The Genius Plague by David Walton (book review)

October 12, 2017 | By | Reply More

Paul Johns is a mycologist, seeking rare fungi in the Amazon. On the boat back to civilisation, it is attacked and the people on board are killed by pirates but he and a girl manage to escape and do a 50 mile trek back although barely can remember what happened.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, his twin brother, Neil, is enrolling in the NSA as a code-breaker. In comparison, he’s slightly less driven but gets the job by solving a problem without using the provided but inoperative computer. Collecting his brother from the airport, Paul vomits up blood and his hospitalised. It seems he has some fungus infection in his lungs and lucky to be alive. However, the fungus begins to spread across the world, enhancing intelligence and begins a program of obstacles that get in its way to dominate the world. The removal of some South American country rulers being top of its list.

With Neil Johns making the breakthrough into the codes used by these fungi-enhanced humans, he is thrown into the plans to find out what is going on and how to stop the end to the non-exposed human race as it was. Any more than that and I’ll have to expose you to those nice spores and you can join the fight.

No so keen? OK, enhanced analysis instead. Author David Walton refers to ‘Flowers For Algernon’ at least twice in this book but the story has more in common was Jack Finney’s ‘Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers’ because you don’t know who’s been infected and how easy it is to be taken over. This isn’t an aggressive fight when they want to recruit.

There is one immediate problem with this book. The highest level of coincidence and everything falling into place all at the same time. In writing terms, this is convenience plotting. It makes it easy to keep things tightly plotted and allows Walton to focus on the characterisations and show off his research but, when you know what he’s doing, it does make things too predictable. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a page-turner but the plotting is laid out to use all smoking guns so you can use the clues to follow it along. There are some elements here that remind me of the late Michael Crighton’s novels.

Oddly, the plot resolution is pretty standard. When you consider the amount of research, I think I would have liked to have seen more options tried out. Relying on first person through Neil Johns’ perspective means you don’t really see other people’s perspectives or actions. You would have thought there would be more than one means to inhibit the fungus infection but having one individual doing so much does stretch credibility.

I suspect I was expecting more from this novel but if you need a book to keep you occupied on a long journey then this one will service that purpose.

GF Willmetts

October 2017

(pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 382 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), $16.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-363-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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