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Flowers of Evil

Novel by Robert Charles (UK) 1981.

Previously isolated at the twenty year old disaster site (presumably nuclear) of Khyshtym, east of the Urals, specimens of a beautiful but deadly mutated plant are brought into civilisation by a research team looking into the disaster. Under controlled conditions in the lab, they are no problem, but the pair brought back secretly by secretary Galina Savenkova are a different matter. The one she keeps in her flat distributes spores outside into Moscow, and the one she gives her brother to keep in his cabin on the Yenesei takes over the ship in the North Sea and sends its spores southwards towards isolated Lairg Island off the Shetlands and current occupants, Barry Gordon and his family, researching bird migration for a book.

I compared Robert Charles' last horror novel, The Burning, to John Blackburn; this one deserves the same comparison, more specifically with A Scent of New Mown Hay. The other obvious comparison is with John Wyndham's classic The Day of the Triffids, the other novel featuring giant walking plants. In keeping with those two authors, this novel seems to be crafted rather than written, with fleshed out characters and a well controlled plot. With plenty of details and sub-plots dealing with topics like marital breakdown and recovery and Communist authoritarianism, Charles adroitly handles suspense, adventure, horror, desperation, blind courage and many other styles and emotions. A worthy modern successor to the triffids.


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