Book of the Day
The Genius Plague
Review by David Neilsen
The Genius Plague, by David Walton, is a very well-written thriller which delves into the question of what does it mean to be human, and is there a better way? Universal truths are put to the test as the action whips back and forth from the offices of the NSA to South America and back. There is code-breaking, betrayal, intrigue, a nasty fungus–in short everything you need for a tip-top end-of-the-world contagion catastrophe.
The stage is set on the very first page: an ominous passage that explains how a single, vast, ancient organism within the Amazon Rainforest has realized that humans exist. Knowing this, (a massive fungus over a gazillion-square-miles in size) sets to work defeating us. Yipes.
Neil Johns has always wanted to work for the NSA. His father, currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, was a codebreaker and Neil wants to follow in his footsteps. On one of his first days on the job, he breaks an unbreakable code that seems to be coming from the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. Coincidentally, Neil’s brother, Paul Johns, spends a lot of time in the Amazon Rainforest. He’s a mycologist (someone who studies fungi) and begins the book in the midst of a trip down there to collect rare and unusual fungus samples. There is gunfire, bad guys, a hot girl, a swim, and a walk in the woods. That’s just the prologue.
What unfolds is a truly horrifying possibility of a fungal plague taking the world by storm. Making it even more frightening is the fact that those infected (such as Paul) get smarter, happier, and believe the plague is a good thing. So is it a terrifying plague threatening to devour the world? Or the next step in human evolution?
The characters spend the first half of the book trying to figure out what is going on, all while the fungus grows in strength, power, and verve. Eventually, Neil and his team figure everything out and spend the next 200 pages trying to figure out how to stop the fungus. There are thrilling and shocking discoveries throughout. Human nature being what it is, a very nasty twist arises upping the stakes tenfold that could make the fungus seem like the common cold. Walton never lets up, pumping action and discovery into the pages until they’re ready to explode. Which they do, more or less, during the exciting climax.
Leading up to the ending, I was excited to find out how Walton was going to tie up the loose ends and solve the various and multiple problems. He truly paints his characters, and the world, into a corner. His solution leaves the reader on pins and needles (and hoping for a sequel).
Front start to finish, The Genius Plague is an exciting read that tantalizes the reader with the possibilities of a great story.
David Neilsen is the author of Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (winner of the 2017 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award), and several other odd, weird, supernatural, and occasionally slightly disturbing books and stories. David is also a professionally trained actor who works as a professional storyteller up and down the Hudson River Valley and in New York City. His one-man performances based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft have sent many screaming into the hills in search of their sanity. Be sure to check out David’s latest release, Beyond the Doors (Crown Books for Children, Aug 1, 2018)