Hey, Scott Westerfield, way to hide the vegetables underneath all the cheese and potatoes!
This is a really fun and funny read, and I understand why it is so popular with its audience.
But underneath the humor and the suspense, Mr. Westerfield has injected a healthy dose of science. There is plenty of biology here that is way more palatable in this form than in any actual biology textbook that I have ever read, and might even motivate the young reader to explore other sources on his or her own.
We learn about various forms of parasites including their host relationships, their breeding and feeding habits, habitats, evolution and genetics. It is fascinating stuff really. At the end of the book, he includes a chapter to summarize all we have learned about worms, wasps and other creatures who make their homes in the human body.
"Let us recap. Parasites are bad. They suck your blood out of the lining of your stomach. They grow into two-foot-long snakes and roost in the skin of your leg. They infect your cat and then jump up your nose to live in cysts inside your brain . . . They incense your immune system, causing it to destroy your eyeballs. They take terrible advantage of snails and birds and ants and monkeys and cows, stealing their bodies and their food and their evolutionary futures. They almost starved twenty million people in Africa to death. . . .
"That's bad. But . . .
"Parasites are also good. They have bred howler monkeys to live in peace with one another. . . . Louse genes help track the history of the human species. They prevent cows from overgrazing grasslands into wind blown deserts. . . Which is all quite good really."
He even provides a humorous but useful Afterword cluing us in on how to avoid contracting parasites: be sure to sing Happy Birthday while washing your hands, and cooking tips -- "If your burger oozes red, send it back, them worms ain't dead."
But make no mistake. This book is excellent just as entertainment. There is an actual story, and it is a good one, and I loved the characters.
I will definitely be searching out more Scott Westerfield.