Fall has hit us full throttle in Virginia. The leaves are setting themselves on fire and I am embarking on a pumpkin-picking trip this weekend. Every year, about this time, I start really getting into my tbr pile and carving out a further dent into the right corner of my sofa. This Fall I’m sending a big virtual cuppa and hug to PYR publishing for sending me some awesome fall kickoff books.
The Genius Plague is my newest read, an intellectual thriller of epic proportion. The best way I could describe it would be as Mysterious Benedict Society for grown-ups. You all know how much I love my Mysterious Benedict Society.
The Genius Plague follows a pair of gifted brothers, Neil and Paul Johns, new NSA recruit and renowned mycologist respectively. When Paul narrowly escapes a band of pirate on the way back from a research trip, he treks by himself along the Amazon river, returning to America with an infection from the fungi he loves to study.
An initially grim diagnosis gives way when Paul discovers he can skip his medicine to extraordinary effect. The fungus in his body is actually making him smarter. Meanwhile, at the NSA, Neil is studying a case of geniuses coming spontaneously out of the Amazon rainforest. Their missions align, drawing brothers closer into international conspiracy and secret puzzles.
They face the quandry of whether to use the intellect-enhancement drug to save their father from Alzheimers. Meanwhile, Neil works with his stoic boss, “Major,” and the cipher-cracking whiz kids of the NSA to save South America from the drug cartels who are turning the fungus into a work enhancement drug. Paul must contend with the ethics of his self-experimentation, never knowing who is doing the thinking: him or the infection.
The Genius Plague is one of the most engaging thrillers I’ve read, turning banalities topsy-turvy every few pages. It has reverse-zombies, brilliant female hackers, and twenty one year old spies. I couldn’t have asked more from a modern sci-fi than its electric characters, original plot, and arresting style.
The Genius Plague is for all the bookish kids who grew up with puzzle-solving protagonists between a rock and a hard place. It is a triumphant novel about human creativity and failure. It was a dazzling read that I would recommend for young adult and sci-fi fans alike.
It’s a 5 out of 5 from me.