Thursday, May 11, 2006

Parasite Eve, by Hideaki Sena

(1995, 2005: translated by Tyran Grillo)

From the inside flap:

“Filled with scientific acuity and existential challenges in the tradition of Ghost In The Shell and Frankenstein, this medical fantasmagoria is a disorienting look into consciousness and will have you questioning the future of human evolution. New life begins at the cellular level, but when that cell contains restless mitochondria, it will aspire to be much more than just a speck in a petri dish. Parasite Eve was the basis of the hugely popular video game of the same name and has been cinematized in Japan, where the novel’s smashing success helped set off a horror boom that has only been intensifying since.

“When Dr. Nagashima loses his wife in a mysterious car crash, he is overwhelmed with grief but also an eerie sense of purpose; he becomes obsessed with the idea that he must reincarnate his dead wife. Her donated kidney is transplanted into a young girl with a debilitating disorder, but the doctor also feels compelled to keep a small sample of her liver in his laboratory. When these cells start mutating rapidly, a consciousness bent on determining its own fate awakes from eonic sleep.”


Fans of Dean Koontz and Koji Suzuki should check this out. Parasite Eve, which mixes elements of “hard” (fact-heavy) science fiction, emotional anguish and horrific goopiness, is an addictive read.

Sena’s medical background is evident in the crisp, restrained prose that makes up the first two-thirds of the novel, as well as the detailed medical explanations that occasionally sidetrack the plot. Still, Sena manages to keep the reader emotionally involved with conflicted, mostly well-meaning, characters who just can’t seem to get their lives back in order. The final third is an orgy of Lovecraftian splatter, an over-the-top release from the bursting-at-the-seams tension of the first two-thirds.

Another welcome, genre-true (as in effective and envelope-pushing) entry for bookstore horror shelves, this. Well worth your time.

A made-for-television film, based on the novel, was broadcast in Japan in 1997.

Hiroshi Mikami played Toshiaki Nagashima. Riona Hazuki played Kiyomi Nagashima. Tomoko Nakajima played Sawaka Asakura. Ayako Omura played Mariko Anzai.

Masayuki Ochiai directed, from a script by Ryôichi Kimizuka.

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