How much did a degree and a neat resume really prepare someone for a job? The Alan Turings and Claude Shannons of the world had been eccentric, inventive, forceful people. Rule breakers. The people at Bletchley Park and Room 40 didn’t stop to check boxes; they got the job done no matter what the cost.
The Genius Plague by David Walton is a geopolitical science-fiction thriller about a fungus plague that threatens humanity.
A bunch of books get published every year. A large percentage of those books are bad. I don’t review a lot of those because I don’t bother finishing them. Some small percentage of the books that are published perfectly express the human experience, beautifully/accurately describe the nature of the world, or are so well-written, original, or just so super-fun that they are called “good.”
The Genius Plague is not bad, but it’s not really “good” either. It’s the literary equivalent of a Saturday afternoon movie or a prime time CBS television series that has a title that’s just a bunch of letters. You know the type: full of well-meaning, earnest, too-young-for-what-they-are-doing characters who speak in paragraphs, trying to save the world while dealing with a messy private life. It’s a book to read on an airplane. It’s a forgettable bit of entertainment. There isn’t going to be an epic fandom popping up for the characters of this book. Book clubs are not going to get together and analyze it (but if I’m wrong and they do, I’d suggest comparing and contrasting the United States intelligence agencies with the fungus as a discussion topic). It’s not beautifully written, with about the same level of sophistication as an Ernest Cline or Pierce Brown book.
All that being said, the book doesn’t suck. It’s a well-paced, easy-to-read page-turner. I was able to read about 100 pages of the book per day, and not only could I manage that pace, I wanted to maintain it because I wanted to know what happened next. It’s apparent that a lot of research went into the book. I also appreciated that the author took the time to explain things that other, lesser books, might gloss over. What I mean is that sometimes I would have a reaction like, “Wait, but what about x?” The author, anticipating this inquiry by readers, would usually address x in the very next sentence or paragraph. Since the book is a “present day” science fiction story – such that stuff really shouldn’t be explained by “magic science,” I really appreciated that effort by the author. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really goofy “sciencey” things in this book, but it works so hard to justify them, I just can’t hold them against it.
The Genius Plague is a fun, pretty ok book. I feel like the concept of the book had a lot more potential than what was ultimately utilized, but it is by no means a “bad read.”
My rating: 3 stars