THE CONTAGION IS IN YOUR MIND. In this science fiction thriller, brothers are pitted against each other as a pandemic threatens to destabilize world governments by exerting a subtle mind control over survivors.
The Genius Plague Synopsis
Neil Johns has just started his dream job as a code breaker in the NSA when his brother, Paul, a mycologist, goes missing on a trip to collect samples in the Amazon jungle. Paul returns with a gap in his memory and a fungal infection that almost kills him. But once he recuperates, he has enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. Meanwhile, something is happening in South America; others, like Paul, have also fallen ill and recovered with abilities they didn’t have before.
But that’s not the only pattern–the survivors, from entire remote Brazilian tribes to American tourists, all seem to be working toward a common, and deadly, goal. Neil soon uncovers a secret, and unexplained alliance between governments that have traditionally been enemies while Paul is becomes increasingly secretive and erratic.
Paul sees the fungus as the next stage of human evolution, while Neil is convinced that it is driving its human hosts to destruction. Brother must oppose brother on an increasingly fraught international stage, with the stakes: the free will of every human on earth. Can humanity use this force for good, or are we becoming the pawns of an utterly alien intelligence?
(Pyr Books, October 2017)
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I am continually impressed by this author’s ability to conjure up credible ‘disaster on a global scale’ scenarios and then offer readers such human and relatable character viewpoints. Walton’s storytelling is not restricted to the scientific domain, he explores the broader implications of technological advancement and the underlying psychology of motivation.
Inefficiency is killing this planet,” Paul snapped. I shook my head. “Inefficiency is imagination. It’s singing in the rain and vaudeville shows and sandcastles and whimsy and falling in love and yearning for our dreams to come true. Inefficiency is the best part of who we are.”
His leading man in this outing, Neil is a highly endearing underdog — a too-smart-for-his-own-good screw-up often falling foul of the rules, but always with the best of intentions. His interactions with his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s… heartwarming and heartbreaking. And his appreciation of and respect for some of the kick-ass female characters in a male-dominated profession… refreshing.
Walton’s enviable talent for explaining (through his characters) technical and scientific concepts is on full display. My only niggle, and something not present in earlier works, was a slight clumsiness of prose conveying romantic encounters. There is a subtle difference between characters being awkward in such situations and their depiction being so. But that is something this reader is more than willing to forgive, seeing that he (and his characters) are just a little busy figuring out how to save the entire human race.
The Genius Plague is another nuanced, action-packed thriller from a master in the sci-fi genre. Fungi have never been more terrifying!
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Action-Adventure, Mystery
About the Author, David Walton
David Walton is the author of six novels and recipient of the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, Terminal Mind. Superposition and Supersymmetry are quantum physics murder mysteries. He is also the author of Quintessence, a science fantasy in which the Earth is really flat, and its sequel, Quintessence Sky. David lives a double life as a top secret engineer working with the US intelligence community by day, and the mild-mannered father of seven children at night. Check out David’s website.
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* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.
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