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The Genius Plague

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,817 ratings  ·  431 reviews
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. 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 ga ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Pyr
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,817 ratings  ·  431 reviews

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Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: science-fiction
Yes, I am giving my own book five stars! If I don't think the book is awesome, why would anyone else want to give it a try?
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
$1.99 Kindle sale, April 1, 2019. 3.75 stars. This is a pretty good SF suspense novel with a great concept. It derails a bit in the last third but overall a fun and tension-filled read.

The Genius Plague is a science fiction thriller with a fascinating, unique concept: humanity contending with a biological invasion by a fungus out of the Amazon. The unusual part is the nature of the fungal invasion: when it gets settled in your body and invades your brain, it makes you ... smarter. A genius, in f
I’m not a microbiologist, nor do I play one on t.v.  I do, however, love speculative fiction that comes dangerously close to reality and that is exactly what we have with The Genius Plague – a cli-fi thriller reminiscent of Robin Cook’s Outbreak.

The Genius Plague is, at heart, the story of two brothers, Paul and Neil. Neil is a microbiologist studying fungus in the rainforest. He arrives home with never before discovered spores only after surviving what many thought was a “terrorist attack” duri
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-shelf, sci-fi
Fast-paced and nerdy in a "cocky newbie to the NSA fights an intelligent Mycelium plague" vein. :)

The initial premise was what brought me to the book and that still stands. The fungus is mimicking our brains from within our brains and makes us smarter... with the pitfall that it only behaves to improve its own survival.

I might have preferred an all-out hard SF going much deeper into a fully-successful plague, but hitting the breaks like this was fun enough for a single novel. The alternative mig
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
David Walton’s The Genius Plague has a promising setup: a pathogenic fungus spreads rapidly among the human population, raising the hosts IQs to genius levels, but also forcing them to act in ways that eschew individual agency in favor of ensuring the continued viability of the fungus. The most intriguing aspect of that premise is the idea that people of ordinary intelligence can suddenly become geniuses (and also that the fungus may be able to cure Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain illne ...more
Susie Munro
I have a profound dislike for that subset of science fiction in which unremarkable irritating entitled nerd boys fall arse backwards through the plot and yet somehow get all the credit. This manages to take a cool idea and turn into a dull exercise in advancing the plot by series of increasingly ridiculous coincidences, with characters the reader is told are clever doing remarkably stupid things, swathed in jingoistic bullshit.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had a few interesting ideas but there were some flaws in the execution that made it just ok for me (including being about 50 pages too long). Paul Jones is a young mycologist who is infected by a dangerous fungus while in the Amazon. The illness can prove fatal, but if you recover one of the attributes of the disease is that it's victims emerge with greater cognitive abilities than they had before. Another attribute is that it causes the victims to be linked to both the fungus and to e ...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Mother Nature can be a scary bitch. Forget horror movies; if you ever want to see some truly messed up, freaky bone-chilling stuff, look no further than your BBC nature documentary. Case in point: the “Jungles” episode of Planet Earth. After so many years, that infamous scene of the killer parasitic fungus bursting forth from the back of a dead ant’s head like some kind of grotesque alien worm still gives me the heebie-jee
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
The nitty-gritty: Hugely entertaining, this terrifying vision of what our future could be like will keep you turning pages long after bedtime.

I loved David Walton’s Supersymmetry , a fast-paced scientific thriller about time travel and alternate realities, so I knew that The Genius Plague was going to be a must-read. And wow, did I have fun with this book! When I started reading, I thought the entire story was going to revolve around the genius plague of the title, a fungus that infiltrat
David Neilsen
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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. Unfortunately, the excellent writing, swift pace, and well-developed c ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
This book is.
It exists.

I can't say that it excels at anything it does and I certainly can't recommend it.

I'm not entirely sure why I finished it. Dogged determination? A foolish hope for a second half rally?

Either way, this book has a cool concept but a very boring execution.

For a more character driven look at a similar premise which isn't hopelessly mired in rah-rah-rah patriotism check out The Fireman
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Written at a high school comp level, with the distinct funk of a high school boy's POV. The descriptions of women were icky, the exposition was clunk-tastic, and the super fun premise (brilliant fungi take over the world!) was wasted on cardboardy characters and a rushed, gappy plot. I have some mean stuff to say about the author's bio/photo/life/inordinate pride in his shitty work, too, but I'm WAY ABOVE THAT SORT OF THING. ...more
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
Did you know that mushrooms are the sex organs of fungus??

I've never liked mushrooms. Ever. I think the only way I've ever liked them was when my family in Indiana would go mushroom hunting and then my grandmother would deep fry them to where they basically melted in your mouth.. and I still doused them in ketchup. To eat something called a fungus just didn't compute in my brain and don't even get me started on the texture! So to take something that felt alien to me all my life and make it into
Sci-Fi & Scary
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of horror because I like to be scared. Generally, I prefer that fear to be on a ‘not possibly real’ level, hence my love of paranormal horror. When I read science fiction, it’s the opposite. I’m generally hoping for hope and for awesome visions of the future. I’m not expecting to have the, erm, spore scared out of me.

But David Walton’s The Genius Plague managed to do exactly that.
The fungi that threatens to the end the world is a fairly common plot device right now. Cordyceps is eve
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
The exposition was clunky, the dialog more than a little wooden, and the description of women best summed up in three letters: ugh.

