Short Take: “Fungoid,” William Meikle

Pros: A fungal apocalypse with a touch of cosmic horror!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

William Meikle’s (novella? Short novel? Not sure which) Fungoid introduces us to a fungal apocalypse. Jim Noble is on hand when the first drops of greasy rain begin to fall–the ones filled with spores of some unknown fungus. He has protective clothing due to being on a rapid response team, but most other people don’t. When Rebecca Lovatt realizes this is in the rain, she rushes to her kids’ school, worried they may be outside playing. Her husband, Shaun, discovers a logging camp where all the flora has become rotted and black, and the people inside the camp are dead–taken over by brown fungus. He’s determined to make it back to Becca and the kids, no matter what it takes. Meanwhile, mycologist Rohit Patel studies samples of the fungus inside his lab, and comes to the conclusion that this was engineered. Maybe not for this purpose, but engineered nonetheless.

Things are not wrapped up in a bow at the end of this story. We have some idea of where the fungus came from, how it works, and what affects it, but the world isn’t settled yet. It works. To me the most intriguing parts are those exploring how the fungus functions, but of course it’s always interesting to watch the Lovatts try to get back together again. Rohit and Irene (the server from the cafeteria in the building where Rohit works) were my favorite characters; they had a lot of personality to them.

If you’re familiar with William Meikle’s other work, you’ll note a couple of familiar threads that point to a strain of cosmic horror associated with this fungus–the reference to “dancing in the dark” and the visions of the Blue Hills. It remains at a somewhat surface level, though, which feels right for this particular story.

There’s plenty of tension in here. People die, people fight for their lives, and civilization strives to maintain. It’s a very enjoyable work.

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