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Literature / Peeps

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Peeps (also released as Parasite Positive) is a novel by Scott Westerfeld, which concerns Cal Thompson, a carrier for a parasite which turns people into "peeps" - monstrous anti-versions of themselves, repelled by anything they once held dear. Recruited by the Night Watch, he's on a mission to capture the girls he has infected. However, it turns out there is more going on than he suspected; with things under the earth starting to stir...The book had a companion book, The Last Days, published in 2007.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Beneficial Disease: While being a full blown peep sucks, carriers of the disease get the perks of super strength and agility, night vision, and extended lifespans without becoming cannibals. That's not to say there aren't significant downsides to being a carrier.
  • Big Eater: Cal, and any other peeps or peep hunters, to feed the parasite.
  • Celibate Hero: Enforced Trope. Carriers are immune to the violent insanity the parasite drives the peeps to, but as Cal puts it, the parasite doesn't want the carriers to go to waste; turns out, it's sexually transmitted, and has the side effect of increasing the sex drive. As a result, carriers generally cannot have normal relationships and certainly not sexual ones; in fact, most carriers realize they are one after their partners have turned into peeps.
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  • Cursed with Awesome: Carriers, who as a result of a particularly strong parasitic infection, physically change to become much more physically attractive, get super strength, super speed, very strong night vision, and have a life span in the hundreds of years. The first Night Mayor was elected in the 1600s - and as it turns out, his term never ended, because he's still alive. The problem is they can't have sex or even kiss anyone, or they pass the infection on to their loved ones.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cal, as while it's downplayed a bit, he most certainly has his moments.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Regarding vampires, as parasite-positives are given wholly scientific explanations for the behaviors, lore, and really long life spans. It's specifically noted that peeps are not immortal - but they do live for a hell of a long time.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Lacey's apartment, and all the ones in her building, have weirdly low rent. She tags along in part to understand why, and how she can keep it that way.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: Dick's Bar, the one and only home of the Bahamalama-Dingdong. With such fruity drinks and even a very telling name, this isn't much of a surprise. It's also worth noting that they served Cal booze when he was at least two or three years underage.
    • Mistaken for Gay: Cal, as a result of it. His return to Dick's Bar involves him being hit on by an attendee, and Morgan went to that gay bar in the first place because she thought that she would be safe from temptation there.
  • The Immune: Played With. Carriers get all the strengths of being parasite-positive with none of the cannibalistic insanity, but they can still pass on the parasite. Turns out, however, that there's two strains of it, with one more benevolent than the other.
  • Innate Night Vision: Part of being a Peep. Also how Lace confirms that Cal is a carrier. And how Cal confirms Lace is infected.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lace is a journalist, and she uses this fact to blackmail Cal into telling her the truth with the threat of exposing the truth to the world if he lies to her. Cal goes along with it - partially because he's attracted to her, partially because of the threat of a story, and partially of what he would be ordered to do if he told his superiors about Lace's threat.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The entire conflict of the first book turns out to be a case of this.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: When Lace takes a moment to process exactly how she got infected with the parasite.
    Lace: "Are you telling me your fat-ass cat turned me into a vampire?"
  • The Lost Lenore: Played With, as the peeps aren't dead but insane, but for the purposes of the story it still counts. Most of the carriers have someone like this; the way most of them found out about the parasite in the first place was after their romantic partners turned into peeps, and said partners are often the first peeps that they have to hunt down and capture. In Cal's case, it was his girlfriend Sarah, who he captures in the beginning of the book. Turns out, however, that they aren't so lost after all, as Sarah turns up healthy and sane in the latter part of the book.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: So will the sexually-transmitted cannibalistic-insanity-causing parasite, but it still happens. Carriers can have relationships with other carriers without consequence, but their dating life is effectively over outside The Masquerade.
    • In the second book, it shows consequences of what happens when someone repeatedly ignores that rule just to get laid.
  • Nature Abhors a Virgin: Cal got the Call to Adventure via losing his virginity to a woman named Morgan, who turned out to be infected with the parasite.
    • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Cal didn't realize he was in a gay bar until after his proverbial ticket got punched. When he returns to Dick's Bar a year later, he notices a great deal that he didn't notice beforehand.
      Cal: "I was older, wiser, and had lived in New York for just over a year now. I had grown-up eyes. It turned out that Dick's Bar didn't get a lot of female patronage. Not much at all. Just a lot of guys playing pool in their leather chaps, drinking beer and swigging the occasional Jell-O shot, listening to a mix of country and classic disco."
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Peeps are not vampires. But since most people are fairly fond of light, they do tend to dislike it, and favor the night. They also sometimes eat people when they can't find anything else to snack on.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Cheerfully averted. Immediately after the revelation of the truly massive swarm of infected rats living underneath her apartment building, Lace packs a bag and says she's leaving - and going to Cal's place. Cal's reaction is priceless.
  • Stages of Monster Grief: Before the story starts, Cal was in denial about his status as a carrier. Namely, he thought the Atkins diet was giving him night vision and the fact that every girl he kissed went insane was a coincidence. But he couldn't have possibly known a parasite turned him into a vampire.
  • Staking the Loved One: Specifically Averted. The "vampires" of the setting are merely infected with a parasite that's driven them crazy. The peeps are caught and given attempts at rehabilitation, and are kept out of the public for the safety of normal humans and to maintain secrecy of the peeps existence. Or so Cal has been told.
  • Swarm of Rats: The rat carriers of the parasite in the basement of Lace's building.
  • The Tell: The parasite causes the people who are infected with it, carriers included, to eat a significantly carnivorous diet and a lot of it at that. So when Lace, a vegetarian, starts eating increasing amounts of red meat out of nowhere, it foreshadows whats happened to her. Sarah even makes note of it and pokes fun at Cal, thinking that he infected Lace via sex without telling her.
  • The Unmasqued World: In the second book, for very justified reasons.
  • Typhoid Mary: The carriers, who are sent to hunt down and capture the peeps. To their credit, however, they are aware of their condition, and are given extensive classes and training in how to avoid spreading it to others. Cornelius, however, is a cat, and as such didn't get that training, which was how Lace ended up becoming a carrier. That, and almost nobody knew that cats could spread it too.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Cal and Lace. Until she becomes a carrier. Then they spend a night resolving it.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Lace feels hurt that Cal didn't mention that he is a carrier for a disease which prevents him from being romantically involved with anyone, but still spent most of the novel flirting with her.