Cover Image: The Unfamiliar Garden

The Unfamiliar Garden

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Run of the mill, TV-style horror tale of fungus gone wrong in Washington state. Ridiculous characters. Good beginning but went downhill fast. I started skimming the text but after a few chapters stopped reading.
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Absolutely loved this novel, especially the setting in the Pacific Northwest and the fact that the author fully embraced the inherent suitability of the Olympic National Forest to horror/SF elements. That alone really makes it stand out to me within the genre landscape and also just lent a wonderful atmosphere to the novel as a whole. I think this is something Percy excels at, based on this and on his previous novel in this "world," "The Ninth Metal."
I love weird SF, so I loved the very strange turn things took towards the end of this book, but it's true you may not get a full sense of what you're in for from the very beginning. It's a bit of a slow burn at first, opening with personal tragedy - a girl is mysteriously lost in the forest while her dad works on research there -, and then after a time jump, it reconnects with the two very different people her parents have grown into in the years since that tragedy. A detective and an academic, they're forced to work together again on a new mystery, one that they eventually discover is tied to the case of their daughter's disappearance years ago.
I will note that, much as I loved it at work here, the trope involving fungi in this book is something that for one reason or another found its way into no fewer than five different fictional narratives I read or listened to this past year (year or two?) - which means that at some point, it started to feel overdone. I think it fits particularly well into this novel however, especially given the setting. 
I initially read this book as an arc, which was provided by NetGalley for review.
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There’s a fungus among us—sorry, I couldn’t resist! A fascinating sci-fi tale of an unusual alien invasion about to destroy the world. Starts out as a very moving human story of parents losing their little girl, slowly veers into more of a  creepy sci-fi adventure, and then develops into full blown horror. Even though this is the second book in the Comet Cycle series, it can be read as a stand alone. I liked it so much, though, that I definitely want to read book one and anxiously await for book three to come out later this year.
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I don’t remember requesting this ARC from netgalley. It’s completely out of my typical wheelhouse (which leans toward literary fiction and family dramas) and there is nothing about this book that seems like something I would gravitate towards or even enjoy. I’ve never read anything else by Benjamin Percy nor have I even heard of him. This book is the second in a trilogy, the Comet Cycle, and I haven’t read or even heard of the first, The Ninth Metal (once I learned that I investigated a bit further and discovered that while the instigating event is the same in both books (a meteor shower), the consensus is that the books can be read as standalone novels). Genre-wise, Amazon categorizes it as “post-apocalyptic science fiction, “alien invasion science fiction” and “supernatural thriller” none of which are genres (sub-genres?) I ever really choose to read.

But here’s the kicker … I’m really enjoying it 😱 I’m at about the halfway mark and things are starting to get weird 🍄 Perhaps if they were this weird at the outset I would not have continued. But the setup was great, a missing child storyline is engrossing and I’ve become fully invested in the characters.

Anyways, I’m loving it so far and finding it wildly entertaining. So let me get back to it!

There’s nothing better than learning something new about ourselves … as readers or otherwise.

PS Finished this one and while I probably won't read the rest of the trilogy, I did really enjoy it. If this is your typical genre, I think this would be a fantastic choice for you and something you would really like.
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I requested this book without prior knowledge of it being the second book in a series. Because of this I felt there was a lot that I was missing that could have made the story so much more than it was, however, with that said, it was still fairly easy to follow along..

The premise is fairly believable even if it’s in the genre of sci-fi, like to consider this as more as sci-fi realism, a “what if” situation if you will. Earth passes through debris leftover from a comet. The debris causes meteorites to land on earth and deposit new minerals and metals. Some time later, mushrooms grow setting off a chain reaction in the surrounding area. I am a huge fan of mycology so this was thrilling for me, however, it was quite enough to make the book amazing.

I don’t know if it was because I was missing information having skipped the first book or if the story just seemed to be missing some key element. I can’t put my finger on it but either way, I felt like it just missed the mark.
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The night the sky fell, Jack and Nora Abernathy’s daughter vanished in the woods. And Mia’s disappearance broke her parents’ already fragile marriage. Unable to solve her own daughter’s case, Nora lost herself in her work as a homicide detective. Jack became a shell of a man; his promising career as a biologist crumbling alongside the meteor strikes that altered weather patterns and caused a massive drought.
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This is book 2 in the Comet Cycle Series.  In this book, Jack & Nora's daughter goes missing and in the aftermath, their lives & marriage implode.  Nora loses herself in her work as a homicide detective.  Jack's career collapses as he has no more motivation to study biology after the disappearance of his daughter, the meteor strikes that change the atmosphere, and the sudden disappearance of any rain in Seattle.  The years pass, and the rains finally return.  Jack & Nora's careers bring them back together when everything grows again.  Will they solve the mystery of their daughter's disappearance?
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Book one of the Comet Cycle, The Ninth Metal, drew me in with its tale of an omnimetal comet bringing meteorites to earth and how the Department of Defense tries to control it in. That book, set largely in Minnesota, was part western, part Terminator, part family saga. Highly recommend.

