Put Charlie Huston’s The Mystic Art of Erasing All Kinds of Death, Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, and the original Alien movie in a blender, water the mix down, and you’ll have this sci-fi thriller.
After her personal and professional lives melt down, talented biochemist Rosalyn Devar leaves Earth for a less-than-glamorous career as a salvager; essentially a janitor cleaning up bodies after traumatic incidents. Her drinking and erratic behavior almost get her fired, but she manages to wangle one last assignment: cleaning up the research ship Brigantine, the latest vessel to mysteriously experience the deaths of all its crew. Or so she thinks until she gets there and discovers that most of the crew is alive but infected by Foxfire, a sentient and weirdly maternal blue fungus that wants Rosalyn to join its hive mind and help “her” take over the rest of humanity. Rosalyn must fight off the ship’s brutal and crazed security detail, Piero, and biochemist, Rayan, both of whom have succumbed to Foxfire, while wondering if she can trust the engineer, Misato, and the charming captain, Edison, who are desperately attempting to resist Foxfire’s influence. Can Rosalyn avoid becoming invaded, get help without endangering anyone else, and find the link between Foxfire and a potential multicorporation conspiracy that might include her own family’s company? The answers aren’t much in doubt, and the conspiracy proves to be not too terribly complicated; either the author (Tomb of Ancients, 2019) trusts readers to fill in the details or just couldn’t be bothered to take on the job herself. And it’s odd that Rosalyn, a former biochemist with a specialty in xenobiology, offers no real scientific speculations about Foxfire, leaving that to other characters; she does eventually come up with a way of combating the thing, but there’s no explanation of how she developed it, suggesting that the author didn't do much mushroom research of her own, either. Rosalyn is much more interesting as a troubled janitor than she is as a thriller heroine, and the tenuous attraction between her and Edison seems contrived. A story about her cleanup work could’ve been interesting, but the book heads toward the formulaic territory of alien threats and corrupt corporate shenanigans far too quickly.
Moderately entertaining at best.