Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld
First, forget the yellow marshmallowy creations; those aren’t the Peeps we’re talking about. Westerfeld’s peeps are parasite-positives: they’re carrying an infection that makes them long-lived, inhumanly strong, violent, light-avoidant, and, um, hungry for raw meat. Like rabies, this infection makes the hosts inclined to bite. In short, we’re talking about vampires. In Manhattan.
Cal Thompson doesn’t like to use the V-word. He works for New York’s Night Watch, a shadowy organization charged with tracking and capturing peeps before they can infect anyone else. Like most of the Night Watch operatives, Cal is a carrier; he’s got the disease but none of its scarier symptoms. At the opening of Peeps, he’s tracking down the feral ex-girlfriends that he unknowingly infected.
That’s the fictional setup of this fast-paced young adult sci-fi thriller, but what makes it memorable is the science. Beyond the sarcastic dialogue and chase scenes through abandoned warehouses and subway tunnels, there’s some great, funny science writing going on here: a crash course in plagues, parasites, hosts, and vectors. Westerfeld makes his case for vampirism as STD by shoring it up with the gruesome truth. Every other chapter introduces some real-life parasite, from toxoplasm to the guinea worm, proving that the truth is both stranger and much more gross than fiction.
You can tell that Westerfeld had a lot of fun writing this.
Check the WRL catalog for Peeps