The Unfamiliar Garden is the second of the Comet Cycle, set a few years after the Ninth Metal, It can be read as a standalone, though you could lose a lot of the background info. No spoilers no matter which you read first. 

This story is set in the Pacific Northwest, which is recovering from the drought brought on by the meteorites' impacts on the climate. Once rain begins to fall, new fungi develop. The DOD again tries to weaponize the new lifeforms, but instead of a Hatfields and McCoys feud as in the Ninth Metal, we are faced with a missing girl, and a fast-spreading infection - in post-COVID PNW, the city starts going bananas.

4.7/5 Well done; can't wait for the next story!

Good for people who like
their SciFi just a skosh away from the normal world
The Understory
Trouble With Lichen
The Girl With All the Gifts
The Lady Astronaut series
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As the second book in the Comet Cycle series, The Unfamiliar Garden doesn't simply pick up where the first book left off. Instead, author Benjamin Percy offers a parallel storyline with connections to some of the characters and events of the first book. Just as I expressed my shock at how much I loved the first book (read my review here), I find myself doing the same for this one. The first book featured warring between and within families, a town cult, government experiments, police drama, and political power plays all set within a modern-day gold rush. The second book is a scientific wonderland of mushrooms and the exploration of the effects of materials from outer space on our ecosystem. It also features the emotional erosion of a marriage in the wake of a child's disappearance and the detailed description of a hunt for a serial killer. I am just blown away by how Percy blends so many different stand-alone genres into not only a coherent story but one that is so beautifully written. I'm hooked on The Comet Cycle for sure!
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The Unfamiliar Garden: A Comet Cycle Novel by Benjamin Percy is the story of a family and what happens when the world becomes a different place.  The comet passed by the Earth and provided a spectacular sight.  However, a year later parts of that comet began falling to Earth, most burning up in the atmosphere but some made it to water and land.  Jack worked at a university teaching biology and was a fungus expert.  Nora was a detective for the local police force.  They lived in Seattle with their daughter Mia. Jack took Mia with him early one morning to collect mushrooms for work it was during this trip Mia disappeared without a trace. The climate changes from the meteors caused Seattle to go through a drought.  5 years later rain finally starts to fall bringing with it new types of fungus.  As people become ill, attacking  and killing both friends and strangers. Nora is investigating multiple murders and suspects the comet's influence of the local fungi. The DOD is also studying this phenomena and come across something that may change everything.  Will Jack and Nora discover what is causing everyone to become ill and find a cure before it spreads out of  Seattle?  Is Mia still alive? Will they find out what happened 5 years ago?
     Percy has tied together some wonderful scientific concepts and what ifs to create a scary situation made worse by the very real science behind it.  I love stories with just enough reality that it could just really happen. There is plenty of action  and adventure. ... Each page drawing the reader in more and more until there is no escape.  The character are well developed and I find I have a tender sport for the couple as they struggle to find their way forward after the loss of a child. Even with the action and impending doom Percy finds a way to include the mundane and their daily lives all while timing it up neatly with a bow.
    Honestly there wasn't one thing I didn't like about this book with the exception of the DOD characters that were just kind of weird. However that does make it easier to not like them when their behavior is often in the Gray zone and is ambiguous. 
     I give this book 5 out if 5 stars. It's a wonderful book from u to finish.  The type of book that once you start you have trouble setting down until it's finished. 
    I'd recommend this book for people that like science fiction. Although it's geared more towards adult readers, young adults would definitely enjoy it as well. There is profanity included in this book.  There are not any sexual scenes.  
   I'd like to thank Benjamin Percy as this was an advance uncorrected proof given to me for review.
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The Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy is the second book in The Comet Cycle series, taking place on Earth after a comet fell and changed nature itself. Mr. Percy is an award-winning published author, and a writer of fiction and non-fiction articles, as well as comic books.

When a comet fell to Earth, it introduced a new metal, and new bacteria to the ecosystem. In Seattle, the daughter of Jack and Nora Abernathy, Mia, disappeared with no trace. This, eventually, ruined the marriage of the fungus biologist (Jack) and police detective (Nora).

Five years later, it started raining again in Seattle, and a sudden grown of a parasitic fungus keeps Jack busy. Meanwhile, Nora is pursuing a mass murder, when they discover that their investigations connect.

I really enjoyed the first book in the series, The Ninth Metal, as well as other works by Mr. Percy, so I was on the lookout for either the second book, or other works. I was not disappointed, The Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy is well written, inventive, and the narrative is tight.

The book moves fast, following Nora, Jack and three or four other characters. The focus of the book is not the characters per se, but certainly the nightmarish discovery of a parasitic fungus.

While this novel takes place in the same universe as the first, it is not a continuation, but rather a standalone novel. There is at least one character that shows up in both, but it’s only as a minor cameo.

While this novel could certainly classify as a horror novel, I found it to be less scary and more of a science-fiction thriller. I’m glad because horror is not a genre I enjoy in any medium – so maybe my brain just shut it out. Regardless, if this novel would have been advertised as horror, I probably wouldn’t have read it to begin with, but I’m glad I did.

