Fungal Fright: Sprial by Paul McEuen

I wish I could say exactly how I discovered Spiral by Paul McEuen. I want to say it was a Goodreads review and I’m always looking for new medical thriller authors– particularly ones that can back it up with good sound expertise.

Paul is a professor at Cornell University and has received the Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize, a Packard Fellowship, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award as listed in his bio. I am just guessing he’s one really smart dude.

This debut medical thriller also won the International Thriller Writer’s Debut Category for 2012. Strong work, Paul– as I like to say.

Spiral begins the first part of the book in the past– specifically a close examination of two war ships in the ocean– of a few men in a raft– and the large gun ship swiftly disposing of them because they want to come aboard.

The reason they aren’t rescued– and actually murdered– is because of the fear that they have been infected with a deadly fungus named Uzumaki.

The early scenes of the novel– from the terror realized as the infection manifests, to the other ship trying to “quarantine” the fungus in the middle of the ocean until one stray bird lands on the infected vessel . . . and then takes off. . . 

I never thought a bird landing on a ship would lead to heart palpitations– seriously.

Fast forward and the young military fungal specialist is now a well-acclaimed university professor specializing in fungus and one of the few who know about Uzumaki– and now others want the fungus born again for nefarious reasons.

What I really liked about this novel was it reminded me of the early Robin Cook books. Take a medical concept and take it to the worst case scenario. Or take something theoretical, somewhat expiramental and think about the way it can run amok on humanity. I think that’s what makes a medical thriller— well– thrilling!

I liked learning about fungi and the tiny robots called microcrawlers (and how deadly they can be!) In fact, I wanted to look up some of these concepts to see how “true to life” they really were. I also liked the examination of how prevalent antibiotic usage can be detrimental.

I would have enjoyed more of the fungus unleashed on humanity. Instead, there were only a few infected people. The story centered more on the family and how the secret of the fungus was kept hidden.

Overall, a good read for medical thriller fans. I’ll be excited to read this author’s future works.   

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