. Takashi Yoshizumi is notified by the transplant coordinator, Odagiri, of the donor at the university hospital. He is the surgeon that performed Mariko's other transplant, the one that failed. He is determined that this one will be successful, as he begins his preparations. This type of transplant is trickier than one from a live donor - Japan has an extremely high dialysis patient-to-transplant ratio as compared to Europe and America, because of public unease in regarding brain death as actual death. They are operating on a tricky timeline now - they must wait for the patient to suffer actual heart failure, and then extract the organs as quickly as possible to send them to where they need to go. They are being split, one going to Mariko, one to someone else. And once Kiyomi dies, that is just what happens, with her husband receiving her liver. He slices it up, and breaks it down to its constituent cells, placing them in test tubes which he labels "Eve" - because his wife's birthday is on Christmas Eve.
Mariko has issues which neither Dr. Yoshizumi nor her father understand. It's almost as if she doesn't want the transplant, but why would that be? When the doctor removes the kidneys from Kiyomi, he too feels a strange heat that he cannot explain. But he continues, and transplants one into Mariko, determined that this one will not fail. Meanwhile, Toshiaki has begun experimenting on the Eve cells, becoming obsessed with them, as if through them, his wife is still alive. Maybe it's just a way to comfort himself over her death - or maybe there's more to it than he realizes. It seems that there is an entity, something as old as life itself, something in the mitochondria - something that IS the mitochonria - which is determined to have its way and become the ascendant life form on the planet. Nothing is coincidental, it has all been fiendishly coordinated and arranged and set into motion by . . . HER. Who is she, what does she want, and what will she do to get it? And what's this about a child?
Parasite Eve is a chilling picture of good science gone wrong, mixed with the best of Japanese what if science fiction and horror. It begins slowly, normally, setting the stage for what will be, and an elaborate stage it is as we learn more about cellular structure and growth than is usually found in a work of fiction. The characters emerge from this warm amoeba soup, taking shape and form before our very eyes - Toshiaki, the tortured doctor/lover whose life has come to a screeching halt with the death of his beloved Kiyomi and who is attempting to resurrect her after a fashion, through the maintaining of her cells, but whose idea is that truly?; Mariko, the young girl whose previous transplant failed because she stopped taking her anti-rejection medicine, for reasons known only to herself, and who is suffering horrible nightmares, convinced that someone or something is after her, and that there is no one that can or will protect her; Dr. Yoshizumi, the brilliant transplant physician, who is determined that this transplant shall not fail; Sachiko Asakura, a second year master's student whom Toshiaki is mentoring, who becomes suspicious of the work he is doing with the strange cells, worrying about his obsession with them; and HER, the nameless form which is the driving force behind everything that is happening, with the intent of taking over the world, using mitochondria.
I admit to not having a detailed science background, and to having a lot of the scientific explanations go over my head, but even so, I understood enough to be interested and amazed at what goes on in the story. Hideaki Sena lulls us into a false sense of security with the slow start, I think, although he tugs at our minds now and then with hints of what is to come, as if to say dont be deluded entirely, pay attention, there may be a quiz later. And when the horror begins to unfold, you can just imagine that you are watching a Japanese horror film in its chilling execution. By that point, you will find yourself turning the pages in an effort to get to the heart of the matter. Parasite Eve is a very interesting read. Although categorized for Young Adult, I see it as being enjoyable by adults as well. I certainly did. It was the inspiration for two video games, with a third one being in the works that is supposedly to be released only for PSP. There are a lot of interesting concepts in this book, about cells as well as the origins of the species. I bet you won't look at mitrochondria the same way again.
Yes, this is pretty icky in spots, and it has the pacing that is usual in translations of Japanese novels. That is, it appears slightly off to the western reader. But, guess what? Some of us find that very appealing in a thriller.
I found the idea of mutant mitochondria excellent (always thought that would be a good idea, and there are several other science fiction writers that have tackled that possibility very well). The writing was strong enough to make my heart break for the husband, Toshiaki Nagashima, and for Kiyomi's parents.
I didn't expect the end of this book to play out as it did, and that is always a plus for me, too. The writer kept me engaged and surprised clear to the end.