Peeps -- Scott Westerfeld
Peeps is an EXCELLENT action/adventure/sci-fi/romance/vampire novel. EXCELLENT. It's original and smart and funny and creepy with an occasionally break-neck pace -- I kept realizing I was skimming, desperate to know what would happen next (I don't deal well with suspense), and I had to force myself to back up and slow down.
Nineteen-year-old Cal is a member of the Night Watch. For the last year, he has been tracking down and capturing all of the women that he unknowingly infected with a parasite. Parasite positives (or peeps) have an aversion to sunlight. They are super-strong and have excellent reflexes. They bond with rats. They crave blood.
"But wait!" you say. "How could Cal infect those women AND be a member of Night Watch? Shouldn't he be all bloodthirsty and violent?"
Simmer down, young pups. It turns out that Cal is only a carrier -- he has the parasite, yes, but he still has self-control. He has to fight off incredibly strong urges -- the parasite is sexually transmitted, and it WANTS to be spread -- but for the most part, he has all of the perks of vampirism without the lame running-from-people-with-torches-and-pitchforks part. Except, of course, that he can't kiss anyone for the rest of his (very long) life. Another major difference from traditional vampire stories -- peeps aren't dead:
Optimum virulence is why most deaths from parasites are long and lingering--in the case of a carrier like me, the time it takes to die happens to be longer than a normal human life span. That's the way the older peep hunters talk about it: not so much immortality as a centuries-long downward spiral. Maybe that's why they use the word undead.
The book has a great format. All of the odd-numbered chapters are story related, and all of the even-numbered ones give the run-down on a different parasite. (Happily, there is a bibliography. I'll be tracking down Parasite Rex very soon.)