Peeps (Peeps 1) by Scott Westerfeld
(Original name: Parasite Positive)
Published by Penguin (Later by Razorbill)
3.5 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback – bought in the states, cannot find it available new in the UK, pre-loved can be found here
edit: found in the uk as parasite positive here
Following the growing interest in Westerfeld’s Uglies Quartet, I imagine there will be great interest in his other works. Coming from the UK the only series available for a long time was the leviathan series (or at least the only ones I could find) which didn’t really appeal to me, but on holiday in the states I saw Peeps – and had to pick it up, I mean a Westerfeld book on vampires? It’s just got to be done hasn’t it!
Peeps is about Cal, a delightful southern boy, who came to the city to go to university, and who lost his virginity to a girl he met in a bar. But losing his virginity was the beginning. The girl, Morgan was a peep – a parasite positive, and she infected Cal. The parasite turns the host (the human) into a blood thirsty, crazy, vampire type-thing. But Cal was lucky, he’s just a carrier, which means he doesn’t get the full on crazy that the peeps do, but gets the strength and speed, and handy night vision. His job now is to work for an old, secret organization and track down other peeps, starting with his ex girl friends that he unknowingly infected, and then Morgan. The only issue with finding Morgan? He can’t remember her surname, where she lives, or even where they met. On his search he meets Lacey, a pretty, smart, and human, Lacey falls right into the middle of the peeps infestation and it’s up to Cal to get her out. Throw in some red eyed cats and some deep dwelling nastiness and you’ve got a rocking story on your hands. Every other chapter within the book is a non-plot related chapter (all the even numbered ones) giving the reader some rather gruesome, horrifying and generally grim information on various parasites that live within us, can live within us, or will just kill us trying to live in us.
What I loved about Peeps was the clever take on vampires, the parasite and their dislike for things they once loved (hence the cross myth), and Cal was a great lead, unassuming, quite innocent still and fairly honest in wanting to do well. He’s far too trusting though and there are points where you want to smack him for not questioning things. Lacey is a great balance for him, she asks things he never would have thought of, and doesn’t get pushed to the back ground because she’s a girl, or a human for that matter. The story was a little predictable, I could see where it was going and wasn’t overly surprised when it got there, that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, it was, but there was little surprise, even the big ‘twist’ at the end was kind of ‘me’.
I think the biggest problem the book faces it the disjoined nature, I’m a total science geek but the alternate chapters about parasites broke the story up to much, I wanted to know about Cal and Lacey, yet here I was reading about a parasitic wasp that kills mealworms or some such. I can see what Westerfeld was trying to do with the science, but it just felt like padding, and without it the book would have been a short story.
It lacked the punch of Uglies, the characters were nice, but not overly memorable (I only finished yesterday, yet had to look Cal’s name up – I thought he was called Gene?!) and the story didn’t have anything special about it, yes the vampire take was new but it could have been done so much better, Westerfeld has shown his story weaving talents in his other works, he just didn’t seem to apply them here.