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The Fungus

Novel by Harry Adam Knight (Australia/England) 1985.

Jane Wilson and her team are researching into the genetic structure of mushrooms to try and find a cheap, large, protein rich source of nourishment to satiate the world's growing food problem. Just as Jane finally achieves most of her goal, she leaves the lab, unwittingly carrying some spores of the fungus which passed through decontamination inside a small cut on her finger. Within four days, London is almost totally destroyed by fungus; it grows everywhere, eating everything organic, including human flesh and hair, and turning the city into a surreal landscape. Luckily, the one problem that Jane's team hadn't overcome was to get the fungus to spore, and thus the mushrooms are spreading relatively slowly. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the quickly-moved British government are sending Jane's ex-husband (also a mycobiologist) together with a doctor and a sadistic army sergeant, back to the mainland to try and locate Jane and her notes: only then can they hope to create an enzyme to counteract Jane's work in time.

This was the third novel that appeared under the Harry Adam Knight pseudonym (HAK, get it?), and there aren't many authors around who improve so much so quickly. The first book, Slimer, was a poorly-written tacky monster rampage - a bit like a gore version of Alien; the follow-up, Carnosaur, was a much more professional work yet still as tacky; but The Fungus has a touch of class. Yes, it's still a tacky plot that goes for thrills before accurate detail, but it doesn't matter because it's so well-written, so fast-paced, and just so much fun. The only real complaint I have is the blurb on the front cover - "The new Stephen King" it states, quoted from Starburst magazine. Apart from being stylistically very different, regardless of quality, didn't co-author John Brosnan (again teaming up here with LeRoy Kettle) do a lot of work for Starburst magazine? One may be excused for being more than a tad suspicious!

Released as Death Spore Stateside (1990).
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