(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

With The Parasite, horror writer Ramsey Campbell solidified his reputation as a master and exhibited the same precise, controlled prose style found in his first novel, The Doll Who Ate His Mother: A Novel of Modern Terror (1976). The narration by Rose Tierney allows Campbell to transform Rose’s experiences into a beautiful yet terrifying confrontation with evil. Rose’s perceptions, exhibiting her increasing paranoia, are pointed, vivid, and rich in detail. Her normal, happy life gradually disintegrates, and Campbell’s description of her story leads from beauty to horror. Rose’s perceptions are stark, described in terms of color and the absence of color, taste, touch, and hearing. The rape of Rose is a metaphor for the rape of humanity as a whole, and Rose learns that Adolf Hitler, in the context of Campbell’s novel, sought psychic immortality much as did Peter Grace.

As Rose begins to realize that her own psychic powers are developing, her senses become more acute, revealing another state of being. As she begins to respond to her environment in a sick way, she wonders if she is becoming mentally ill. Campbell sees the mental states of his characters as the only reality.

This is not to say that The Parasite is devoid of what may be called cosmic horror. It becomes apparent that the parasite that inhabits Rose is a force from another dimension of thought. Such an idea is reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft, whose stories serve as the impetus for some of Campbell’s work in the short-story form. The Parasite, however, is not a Lovecraftian novel. Unlike Lovecraft,...

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