Adam's Reviews > Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
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Jan 27, 11

bookshelves: science
read count: 1

I don't know why, but I find parasites interesting. However, I wasn't exactly looking for a book on this particular subject; rather I merely stumbled upon it. When I go to the book store I typically peruse my favorite sections, one of which is science. On the shelf I came across the title "Parasite Rex"... so I picked it up "King Parasite...huh." Then I made the mistake of reading the back of the book and found out what it was about. I had to buy this book immediately!

I'm always reading, so I had to finish up a couple other books before I could start reading this one, so I waited patiently in eager anticipation. I'll usually read two or three books at a time, and when I finally got freed up, I started this book. I didn't read another book until I finished this. It is one of the most engrossing scientific books I have in my collection. Carl Zimmer is actually a phenomenal writer. I'm not a scientist, but I enjoy reading about it and it's written in a manner just about anyone should be able to understand. It's like a science report that flows, but doesn't sound overly scientific, yet it's still science!

Parasite Rex doesn't just deal with one specific parasite, like the title might suggest, rather it's a veritable tour of the parasitic world. The reader finds themselves enthralled with each creature. It really changes your perspective on the world as a whole, realizing that the major importance of sex is so that we can vary up our genetic code to better defend against such parasites. It also makes you realize that for all intents and purposes the fetuses of mammals would also be parasites as well because they force the mother to change her chemical reactions to support the fetus. Also the mother treats the fetus initially as a threat to her system. I personally found all this very fascinating and made me realize that perhaps Agent Smith in the Matrix, when he assessed the human race as a virus, probably should have identified them as a parasite.

The book is also terrifying in some regards because there are parts where it explains where parasites go wrong. Parasites are essentially programmed to thrive in specific locations in your body (or some other creatures). So a parasite that gets lodged in your brain, but it's supposed to be in your stomach could end up killing the host. Or screw up which species it attaches itself to. From what I gathered, the parasites main focus isn't to kill the host, but to feed off of the host's life, so when a parasite is in the wrong spot it executes its program, but it ends up having terrifying affects on the host.

In the end this was a phenomenal read and I can't recommend this enough. In fact I will probably read this a second time because when I read it the first time through I read it pretty quickly. One other thing this book made me not want to do is visit any location that's in the central area of the earth, such as the Amazon. Considering there have been 2,500 different parasites identified in one small location. Carl Zimmer is seriously the kind of writer we need in science to help transfer complex knowledge to the lay population.
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