The Fungus  (UK: Star Books, 1985)

 "It grows on you."

Already you're digging that undeniably disgusting cover and
I'm there with you. Now who, upon seeing this on the shelf
back in the day, wouldn't want to read this? Well, lots of
people probably, but that sort doesn't interest us here. Cool
cover with screaming man infested by mushrooms and
assorted fungi. Enough said. This one was penned by Harry
Adam Knight, author of other wonderful nasties like
Carnosaur  and Slimer, and trust me, he knows his business. Knight was a
pseudonym for Australian science fiction and fantasy author John Brosnan whom
we sadly lost in 2005. Brosnan wrote under a variety of pen names such as
Simon Ian Childer (
Tendrils), but it is Knight we are interested in here. It has
been oft pointed out that the initials of Harry Adam Knight spell HAK, which
might have been an inside joke by Brosnan...but hack or not, Knight knew his

As always, beware for spoilers abound.

Let's cut to the chase. Mycologist Jane Wilson has created a mutant
macro-enzyme which makes fungi--all fungi--grow at an alarming rate. And if you
ever had basic bio in high school you know very well that mushrooms and
toadstools are but the tip of the fungal iceberg. As can be imagined, this
macro-enzyme gets loose and causes hell at every turn as every fungi it comes
into contact with mutates and proliferates at an alarming rate. Like this woman
finds out early in the book:

"She picked up a length of wood and thrust it angrily into one of the bigger
mounds of fungus. Unexpectedly, a ripple ran through the growth then the whole
mound moved...
Even worse, it spoke to her.
'Nora,' it said in a thick muffled voice. ''s me...'  "

Which is bad enough, but nothing compared to this woman's gruesome

"Her horror and disgust gave her extra strength. She violently wrenched her body
to one side, simultaneously giving the rapist a powerful shove with her arms...
There was a distinct
crunch. Then a thin, wailing scream. She looked up and saw
him kneeling there clutching at his crotch. Blood spurted out between his fingers.
His companion cried, "What's wrong? What did she do to you?"
The other one just continued to scream. It was then that Kimberley became aware
that he was
still inside her. She realized that his grotesque member was so
diseased with fungus it had simply snapped off...

In the course of some 220 pages, all manner of horrible things happen. A man's
Athlete's foot mutates and absorbs his legs, making them crumble to gray
powder. A pair of lesbian lovers are consumed by oral thrush after...well, you
know. Intestinal fungus living in cowshit assimilates a sleeping family on a
campout. Soldiers burst apart with green and black slime. Every imaginable form
of fungi--toadstools, mushrooms, yeast, molds--is infected and soon England is
under siege once again (poor old England, it suffered so in the nasties). Enter
Barry Wilson, spy novelist, and former mycologist. And also the husband of Jane
who started this hideous mess. The military arrests him and sends him deep into
fungi-occupied London to search for his wife and the key to the infestation. In a
specially-designed armored vehicle, he penetrates the fungal hellzone of London
with a bitter, used-up asshole of a soldier named Slocock and a perverted hottie
named Kimberley Fairchild who happens to be a specialist in tropical medicine.
Knight paints neither of these characters in a very sympathetic light--Slocock is
an alcoholic bully and Kimberley is true whack-job with a sexual obsession for
men with power. They both torment Wilson who is obviously--and
understandably--scared. Over the intercom Wilson hears them having sex--the
paunchy Slocock and the depraved young Kimberley. At first Wilson is appalled,
but then he begins to find them both pathetic and disgusting. No longer
shrinking from the fungi horror outside, Wilson channels the spirit of Flannery,
the Irish tough guy of his spy novels, and soon sets things to right, breaking
Slocock's nose with a rifle and in the process, symbolically castrating him in
Kimberley's eyes. She soon is attracted to him. You get the idea. When these
two meet their ends, the reader greets it with sadistic pleasure.

This novel is very well researched and darkly imaginative. It's worth the price just
to read of Wilson's ride through London. People and animals have become
spongy slime molds. Buildings are shrouded in nets of spiderweb fungus.
Immense mushrooms rise from the wreckage of buildings. Fungi people hunt the
mushy streets in wolfpacks. Does Wilson find his wife? Yes, he does. She has
become a mad fungi-sporing messiah of a cult of fungus females. The ending is
great, but in this one it's getting there that really counts.

Pros: Just about everything. Definitely ghastly, definitely gruesome, and
definitely gor-ifying, so it meets the three essential G's of nasties. Also,
characters with issues, perverted sex, horrible happenings, and let's not forget
the definitive nasty rape scene which may be the finest horror rape scene since
that girl got slimed and violated by the giant maggot in
Galaxy of Terror.

Cons: Can't think of any. Well-written, perfectly paced, perfectly disturbing.

Overall: Go grab this one. If you like this kind of stuff, you won't be disappointed.
Harry Adam Knight (Bronson) is to be commended for writing a near-perfect
piece of pulp horror.

I give this one five bloody skulls out of five.

Our next Guilty Pleasure:

"They slime, they ooze, they kill--"
Copyright 2016 by Tim Curran
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