Pros: Fascinating story of horror-in-the-woods
Cons: Ending kind of goes off the rails
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Ike Hamill’s Spores is an entry into the world of horror-in-the-woods, with a heavy dose of possession and alien intent. Marie wants to support the carrying out of her dead husband’s last piece of work research, which he believed was very important. It means she’ll have to deal with condescending Nelson and over-eager Tyler, but she’s willing to do what it takes. Unfortunately, the research into some unusual and outsized fungal organisms will lead to something that is, yes, important, but also quite deadly. Meanwhile, four men are out on a leisurely hunting trip. They aren’t expecting to have to try to save a man who drives a snowmobile into a partially frozen lake. Their trip gets even worse, though, when one of them shoots a man who appears to be massively infected with something bizarre. The two groups are bound to intersect, and things will get crazy.
I enjoy the whole ‘horror in a rural setting’ genre. It tends to be moody and immersive and can take some interesting turns. Ditto on possession. Unfortunately, I kind of felt like Hamill painted himself into a corner and didn’t have a great ending planned out. The ending feels out of place and out of genre and is hard to follow.
SPOILER WARNING: Skip to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers. The ‘alien consciousness’ that the characters deal with is awfully close to omniscient. It explains this away as the natural outcome of having a great deal of knowledge, but never adequately explains how it comes by its detailed understanding of the world and the characters. Because of that, its knowledge feels like a deus ex machina–and honestly, I think that without that crutch, the author could have found a better ending. END spoiler warning.
Don’t get me wrong–Spores was a quick, fun horror/SF read, which is exactly what I was looking for when I read it. However, some of Hamill’s work is absolutely brilliant, so I wish this had added up to more. Still, you can bet that the next time he puts out a book I’ll be reading it!