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A lot scarier than the squishy candy: Peeps by Scott Westerfield

A lot scarier than the squishy candy: Peeps by Scott Westerfield published on 1 Comment on A lot scarier than the squishy candy: Peeps by Scott Westerfield

You thought Peeps were just marshmallow chicks, right? Well, clearly you haven’t read Scott Westerfield’s YA novel, Peeps, in which the titular designation refers to those people who are “parasite positive.” In Westerfield’s world, peeps are human beings infected with voracious parasites that compel their hosts to transmit said parasite through blood contact. With hopped-up, superhuman senses, long lifespan, bloodthirsty instincts, perpetual horniness and aversions to sunlight, peeps are most commonly referred to as — you guessed it — vampires.

Those in which the parasite is active are dangerous, semi-crazed individuals, but those in whom the parasite is merely latent have all the superpowers of being a host without the crazy side effects. Carriers, such as narrator Cal, hunt down and contain the crazy actual vampires. As we open our story, Cal, member of the centuries-old Night Watch, is hunting down his former girlfriends to whom he has transmitted the parasite, but his constant concupiscence side-rails him…especially when he joins up with an assertive, intuitive and tenacious college student Lace. Together they literally go underground into the dirty, smelly bowels of New York City [juicily and realistically evoked] and discover some really big, slimy secrets that are much more of a threat to humanity than a few vampires.

Westerfield writes crisply, endowing Cal with a likable dry humor that makes everything he says go down easily, even when Cal’s lecturing us about actual parasites and how they fuck up your innards. Besides a charming protagonist who wins instant sympathy, Westerfield also gives him a perfect match in the incredibly snoopy, but also cool and collected, Lace. Cal’s the brawn, and she’s the brains, but they work together well as investigators, complementing each other.

Driven by a well thought-out and scientific conception of vampirism as parasitism, Peeps moves nimbly along, solidly structured and neatly dovetailed. Craftsmanship is excellent, conclusion satisfying.  See — all you idiot writers of knock-off apocalyptic wacko vampire fiction — it IS possible to write an convincing story about vampires and the end of the world as we know it [but I feel fine!]. You just have to ground it in the realistic details.

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