Overclocked On Caffeine v.1.1 2009-10-23 07:15:00

Hideaki Sena – Parasite Eve

320 pages

I want to be your parasite god, so I can show you what you really are

Okay, time to make everyone really paranoid for a second. In an average day, out of all the actions you take, how many can you say for certain are actually yours? That sudden urge to get something to eat, to go into a shop, to call someone. Are you entirely sure it’s all you? Can you say with absolute certainty that everything you say and do is all your own decision? Or is there something urging you to take certain decisions on occasion? A little voice, a tug, an instinct making you think that this idea would be better?

Are you sure that you are really you?

If you’re familiar with Parasite Eve, it’ll more than likely be with the PS1 game series. Released in 1998, it was described as the first ‘survival horror RPG’, and while fun, it was a seriously flawed game. I’ve actually been playing it myself recently, and finding myself getting frustrated with the awkward pre-rendered environments, a kink that would be worked out in its spiritual successor, Vagrant Story. But this is a review of the original book, not the games, so let’s forget about them for a moment.

If you’ve played the first game, you’ll already have some idea of how it all begins. The story focusses on Toshiaki Nagashima, a scientist working in the field of biological research. After his wife is rendered braindead in a car accident, Toshiaki arranges for her organs to be donated. However, he feels compelled to harvest some of her liver cells for experimentation. However, it’s soon revealed that the accident was no accident, and what caused it is looking to expand its empire.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that the central concept is a goofy one – “Oh noes, my cells are evil and have turned against me” is, at first glance, kinda dumb. But think about it: an unseen enemy, forcing you to do its bidding and you won’t be aware of it until it’s too late? terrifying if done right. And here, a few translation flubs aside, it’s done remarkably so. The first half is very dry. The writer, Hideaki Sena, has a background in medicine, and it shows, large swathes of text being used to discuss medical procedures or experiments in mind-numbing detail. It’s medical porn, plain and simple. More than once you’ll find your eyes sliding down the page as the steps of an experiment are run through in depth. It’s authentic, sure, but doesn’t make for the most exciting reading. Once the primary villain makes Her presence felt, things start getting much better, with the final third being a desperate race to stop Eve, as she has now named herself, from evolving to the next stage. Again, there’s a tendency to go indepth into the the genetics and biology, when you want the writer to concentrate on the big gloopy superbeing that can set people on fire, but when it does, it’s worth it.

If you’re a fan of the games, you’ll probably be wondering where all the hideously mutated monsters are. Well, bad news is, there aren’t any. This is closer to the Ring/u school of horror – slowly building up til it drops everything on the reader in one big clusterfuck of fire and mutilation. It’s hard going at times, and the translation has a number of glaring flaws – upon hearing his wife has been in an accident, Toshiaki groans like he’s been asked to do the dishes, for example, and the onomatopoeia chosen for Eve’s movements is the none-more-chilling sound ‘flap’. Know fear and despair. But still, it’s well worth a read, especially if you’re familiar with the games. Finding out exactly what that ‘incident’ in Japan was all about adds a few things to the original, even if it does introduce a plothole to the narrative. Apparently the second printings of the bookfix a lot of the errors, so a first edition, while a nice thing to have, may not be the best thing to get. Either way, worth a look for the curious and the fans.

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