Plants threaten human existence in Muggington’s (Who’s the Lucky Guy?, 2015, etc.) interplanetary thriller.
Things are starting to get odd for botanists and cancer researchers Texie Raynott and Dock Hatman. After an accident lands Texie in the hospital, Dock notices a series of plant-related deaths and stumbles into a bizarre conspiracy. Before long, the scientists are abducted and locked in a huge bunker, deep underneath Manhattan. They’re tormented by a mad botanist, Hildred, who’s created plants that can move, talk, and kill. Hildred is part of a gruesome secret project that’s seeking a way for humans to survive a coming war with plants. Texie and Dock escape and find refuge with the brilliant Bridget Boynton, an inventor who’s also part of another secret plan to escape the plants and colonize Mars. The war explodes just as the Mars shuttles are ready to go. The book then skips ahead 20 years; Texie and Bridget fight despair in an increasingly dysfunctional Mars colony, while Dock navigates a dystopian, dark-ages Earth overrun by genetic mutants and superstition. As the Martian colonists struggle to come back home, Dock returns to his botanical studies. Muggington crams tons of plot points and set pieces into his imaginative storyline, which includes everything from alien life-forms to gigantic aquariums to gladiatorial combat. That said, many characters seem more like plot devices than rational, believable human beings. Several people that Texie and Dock encounter are insane, but even the healthy ones behave strangely, including the cartoonishly fiendish leaders of the Mars colony and the oddly PR-conscious plant experimenters. Even Texie and Dock behave unpredictably; Texie, for example, casually breaks a quarantine, endangering her colony, while Dock responds to the chaos around him with a confused indignation that’s odd in a man who’s managed to survive so long. These characterization and plotting incongruities make the book feel scattered, which is a shame, as the author clearly has a creative story to tell. If he puts more heavy lifting into character and plot development, his next outing could be a truly unique tour de force.
A gonzo but incoherent sci-fi story.