Here, the threat is a sample of a fungus capable of phenomenal destruction that has been buried in a former mine. Two workers at a storage facility built above the mine sound the alarm when it goes missing; and they’re soon joined by a pair of counter-bio-terror agents who had captured Cordyceps novus in Australia 32 years earlier and (they thought) stored it safely. Beside its predictably fine dialogue, the book’s strengths include the Stephen King-like way humour is interwoven with horror and Koepp’s enthralling conjuring of the fungus, which becomes as vivid as its human co-leads. Only a slightly underpowered finale lets it down.
This is a classic thriller in the tradition of Crichton and Richard Preston. If you loved “The Andromeda Strain” and adored “The Hot Zone,” and if you relish, as I do, horrendous and revolting descriptions of distended bodies writhing and heaving and ribcages bursting open with the sound of snapping sticks and guts flying into the faces of dumbfounded people, and if you like the image of unwholesome green globules of fungus bubbling along the ground toward a paralyzed scientist, then this is the thriller for you. But Koepp is better than Crichton in three significant ways: He writes well, he has a wicked sense of humor and his characters are so keenly, intelligently and even movingly drawn that they might have stepped out of a literary novel. On every level, “Cold Storage” is pure, unadulterated entertainment.