Japanese Horror Book Reviews

Parasite Eve

Never in my life have I ever encountered a book that I felt more conflicted by. Parasite Eve is a Japanese techno-thriller that spawned a film adaptation and a massively popular video game series. It is about mitochondria and I have to say that it is admirable for the truly unique concept. It is an incredible example of body horror at it’s best by instilling a fear of utter helplessness to a threat that can control the very cells that make up a person’s body.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for when I started this novel. I have to give Sena props for the amount of attention and detail he put into the technical aspects of the story, his medical background is very apparent. I actually learned a thing or two about the medical profession, the study of the human body, and Japan’s mixed views on organ donation. The story was refreshing with the various twists and turns provided in the plot, which made me feel a sense of dread for the characters.

“This was it. Kiyomi realized it now. This was what her heart had reacted to. Her heart thrilled to mitochondria.”

Despite the unique idea somehow the antagonist fell a little flat with motives that to me seemed kind of lame. On some level with evolution as the theme it makes sense, but Eve’s romanatic lust for the main character was strange. It was an almost annoying reason for Eve to target these characters, making her character fall prey to cliché tropes, her main motivation being the desire to be with a man.

This book is amazing but also absolutely disgusting at the same time, and not because of the detail about the surgery or even the steady evolution of a monster. No, this book had two of some of the most uncomfortable rape scenes I had ever read in literature that deeply unsettled me, which I suppose was the intended effect but I would definitely caution anyone reading it. When I finished the book I had no idea what to think of it, and it took me a few days to give it a rating. Did I love it, hate it, was I fascinated by it, absolutely disgusted by it? All of the above. I’m glad I read the book so that I could see for myself the marvel of this novel and why it was the basis of a video game series that I grew up with, but it’s also one I wouldn’t exactly put on my list of favorites.

Title: Parasite Eve
Author: Hideaki Sena
Translator: Tyran Grillo
Publisher: Vertical
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

When Dr. Nagashima loses his wife in a mysterious car crash, he is overwhelmed with grief but also an eerie sense of purpose; he becomes obsessed with the idea that he must reincarnate his dead wife. Her donated kidney is transplanted into a young girl with a debilitating disorder, but the doctor also feels compelled to keep a small sample of her liver in his laboratory. When these cells start mutating rapidly, a consciousness bent on determining its own fate awakens from an eonic sleep.

1 Comment

  1. I think the most disturbing rape scene are always from Japanese books, in my experience. It soured my read of Paprika, which wasn’t graphic, but totally misunderstood the horrors of rape. And Norwegian Wood, which I feel like misunderstands lesbians and bisexuals, or if it is suppose to make the reader question the sanity of the character. But considering where the book was written and the time period I doubt it was anything other than the author not understanding women and such.

    I wanted to read this book, and still might. But it nice to have the heads up about the content going in. The medical aspect really seems interesting as it makes me think of Ring.
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