Review of Parasites by Matthew Samuels

Parasites is a YA science fiction, solarpunk exploration novel that takes place at the end of the universe, just as it slowly starts to contract in the ‘big crunch’. On the planet Lyra, humans evolved late, on a resource-poor world, in a resource-poor solar system. The Lyrans master space flight, only to discover that their nearest worlds have also been stripped of resources. The population begins to decline, until a scientist discovers a technology allowing people and vehicles to travel through ‘thinnings’ – patches of space linking universes.
Kael and Alessia are explorers, charting where the thinnings go and bringing valuable resources back to Lyra, trying desperately to extend the lifespan of their home world. Alessia’s father, Ben, set out two years ago to uncover another species’ reference to a ‘solution’ to the big crunch problem – but never returned. A chance discovery leads Kael and Alessia to a clue, prompting another expedition to see if they can avoid the mistakes of the past and help to unravel the mystery.
Kael, Alessia and their gruff bodyguard Basteel retrace Ben’s steps, seeking closure for Alessia, a solution for Lyra and together begin a voyage through wild, weird and wonderful planets

I would like to extend my thanks first and foremost to Matthew Samuels for sending me a copy of Parasites for review, I truly appreciate the paperback copy and lovely accompanying note. Whilst I’ve certainly watched plenty of films around the concept of survival with a dying sun, this is the first book I’ve read and been introduced to a whole new genre in the term of Solar Punk. My thoughts were very much in a cinematic place which was added to by the use of 3rd person present tense which gave an almost screenplay feel to it.

Parasites mixes both character and story well, with a descriptive and captivating writing style that had me turning far more pages that I thought I had, so engrossed had I become when our characters began on their journey. The book is nicely spaced out sectioning each new journey with a little cliffhanger lead in to the new location. These locations really make the story, such imagination and creativity goes into each world, taking a nice amount of time to take into account the local fauna and flora, I particularly enjoyed the Crystal Planet and the idea behind it’s eco-system was great. The science throughout the book was well thought out and reasoned, from the car the travellers make their journey in, yes car – no cliched space travel here, to the layout of the space stations they pass through. Everything has a place and a purpose whose explanation is never bogged down with too much tech speak. I really enjoyed the first space station they reached and felt that the use of the symbiotic relationship between the plants and the travellers pretty genius. The one world I struggled with sadly was Carthusian, It’s again an amazing idea but there was just so much going on that it probably could do with it’s own origin story spin off. Hundreds of years of warring factions with religious and ideological backstory needed more than the few pages it was given and I did struggle to get my head round it all. It reminded me of the film The Cube with the way it moved which was nice as I really love that film.

Character wise we have a condensed cast, I enjoyed Kael and Alessia’s dynamic and it was actually a nice touch to not have them in a relationship, they work with perfect synchronicity until an element of chaos is introduced which needs time to adjust to. That adjustment is done thoughtfully and takes into account both sides well. I have to love Basteel though, he’s unshakeable and takes on each task with good humour and dedication, a real father figure of the piece I instantly warmed to him. I think I need to give the car a shout out as a character too, never failing and reliable and I’m glad it gets treated with the highest regard.

I found the ending a bit existential, but then why not given the subject matter. By that point it’s clear that the characters have run out of steam and the writing reflects that. I think on reflection it is an uplifting round off because it celebrates peoples limitations and that our best effort is good enough.

4*

 

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