Release Date: February 3rd, 2005
Date Read: 2/8/14 to 2/24/14
Last year as college freshman, narrator Cal was infected by exotic goth Morgan with a parasite that caused following girlfriends to become vampire-like ghouls he calls parasite-positives "Peeps". A carrier without symptoms, he hunts his progeny for the centuries old bureaucratic Night Watch. But victims are showing more sanity, pretty human Lacey is pushing his buttons, and her apartment building basement houses fierce hordes of ravening rats, red-eyed cats, and monstrous worms that threaten all. Morgan has the secret to a centuries-old conspiracy and upcoming battle to save the human race.
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You know how back in the days before science when strange things happened humans would make up elaborate stories to explain it? Droughts happened because the gods were upset, a child was born blind because of the father's sins, epilepsy was obviously just someone being possessed. Now imagine that is the same thing that happened with vampires. Vampires never really existed...well they do, but instead of being some mystical creature they're just normal humans who are showing symptoms of a sickness. Welcome to the world of Peeps.
|No not those peeps|
In this book, vampirism is a result of infection from a parasite and those who are infected are referred to as parasite-positive, or, for the sake of brevity, as peeps. And this parasite is spread by the exchanging of bodily fluids. Yes, so vampirism is basically an STD.
The story revolves around Cal Thompson, a 19 year-old Texas native who, on his first night in New York City, had a one-night stand that left him with a new parasite friend. However, he's special in that he's a carrier. A carrier is someone who is infected with the parasite and gets all the cool super cool side-effects, but doesn't become a brainless bloodsucker hiding from the light. He works for the City Nightwatch, which is a secret branch of the NYC government that deals with keeping the parasite under control, and learning more about it.
As a newly infected carrier, Cal's first missions involve hunting down the girls he has unknowingly infected within the past year. The book begins with him tracking and capturing his ex-girlfriend Sarah. After successfully dealing with her, he decides to try and hunt down the woman who infected him in the first place. While doing this he teams up with Lace, a journalism students who he's forced to reveal his secret to, and discovers that his strain of the parasite is much bigger than he could have ever imagined.
Outside of the unique explanation, there were two main things that I really liked about Westerfeld's take on vampirism. The first is how he touches on having the parasite is isolating. Since the parasite wants to spread to new hosts, people infected with it are extremely, extremely horny, but on the flip side, they know that they can't act on those urges. Cal often expresses his frustration at not even being able to get close to another girl, or kiss another human being again, which makes me feel for the kid a bit.
The other was the concept of the anathema. When someone becomes infected with the parasite they begin to detest and fear the things they loved most or were exposed to a lot when they were human. This explains why people often thought that vampires were weak against crosses. Because during the last bad outbreak of the parasite, humans were in a very religious environment, constantly with crosses and religious imagery. So when those humans became peeps they would flee from the sight of crosses, not because cross itself held come magical power, but because it reminded them too much of their human life.
Finally, every even numbered chapter gives you a brief biology lesson on a different parasite. They seem a bit pointless at first, even though they are quite entertaining. But as the book continues you begin to understand why they are there. Even though we thing parasites are just complete nuisances and should be all eradicated, these even numbered chapters help you understand just how essential they are for the world and can even be helpful at times. And this takes on a deeper significance with some of the things that happen in the last third of the book.
Overall, this is a pretty cool book and you should check it out.