Roots: Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and "Social Darwinsim". The religion on Elysium is based on a mixture of Christianity and Hinduism. The Doctor quotes Edward Lear. There are references to Superman, Stephen Hawking, Moses, and Marks & Spencer.
Goofs: The cover shows what is presumably meant to be a monkey, but it doesn't match the description given in the text.
Dialogue Disasters: 'No use stimulating the tear ducts regarding overtoppled dairy produce.'
Dialogue Triumphs: 'Needs must when nosiness dictates.'
'Humour may be an old soldier's defence against death but it isn't mine. Not any more.'
'It's supposed to be safe here.'
'There are many degrees of "safety".'
Continuity: Elysium is an Earth colony with at least one ocean. Chukhas are burrowing insects found on Elysium. Neirad is another colony in the system; animals on Neirad include ocean-dwelling ammonites. Reunionists founded the colony on Neirad. Neirad is a satellite of the gas giant Umbriel and is protected by an atmosphere shield.
The Artifact is a vast organism, with an external spiral-shaped shell resembling marble and inner chambers corresponding to sections of the shell, which support their own ecosystems and are large enough to contain oceans and asteroids. Its life-cycle works thus: it is born in a nutrient sac consisting of an average sized gas giant, where it feeds on ammonia and methane; after birth, it parasitises water-bearing planets, shipping the water through itself, a process that lasts for millions of years. It reproduces asexually, building up a source of genetic material inside itself from other life forms, which form inside it as a result of the water it contains. The water that passes through it accretes into vast masses that eventually become so vast that they undergo nuclear fusion and form stars. It uses enzymes in the fungus to replicate DNA stolen from other life forms, so that it can develop the intelligence it needs to build new gas giants for the next generation and place them in orbit around the stars. The fungus controls the environment, and becomes the schill, which are then eaten by the monkeys. When it has built enough stars, it surrounds each one with a number of orbiting gas giants, and seeds each one with a small planet-sized egg, and the whole process repeats itself. The process of giving birth requires a switch back to ammonia and methane, destroying the oxygen-based ecosystem that develops inside the parasite and possibly killing the Artifact. The Artifact warps space and might extend into warp space, and contains singularities that bridge the different chambers. Its internal surface is bigger than that of all of the inhabitable moons and planets of the system put together. The chambers possess their own gravity field, which is lower than that of Elysium. The ocean in the first chamber is eight or nine thousand kilometres across.
Every living thing inside the Artifact is highly phototropic. Everything living inside the Artifact is part of its reproductive cycle; the fungus, which introduces changes into the Artifact's environment, is effectively a smart molecule, which changes species constantly in order to dictate conditions within the Artifact; the monkeys develop parasites, become ill, and throw themselves into the oceans, where the parasites emerge and swim through the singularities to the eggs, which they then fertilize. Life forms living inside the Artefact aside from the human colonists include a double-bodied manta with skin like flexible glass, wheel-shaped marsupial septopods (which the colonists refer to as "monkeys"), double-bodied jellyfish-like creatures, carnivorous octopus-like creatures, double-bodied parasitic spiders with multiple legs, and an elephant-sized predator with tentacles, claws and spikes. The monkeys feed on the metallic schill, fast little animals that evolved their carapace in direct response to the threat posed by their predators, since the monkeys hunt and kill using microwave radiation emitted from their bodies. The monkeys are intelligent and can speak. The rim forests are floating clouds of vegetation with a central mass and consist largely of several-hundred-kilometre high mushrooms, which the colonists refer to as trees. Human colonists studying the Artifact are based inside the first chamber in a habitat known as Toytown. The Artifact prevented Bannen from ageing. The Doctor uses his link with the Artifact to influence it so that its future offspring will be symbiotes.
The Doctor has never visited the Artifact before. He finds it annoying that Ace can operate the TARDIS as well as or better than he can. He is able to "withdraw" his intelligence, preventing the Artifact from locating him. He's always wanted to shout "Timber!" He makes a saw out of Venusian nenetif-web, which he carries with him. Whilst parasitised by the Artifact, he almost regenerates when Bannen gives him artificial respiration. He is frightened of regenerating. He keeps Germoline in the TARDIS. Following the events of Lucifer Rising, the Doctor traveled to Mexico during the food riots of 2146 in an attempt to save Mark Bannen's mother; he failed. Bannen shoots him through one of his hearts here; he uses something in the TARDIS to heal the wound.