I really should have known from the get go that this wasn't going to be good, after all what kind of biologist leaves his sleeping bag in the Amazon, anyone with any sort of camping/environmental knowledge should know that that's poor form. The main character makes some unbelievable logical leaps and and is hired for a position he's incredibly under-qualified for th
Danielle N
I have landed in the middle on this one and settled with 3 stars. I do not plan for a full review, but I want to share a few quick thoughts. The original concept fascinated me. I love the idea of sci-fi story exploring an invasive fungus that alters mankind's mentality. There are so many possibilities here! Overall, the writing is fluid and original. However, what began as a unique plot eventually turned into more of an almost political thriller as there is a shift to focus solely on the race to ...more
P. Kirby
A few hours later, we landed at Albuquerque International Sunport, overshadowed by the Sandia Mountains to the east. The city stretched to our north, a flat grid of houses and roads converging on the towers and skyscrapers of the city center.

"...towers and skyscrapers"? Uh, whot? The tallest building in Albuquerque, the Plaza Office Tower, is all of 22-stories tall. (Coincidentally, it's the tallest building in New Mexico.) At less than two dozen stories tall, calling it a skyscraper is like
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved the concept and ideas behind this book, but I felt the execution didn't measure up. It was so fast-paced that the characters seemed underwritten, to the point that even Neil fell flat with little perceptible character development. I spent much of the novel wishing that the author had spent a bit more time exploring the characters. ...more
Courtney Rose
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was very entertaining. The last third of it was a little hard to get through and didn't make a lot of sense in terms of a solution to the fungal problem, but the first 2/3 of the book was riveting! It was a highly interesting concept overall. ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: This was an incredibly fun, fast-paced read. Very cinematic, would make a great movie.

"What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In the Amazon jungle, a disease is spreading. To those who survive, it grants enhanced communication, memory, and pattern recognition. But the miracle may be the sinister survival mechanism of a fungal organism, manipulating the infected into serving it.  Paul Johns, a mycologist, is convinced the fungal host is the nex
Eric Martin
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
The main character is a Mary Sue. The premise is interesting, but the payoff is unsatisfactory. The true impact of the events in the book are never felt be because the scope is limited to the luckiest, smartest, meant-to-be-likeable twat.

If you’re into books that feel like personal heroism masturbation, this is for you.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really fun thriller, I'm going to read more of his writing. While other speculative fiction might be deeper or get me thinking more, this book was plain fun and I hardly could put it down, I finished it in one day. ...more
Jim Lay
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A smart, action-packed, techno-thriller about a fungus that increases intelligence and cooperation in the humans it has infected. The urge to protect itself and spread, turns its hosts into calculating militants willing to turn traitors on their friends and governments to ensure the survival of the fungus.
Although the premise sounds scary, this is more of a Tom Clancy/Michael Crichton/Robin Cook type thriller. Entertaining and thought provoking but not quite what I was expecting.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Genius Plague by David Walton is a highly recommended science fiction/plague novel featuring brothers set against each other and a wide-ranging fungus.

Paul Johns, a mycologist, is returning from his trip through the Amazon with a backpack full of fungi samples when terrorists attack the tourist riverboat he is taking back to Manaus, Brazil. When he makes it home to Maryland, he is immediately hospitalized with a life-threatening fungal pneumonia/infection. He recovers but with a gap in his m
Helen French
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sffh, 2017
Plague fiction is a surprisingly wide genre, ranging from everyone's dying in gruesome ways, horror horror, to the plague's killed everyone off, how do we regroup, to let's investigate wtf this thing is and stop it before everyone's dead.

Personally, I like options 2 and 3 the best, and this book fits nicely into category 3, which means it's quite heavy on the science and explanation. Step away if you don't like hard SF! Actually it's quite accessible, but you will learn a lot about mycology - ak
Alisi ☆ wants to read too many books ☆
The only reason I gave this two stars was the premise was interesting. Otherwise, this was a shit show.

The main character is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. He literally walks in the door for this new job, which he has zero qualifications for, and he basically saves the world. He cracks everything, figures everything out, is the one person in 2 million who is able to resist the pull of the fungus. Is there a better description of a Mary/Gary? Oh, he's also clumsy. It was like Walton had a list of Mary/Gary
Oct 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: terribad
Spoiler: it's shit.
The protagonist is a uniquely disagreeable, arrogant little tit, as is his insufferable brother. I was wondering how someone could unironically write an overentitled, poor widdle misunderstood genius nerd boy of a character like that until I read the author's review of his own damn book here, 5 stars. *insert disappointed dog meme* Peak mediocre white man syndrome.
The exposition fairy has lots of work to do, barfing sophomoric explanations of Science™ all over the pages of th
Adrian Durlester
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
It's true I couldn't put it down. It was a page turner. However this was the case only because the author had clearly infected the book with spores to force us to keep reading despite the plot holes, illogical twists and happenstances. The book is clever and the premise is fascinating, but I didn't find it as well written as some of the gushing reviews might suggest. For me it became more of an "OK, how is the author going to make this come out?" type of read. The ending is far too neat a bow fo ...more
I don't think I can review this book properly without giving away most of the plot but this book is quality. The science (mycology and cryptology) in the book wasn't confusing at all. It was easily explained, easy to follow. The plot was fast paced. I was thrown into the core of the story early and it didn't let up until the end. It's sci-fi but I'm left wondering if something like what happens in the book could happen. Maybe not in my lifetime but who knows?

I received this advanced copy throug
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Riveting & intelligent, The Genius Plague is the best novel I've read so far this year. The narrative is compelling & convincing in connecting mycology, paramilitaries, politics, & environmentalism. (I can't go into detail without spoilers.) This is definitely worth reading (& filming if you're a producer). I was very lucky to have received an ARC from a Goodreads giveaway, since it won't be released until October. ...more
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David loves to read science fiction and lives near Philadelphia with his wife and eight children. His latest book, THREE LAWS LETHAL, is about self-driving cars and the AIs that drive them.

"Three Laws Lethal gives the reader exciting insights into the threats and the promises that are coming our way."
—Vernor Vinge

"Walton has brought hard sci-fi roaring back to life."
—The Wall Street Journal


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