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Friday, November 3, 2017

#allthebookreviews: The Genius Plague by David Walton @pyr_books @davidwaltonfic

The Genius Plague
by David Walton
Pyr Books


Thank you to Pyr Books / Prometheus Books for these copies in return for our honest reviews.

What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In the Amazon jungle, a disease is spreading. To those who survive, it grants enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. But the miracle may be the sinister survival mechanism of a fungal organism, manipulating the infected into serving it. 

Paul Johns, a mycologist, is convinced the fungal host is the next stage of human evolution, while his brother Neil, an analyst at the NSA, is committed to its destruction. Is the human race the master in this symbiotic relationship, or are we becoming the pawns of a subtly dominating and utterly alien intelligence?

My Review:

Did you know that mushrooms are the sex organs of fungus??

I've never liked mushrooms.  Ever.  I think the only way I've ever liked them was when my family in Indiana would go mushroom hunting and then my grandmother would deep fry them to where they basically melted in your mouth.. and I still doused them in ketchup.  To eat something called a fungus just didn't compute in my brain and don't even get me started on the texture!  So to take something that felt alien to me all my life and make it into an infection that literally lives in your brain, lungs, all your body parts, is absolutely frightening.  And not altogether unrealistic, which makes it horrifying and delicious to read!

I've learned more about mushrooms/fungus and ways to decode things than I thought I ever would.  For someone who has a large love for all things science and solving puzzles, this brought these two things together and I loved every part of it!  The relationships between sons and father was a pleasure to read.  Neil especially as he's the main protagonist.  Him and his father would solve puzzles together, play scrabble and otherwise constantly massage each other's brains with cryptic messages, etc.  This reminded me of when I was in high school and my boyfriend and I at the time used to write each other notes in Dethek, a Dwarven script.  Yes, I'm THAT much of a nerd.  I left a note somewhere around the house and my Dad broke the code and I remember him just being so happy he "still had it" even as he's apologizing for violating my privacy.  Haha.  Anyways, it sometimes felt like family reading about the Johns. 

The bringing together of the worlds with the fungal infection, NSA and the fight to try and save the immense amount of humans infected was extremely well done.  Detailed explanations of how this all could happen made it altogether frightening.  Nothing scares me more than plausibility.  There are still a million things in this world we are unaware of and biology (my favorite subject in high school) shows that organisms will adapt and thrive to stay alive. 

Basically, if you love all things science and puzzly, then you will absolutely love this book.  I was a little underwhelmed with the ending only because it seemed just to happen too fast and almost too neatly... but still leaves room for you to wonder what will happen next.  I remember thinking... wait, that's it??  So half star deduction for that.  Otherwise, I enjoyed this way more than I expected to going in and isn't that always a win as a reader? 

4 1/2 stars.

Jessica's Review:

Typically I'm not a sci-fi reader, but when I saw the premise for David Walton's THE GENIUS PLAGUE, I was intrigued. This is one of those science fiction novels that feels like it could actually happen. Mother Nature is capable of more than we can comprehend, and a killer fungal organism infecting people seems all too real. 

This story is about two brothers and their roles in uncovering a conspiracy surrounding this new fungus discovered in the Amazon. Paul Johns is a mycologist and while in Amazon he stumbles across this disease that has been spreading throughout the area. This fungal organism is infecting the local populations and is making it's hosts vastly more intelligent. While there, Paul contracts the infection and the question becomes, is the host the master in this symbiotic relationship, or is it being manipulated by the fungus?
Paul's brother, Neil, is just starting his job at the NSA. He begins to notice an interesting for of communication being used near the Amazon. He worries about his brother after seeing the changes in him. While Paul is convinced this is the next step in human evolution, Neil is completely committed to and ready to destroy this fungal organism before it spreads any further.
I really enjoyed this book. It had a quicker pace to it and keeps your interest. Walton did a great job creating Paul and Neil as characters. Both were complex and I liked the relationship between the two of them. They felt authentic and real. When it comes to the fungal infection portion of this novel, it was clear to me this was well-researched. Anything that has to do with nature and potentially the end of the world or a world-wide infection is unnerving. Especially when it's something that's in the realm of possibility.
If you're a big sci-fi fan, then this will be perfect for you! I only took off some from the 4 star rating because of the ending. I felt that there wasn't as big of a climax like I was hoping for with how intense this read was. Definitely not saying it wasn't a fitting end, though!
Overall, I think this was very well-written with some memorable characters. It definitely makes you wonder, would a fungal organism be able to infect the masses and potentially take control over us? It's an unnerving and terrifying thought that something so small could manipulate your brain and turn you into a zombie-like being.
I give this 3.5/5 stars!

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