It was coincidental that I read these two books in succession, but they turned out to make a good paired reading as fantasies of ecology which deal with how altered humans fit into a changing environment.

Peeps, which will be available in August, is one of the more well-worked out rationalized vampire books I've read. (My other favorites in the genre are George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream and Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling with the Dead.)

Nineteen-year-old Cal comes to New York City from Texas, has a one-night stand with a gothy-looking woman, develops superhuman strength, agility, and the ability to see in the dark... and then finds, to his horror, that all the women he has sex with after that turn into insane cannibals. The top-secret city agency that deals with problems like this contacts him and explains that he's a peep, or "parasite-positive." Vampirism, you see, is caused by a parasite which is transmitted sexually or even through kissing, and while a few lucky people make a good adjustment to it, most go nuts, hate everything they used to love, and end up living in sewers and sucking rat blood. Cal is recruited into the agency and sent to track down his vampirized exes... and the woman who gave the parasite to him.

His narrative is interspersed with absolutely disgusting accounts of real-life parasites, some of which grossed me out so much that I had to skim them. There is, however, a point to those interludes, and if you can read even enough of them to get the gist of how those real parasites work, it will make Peeps that much more rich and compelling. Though Cal's parasite tries to spread itself by making him constantly horny but he's unable to so much as kiss for fear of infecting his partner, this is is a notably non-angsty vampire book. Though I didn't find the characters quite as compelling as I did in Midnighters, Peeps isn't so much about Cal, his frustratingly attractive female ally, and a whole bunch of peeps as it is about the natural world, how humans relate to it, and the question of how much of our behavior, thoughts, and personality is some intangible "us," and how much is dictated by biological processes... or even the occasional parasite. Peeps has a light, brisk, casual tone and is often quite funny, but it's also got quite a lot to say-- little of which is trite or obvious, and none of which is preachy.

Ruth Park is the author of one of my all-time favorite timeslip novels, Playing Beatie Bow, in which an Australian girl is transported back to Victorian times. It's wonderful, and none of her other books that I've read have lived up to it. My Sister Sif is about fourteen-year-old Erika and her wispy older sister Sif, who are the product of a marriage between an Australian man and a Polynesian woman. When their father dies, they are sent away from their island paradise to Australia, where Sif is made unhealthy and miserable by the pressures of modern life. So they return to the island, where it turns out that they're merpeople (sort of-- the exact nature of the merfolk is Park's most original invention) and would live happily ever after, except that the oceans are polluted and the saintly whales and loving dolphins are dying and the merpeople are going to have to flee to some corner of the world where the chemicals won't kill them. Erika isn't merperson enough to survive the journey, but Sif is torn for a different reason: she's in love with a perfectly wonderful human man, Henry.

I had two problems with this book, but in a sense they're the same problem: the utterly marvelous Henry and the too-good-for-this-cruel-world Sif annoyed the hell out me, as did the wise, peaceful, spiritual whales and dolphins; and though I agree that pollution and environmental destruction are bad, I still felt preached at.

In Park's world-view, nature is good and benevolent and peaceful, children are instinctively good and wise and unselfish until society teaches them to be selfish and cruel, and ecosystems just exist until humans start destroying them. In Westerfeld's, nature can be both amazing and horrifying (frequently at the same time), humans are part of the ecosystem, those ecosytems have incredibly complex means of self-regulating that may be destroyed by human interference-- including the well-intentioned kind-- and if you look closely at any ecology, you will find that it's basically things eating each other, often in really icky ways. Having grown up in a rural part of India, I lean more toward Westerfeld's view on nature. But apart from that, Westerfeld also wrote the better book.
It was coincidental that I read these two books in succession, but they turned out to make a good paired reading as fantasies of ecology which deal with how altered humans fit into a changing environment.

Peeps, which will be available in August, is one of the more well-worked out rationalized vampire books I've read. (My other favorites in the genre are George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream and Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling with the Dead.)

Nineteen-year-old Cal comes to New York City from Texas, has a one-night stand with a gothy-looking woman, develops superhuman strength, agility, and the ability to see in the dark... and then finds, to his horror, that all the women he has sex with after that turn into insane cannibals. The top-secret city agency that deals with problems like this contacts him and explains that he's a peep, or "parasite-positive." Vampirism, you see, is caused by a parasite which is transmitted sexually or even through kissing, and while a few lucky people make a good adjustment to it, most go nuts, hate everything they used to love, and end up living in sewers and sucking rat blood. Cal is recruited into the agency and sent to track down his vampirized exes... and the woman who gave the parasite to him.

His narrative is interspersed with absolutely disgusting accounts of real-life parasites, some of which grossed me out so much that I had to skim them. There is, however, a point to those interludes, and if you can read even enough of them to get the gist of how those real parasites work, it will make Peeps that much more rich and compelling. Though Cal's parasite tries to spread itself by making him constantly horny but he's unable to so much as kiss for fear of infecting his partner, this is is a notably non-angsty vampire book. Though I didn't find the characters quite as compelling as I did in Midnighters, Peeps isn't so much about Cal, his frustratingly attractive female ally, and a whole bunch of peeps as it is about the natural world, how humans relate to it, and the question of how much of our behavior, thoughts, and personality is some intangible "us," and how much is dictated by biological processes... or even the occasional parasite. Peeps has a light, brisk, casual tone and is often quite funny, but it's also got quite a lot to say-- little of which is trite or obvious, and none of which is preachy.

Ruth Park is the author of one of my all-time favorite timeslip novels, Playing Beatie Bow, in which an Australian girl is transported back to Victorian times. It's wonderful, and none of her other books that I've read have lived up to it. My Sister Sif is about fourteen-year-old Erika and her wispy older sister Sif, who are the product of a marriage between an Australian man and a Polynesian woman. When their father dies, they are sent away from their island paradise to Australia, where Sif is made unhealthy and miserable by the pressures of modern life. So they return to the island, where it turns out that they're merpeople (sort of-- the exact nature of the merfolk is Park's most original invention) and would live happily ever after, except that the oceans are polluted and the saintly whales and loving dolphins are dying and the merpeople are going to have to flee to some corner of the world where the chemicals won't kill them. Erika isn't merperson enough to survive the journey, but Sif is torn for a different reason: she's in love with a perfectly wonderful human man, Henry.

I had two problems with this book, but in a sense they're the same problem: the utterly marvelous Henry and the too-good-for-this-cruel-world Sif annoyed the hell out me, as did the wise, peaceful, spiritual whales and dolphins; and though I agree that pollution and environmental destruction are bad, I still felt preached at.

In Park's world-view, nature is good and benevolent and peaceful, children are instinctively good and wise and unselfish until society teaches them to be selfish and cruel, and ecosystems just exist until humans start destroying them. In Westerfeld's, nature can be both amazing and horrifying (frequently at the same time), humans are part of the ecosystem, those ecosytems have incredibly complex means of self-regulating that may be destroyed by human interference-- including the well-intentioned kind-- and if you look closely at any ecology, you will find that it's basically things eating each other, often in really icky ways. Having grown up in a rural India, I lean more toward Westerfeld's view on nature. But apart from that, Westerfeld also wrote the better book.
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