The novel is both grounded, and tragic, as well as getting more and more weird as it goes along. Puget Sound becomes a world of its own navigated by the tough Nora, and her geek ex-husband, a university professor who gave up on his personal life, as well as professional career.

I especially enjoyed the aspect of the story about how our fragile world could change on levels we can’t comprehend. This is a well thought out, plotted novel, the whole series is remarkable, so far.
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Really enjoyed this book! Quick and easy read with a fascinating and creative sci-fi plot line. Definitely recommend if you like your sci-fi in the nature/space realm!
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The story had a lot going on.  There was a meteor shower.  There was a missing little girl.  There are some fungi.  Oh, and a serial killer.  All of these are connected.  I had times in which I was really engrossed and times I had to force myself to continue.  Overall, I don’t know that I would read any more of this story.
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An interesting and very scary dystopic book!

Benjamin Percy is an amazing storyteller. This is not a story, you can read and then forget... It stays with you!
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Like most have already said - this book can be read as a standalone although it's the 2nd book in a series. I haven't read the first, and it felt complete to me. This book is so elementally good that I read it took me no time to get through. Meteor fragments have crashed into the Earth and 5 years later, we start experiencing one of the alarming side effects in the Pacific Northwest as the drought caused by the meteor has finally given way and the rains have started back up again. I don't usually like to go into novels blind, but there's not much else to know before starting to read this. The characters are amazingly well done, but even more so - the World is so vividly detailed, as is the mystery as to the missing girl and what is happening to the World now. How can it be stopped - can it?! An eco thriller that I would highly recommend everyone pick up.
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"The Unfamiliar Garden" is Percy's second entry in the "Comet Cycle," following on "The Ninth Metal." That earlier entry was set during and after the Earth orbited through the tail of a passing comet, raining fire and "omnimetal" (comet detritus) on upper Minnesota and leading to a mining boom amid the small towns of the northern forests. This entry is focused on the Pacific Northwest, where dust from the same comet seems to have planted otherworldly fungi widely across the landscape. This story is far more intimate and personal: a university mycologist and a police detective lose their daughter on the night of the comet, leading to the implosion of their marriage. He searches constantly for the daughter, drifting listlessly through his academic duties until the end of a post-comet drought also revives the fungal spores deposited throughout the region. New unknown varieties infect people, driving them to violent acts that draw the attention of the detective mother. Eventually the estranged couple team up, attempting to figure out what's going on, and their efforts run up against the feds (some of whom were in the first novel in the series). Super-tall fungal stalks, human possession and strange behavior worthy of Jeff Vandermeer, and conspiracies ensue. It's not necessary to have read the first book in the series to enjoy the story here, though the explanation of the comet itself in that entry is worthwhile background.
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After how great an opener The Ninth Metal was, this was a little bit of a letdown. This series is going to be a trilogy (at least), and this volume of it felt like a LOT of table-setting for the next edition, to the point where I almost wanted this to be paired with it. There's some cool ideas with fungus going on, but I was able to easily predict some of the plot points that would occur before we were given a triumphant "now we know our good guys and our bad guys" ending, and it felt like the developments from The Ninth Metal kind of pop up here, but are also inessential.

I'm still interested in seeing how this turns out, but this felt like some wheel spinning compared to the first book, and if I was reading this series as it was released I'd probably wait until both books 2 and 3 were out so I could immediately plunge from one to the next.
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First of all, I want to say that this book can be read as a standalone. I didn’t realize when I requested it from Netgalley that it was the second in a series. From what I understand, the only thing connecting the two books is the meteor shower.

The story starts with a meteor shower. Jack is a biologist who studies fungi, and he takes his eight year old daughter, Mia, with him to hunt mushrooms the night of the meteor shower. She ends up disappearing, and then we fast forward five years. 

The rest of the story rotates mainly between Jack’s POV, and his wife, Nora’s. Nora is investigating some strange murders, and Jack is discovering new fungi. These two storylines intertwine with each other and Mia’s disappearance in strange and interesting ways.

I thought this book was a lot of fun. It was fast paced with two likable and interesting main characters. Then in the second half it got very weird. If you’re looking for a fun, fast paced sci-fi thriller and don’t mind weirdness, then I’d recommend this book. I definitely plan on reading the other two books in the series.
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I loved this book! A fantastic follow-up to the first Comet Cycle book, The Ninth Metal. Full of tension and intrigue and a certain amount of icky science too, this is a suspenseful sci-fi look at a changed Earth. Can't wait for #3!
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A worthy successor to book one. 

While it uses the same event as the catalyst for the story, the results are extremely different.  Just as metal did for Minnesota, the meteor takes full of advantage of the Pacific Northwest venue, and rain is a catalyst for fungus which takes on an otherworldly characteristic.

Once again the story covers the gamut from the very personal (a professor and his wife, detective, lose a child) to the very macro (a crime wave strikes Seattle).  There is an interesting surprise connection between the two events in Minnesota and Seattle. Finally the science of biology plays a well put together role in Book 2.

Excellent writing, believable characters and a real sense of place all combine to make this a worthwhile read. Looking forward to seeing what tangent the author explores in the next installment.
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