During her time in Spacefleet, Ace took part in the Ramos Offensive on Lan Beta, during which a forest fire wiped out three-quarters of the assault troops. She once designed a search pattern to allow suit-troops to hunt through asteroid fields for concealed scout ships. She hasn't had a headache for more than a year. Her Spacefleet suit-instructor was an old Polynesian soldier who taught her the mantra, "t'ar a sai vrai-ta-kai", which means "Calm the mind and the body will follow." She was stationed on Verdanna as a training officer when three survivors of flight seventeen emerged "bleeding and screaming" from the jungle after three weeks; they were covered in knife wounds from where they had tried to cut insect eggs from their bodies, the only thing Ace ever saw during active service that made her physically sick. One of the three committed suicide, another went into a private counseling service, and the third went mad and murdered his family. Parasitic spider-like creatures, which burrow into her skin, infect her and she tries to get Drew to cut them out of her with a shard of broken glass; he can't do it, and most of them hatch out. She's never seen the Doctor terrified before. She keeps a Fleet-issue bioscanner in her satchel. She has been trained to fight and fly blind and to read instruments by sound. She successfully hunts for food for two days on the new planet. She is parasitised by the Artifact, but the Doctor cures her in the TARDIS.
When Bernice's mother died and her father disappeared, she was given to various foster parents, none of whom she managed to bond with. After Bernice fled military academy, she arrived on Olundrun VII, where she hoped the monks in a monastery there would take her in. They refused on the grounds that she would corrupt their tranquillity, and gave her a tent, which they told her to live in until she got herself together. After six weeks camping on a freezing mountainside, she fixed her landing boat and left the planet. Benny is bitten by one of the octopus-like creatures on the Artifact, leaving her with a swollen and infected arm due to a cellularly transmitted virus; the Doctor gives her an unidentified tablet as treatment. She later sustains a hairline fracture of the skull and internal bleeding; Bannen drills a hole in her skull to relieve the pressure and she then spends five days drifting in and out of consciousness. She once broke both legs falling down a bluff on Auriga and had to open a vein in her arm to attract nightcrawlers on which she fed whilst dragging herself back to camp. The Doctor gives her a brass telescope, which she in turn gives to Ace, who is forced to smash it to create a sharp edge. Bernice wears a Seiko wristwatch, which is a museum piece that she acquired when she first developed an interest in ancient cultures. She speaks seven languages fluently, and bits of various other dialects, including guttural juxtaposed Vartaq clicks. She eats a piece of monkey meat as part of one their funeral ceremonies. She carries a Paddington Bear thermos flask containing soup, which probably belongs to the Doctor. Like Ace, she is parasitised by the Artifact, but the Doctor cures her in the TARDIS.
It is explicitly stated here that the TARDIS telepathic circuits translate alien languages for the Doctor's companions (see The Masque of Mandragora).
Links: Mark Bannen is the son of Alex Bannen (Lucifer Rising). Benny recalls her visit to the Vartaq Veil (Lucifer Rising). The Daleks used slythers on Lan Beta (The Dalek Invasion of Earth). The Doctor notes that he was once trapped inside a newborn planet (Underworld). There is a reference to Venusian funeral ceremonies (Venusian Lullaby).
Location: Mexico, c2146; The Artifact, the Elysium System, c2515.
Future History: The Artifact was discovered one hundred years prior to events here. AZG (anti zero-G) medication is used to treat nausea caused by reduced gravity. The ruling powers of the Elysium System are the Founding Families (a common situation in Earth colonies; see The Robots of Death). The majority of the colonists believe in God. The original colony ship that arrived in the Elysium system suffered from a misphased stardrive and was almost destroyed; the colonists survived, but were forced to settle in the system. The Founding Families suppressed information about Earth, in direct conflict with current Reunionist policies. Monogamy is considered unusual in this era. The colonists use their own calendar. The oppressive views of the Founding Families drive the system into civil war.
Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor saw a storm off the Cape of Good Hope in 1706.
Q.v. Benny's Birthday, Love and War.
The Bottom Line: 'Nature, red in tooth and claw.' At the heart of Parasite is a breathtakingly imaginative concept that Mortimore has clearly thought through in immense detail. The novel is also the first real example of Mortimore's tendency to "write death on a biblical scale" as Lawrence Miles once put it; as a result, it's incredibly heavy-going, and the high body count and unrelenting suffering endured by everyone in the book including the Doctor and his companions are rather depressing.