Tamara Jones’ ambitious novel Spore has a great not-a-zombie premise. Horror comic artist Sean Casey wakes up to find ten naked people wandering in his back yard. They are disoriented and are not aware they died years ago. They look and act just like when they were originally alive. Sean become sort of a reluctant hero to some of them as they and the world find out what is happening.
There are many layers to this novel. It is not a spoiler, since the title sort hints at it, to say that a fungal outbreak is responsible which inspires the naming of this people “spores.” Where it comes from and what else happens though will remain a mystery until you have read the novel. The author has packed a lot of ideas and sub-plots in her novel yet most of it centers on Sean Casey who is troubled himself due to a childhood kidnapping that has not only never been solved, but seems to be related to a new outbreak of child murders and to his dreams of mutilated children. Sean is the moral center of the novel, often seeming to be the only one who cares about the spores while other consequences of whatever is infesting the waters is becoming evident.
It’s a really interesting plot nicely weaved together by the author. Jones has a skill with this type of quiet horror novel that also brings up social concerns. There is a nice touch where a reporter calls the newly revived people “Fungaloids;” Sean bristles at this, saying they should be called spores and chides the reporter for using a thinly disguised insult related to other demeaning words. It is touches like that that brought the novel to Earth for me. At other times, Sean becomes so involved with the spores that it endangers the person he loves and also blinds him to more devastating aspects of the outbreak.
The downside of this novel is Jones, despite her skilled ability to bring many things together, is trying to do too much. It starts out as a science-fiction based horror tale then it morphs into a mystery involving child murders. There is also a sub-plot about a spore person whose husband is terrorizing her. There is so much that when the global stakes become higher, that global crisis is almost an afterthought. The author does bring it together at the end yet the various sub-plots slows down the main plot involving the appearance of the spores and how it affects a troubled man.
Yet when all is said and done, Spore is an effective horror thriller bordering on science fiction rather than the supernatural. It is one of those novels that will entertain most people although it should be cautioned that there are some mentions of child abuse and mutilation that may be hard for some to handle. All in all, despite what I would call an overcrowding of plot, it is well worth reading.
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