Books & TV: Fungus among us

Having just spent an intensely creepy 80-something minutes watching the series premier of The Last of Us (HBO), I’m now forced to sit here and contemplate just how terrifying fungi can be. If you’re not scared, then you definitely haven’t watched this show… or read any of the books I’m about to talk about!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let’s start with The Last of Us. This show has been getting tons of hype — well deserved! For those who aren’t familiar with the history, The Last of Us started as a videogame (released in 2013) that was absolutely huge — and which is generally considered a giant step forward in gaming in terms of both graphics and storytelling. (For more on the game and its significance, read here — but note that there are spoilers for the overall storyline). I’m not a gamer, so that aspect doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but I do love a good post-apocalypse story… and this one is a doozy.

Here’s the official trailer from HBO:

Are you scared yet?

After watching the first episode, I naturally starting thinking about the scary-as-hell books I’ve read over the past several years featuring horrific fungi — and thought I’d share the case of the creeps with everyone else!

If you’re into fungal horror (or want to know what books to avoid at all costs), then check out this list. I’ve provided links to my reviews, in case you’re interested.

The Girl with All the Gifts (and the sequel, The Boy on the Bridge) by M. R. Carey:

The Girl With All the Gifts was my first exposure to zombie apocalypse via fungus, and man, was it horrifying! It’s a great story — and at the time when it was released, the marketing cleverly didn’t disclose what it was actually about. I expected a story about kids with some sort of paranormal abilities, perhaps, and instead… FUNGAL HORROR. So good…

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

This was a 2022 release, and it’s just amazing (and creep-tastic). A retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher, but with fungi! You’ll never look at a rabbit in quite the same way again.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Garcia-Moreno

I almost hesitated about including this one, since the very fact that I’m putting it here is entering into spoiler territory… but it’s a prime example of great fungus-based horror!

The Unfamiliar Garden (The Comet Cycle, #2) by Benjamin Percy

This is the 2nd book in the Comet Cycle trilogy (and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of #3!). In these books, a comet that passes close by Earth has a devastating effect on the world as we know it. The first book, The Ninth Metal, relates one aspect of the story, and here in book #2, we see an entirely different set of effects on the natural landscape, including… you guessed it… horrifying fungi! I tend to describe these books more as sci-fi than horror, although there’s plenty of ickiness too.

Those are the examples from my own bookshelves… but there’s more! If you just can’t get enough of deadly fungi, check Fangoria’s list of movies, TV episodes, and books with fungal horror plotlines.

And if you want to start on a less terrifying note, then there’s always this goodie (available via Amazon and elsewhere):

Wow, this is a cheerful post! So now that I’ve shared my selection of frightful fungal horror, I’ll ask you:

Have you read any other horror books with deadly/disgusting/horrifying fungi taking over the world (or at least a corner of it)?

Please share any recommendations… not that I need any further fuel for my nightmares.

17 thoughts on “Books & TV: Fungus among us

  1. The Last of Us was so good! But yes, scary. I remember when I first heard about the fungus that controlled insects on some sort of nature show. So freaky!

  2. Fungus Horror! 😀 I started thinking of it as a sub-genre after reading What Moves the Dead and thinking back to some of the other books mentioned in your post – the Carey books and Mexican Gothic. I would never have thought I’d enjoy these so much but I’ve loved all of them.
    I didn’t realise The Last of Us had fungus horror too, I’m waiting for more episodes to be available before I start so I can have a binge watch. Am really looking forward to it now.

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