Peeps – Scott Westerfeld

Peeps Book CoverOn the cover: One year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying in New York City than in attending his biology classes. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has become, literally, Cal’s life.

Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the girlfriends he’s had since Morgan—and all have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. And it’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create even more of their kind. . . .

Bursting with the sharp intelligence and sly humor that are fast becoming his trademark, Scott Westerfeld’s new novel is an utterly original take on an archetype of horror.

Why I Chose It: I remember reading Peeps a few years ago. All I could remember about it was that it was an interesting take on Vampires, so I wanted to read it again to see what else is in there. Also, I love Scott Westerfeld, so of course I’m going to re-read his books!

The Review:

Okay, so this is a vampire book. Just to make that clear, yes, this is a vampire book. Lately I’ve been kind of avoiding vampire books because I’m just so sick of them. But I really like the way Westerfeld approaches the idea. He looks as vampirism as more of a disease that’s spread through bodily fluids. The reaction is caused by parasites infesting the human body. Symptoms include becoming afraid of anything you once loved, including the sun, with an unfortunate side effect of cannibalism. One cool aspect is that people can catch and spread the disease but not show symptoms, becoming a “carrier,” which is what Cal is.

I think I just like this version because it abandons most of the myths and legends (and magical) side of vampires and goes straight to the scientific, clinical aspect of it. It’s no longer cloaked in mystery, but becomes a deadly infection that a subset of the government is trying to keep from becoming public knowledge and causing chaos. I think it’s a nice, refreshing way to do something we’ve been reading so much about.

The main reason I love this book, however, is not actually the main storyline. In the book, every other chapter is all about parasites – actual, real parasites that exist today in the real world. Each chapter describes a different parasite who infests different animals, and yes, sometimes humans. And this is the part that I think Westerfeld is really skilled at – so many aspects of this book could be absolutely disgusting. Parasites are not exactly a pleasant thing to think about. Yet Westerfeld walks this fine line between disgust and fascination with extreme care. The stories of parasites are all discussed in Cal’s sarcastic tone, which kept me entertained even though the subject matter wasn’t pleasant. It was this playful tone that allowed me to laugh instead of cringe, and even though the parasites were kind of gross, I was somewhat fascinated and it kept me turning the page to keep reading.

Unfortunately, the main plot line wasn’t that interesting to me. Cal himself is a delight, and the story does have a main mystery story to keep the reader following along and wondering what might happen in the end. I don’t know if something was just missing, or if the story line was simply tainted by parasites, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I usually do from Westerfeld. Also, not gonna lie, at the very end of the book, the fine balance between fascination and disgust were finally tipped…to the ick side of things. This is obviously a personal reaction, but I was just making faces some of the things in the end. I think a book like this is really difficult, because there’s such a fine line to walk, and in the end I wasn’t happy with it.

In summary, I don’t think Westerfeld can truly do any wrong. The book was still enjoyable and was definitely filled with science and research, as most of his other books are. Unfortunately, while I absolutely love his other books, Peeps wasn’t a huge win for me. So I definitely recommend this book as an interesting read, but beware of the ick factor!

Rating: 3 / 5

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2 comments on “Peeps – Scott Westerfeld

  1. That’s definitely an interesting twist on vampires!! I still have to read his Uglies series….I’m hoping to at least start it by the end of the summer! So many books, so little time!

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