It's an old book about an organism that is created in a sewer by chance mixing of chemicals. It grows and eventually starts attacking and dissolving people, the only thing that can stop it is Iodine solution?

  • Hi there! :) that's still a bit vague, could you take a look at this guide on how to write a good story-ID question, see if that triggers any more memories you could edit into your post? For instance, what is "old"? 60s, 80s, 90s? What did the cover look like? What language was it written in? Things like that. Cheers!
    – Jenayah
    Jul 31, 2018 at 19:12
  • If the question has been answered to your satisfaction, you can "accept" an answer by clicking on the check mark next to the answer of your choice.
    – user14111
    Aug 1, 2018 at 6:27
  • Possibly the same as the question Story from early 80's - Red slime spreads via water, destroys anything it touches? Aug 1, 2018 at 10:21
  • @JohnRennie I think the answer you posted to that other question is the same as the answer to this question, namely, The Clone by Thomas & Wilhelm. But that other question seems to be looking for a different story, one with a "scientifically created red slime".
    – user14111
    Aug 2, 2018 at 3:54

3 Answers 3


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The Clone, a 1965 novel by Theodore L. Thomas and Kate Wilhelm. It's an expansion of Thomas's short story by the same title, which was first published in Fantastic Science Fiction Stories, December 1959 and is available at the Internet Archive.

From a review by Algis Budrys in Galaxy Magazine, June 1966, available at the Internet Archive:

One of the favorite pocket universes is the one in which nameless and overwhelming horror lurks behind every closet door and under every antimacassar. Some years ago, Theodore L. Thomas wrote a short story called "The Clone", which might very well have been called "The Thing from the Drain". He and Kate Wilhelm have now expanded this to a novel of the same title, and Berkley has published it.

The clone is a living organism which results from a chance combination of lifeless ingredients in the catch basin of a Chicago drain. By a perfectly believable combination of circumstances these various chemicals are warmed and nurtured to the point where a living cell begins to feed, react to stimuli and multiply. It then grows through the Chicago sewer system — and I am perfectly prepared to believe it has been there for years — chomping voraciously on everything it considers edible. Because its chemistry is somewhat different from ours, when it chomps on people, or, rather, absorbs them into its tissue, it rejects approximately seventy per cent of their water content.. Thus while these people and the reader dissolve, a freshet of slightly brackish water pours from the advancing line of clone tissue working its way through flesh and muscle, blood and bone, eating the animal-organic clothing worn by the unfortunate victim, rejecting such items as cotton. After a while, all that remains is a puddle of water with a T-shirt floating in it. When you translate this into a department storeful of victims, with the clone grown up to the point where it covers an area miles square, this becomes a flood, a cataract, a torrent of warmish, mineral laden water cascading down the stairways, escalators and elevator shafts, spilling out into the street and choking the gutters. As the clone consumes its food supply, it begins to hunt for new sources of energy and nutriment. It develops the ability to shoot pseudopods in all directions. It develops the ability to extract nourishment from materials it had previously disdained, such as the lath behind a plaster wall, and the various other organic material associated with building materials. As a result, not only people but buildings, and all the other accoutrements of normal civilization, begin to totter and dissolve into the green heaving mass of the insenate clone.

I haven't seen the novel, but in the short story the clone is indeed allergic to iodine:

The Pathologist had with him a cotton-stoppered bottle containing a small piece of living Clone. Talking over the radio with Army headquarters he explained all he had learned about the Clone: it was a living organism; it lived in the waste pipes under the city; it absorbed nitrogen-containing and calcium-containing matter at fantastic rates of speed; and, most important of all, a solution of iodine in water killed it.

  • 1
    Has to be it. I thought of this instantly when I read the description.
    – Kyle Jones
    Aug 1, 2018 at 7:43

About the only one I can think of that is similar is a book by John Tigges, under the pen name William Essex, titled Slime published in 1988. Here is the synopsis from TvTropes:

Slime is an eco-horror novel written by William Essex ("Author of The Pack," trumpets the cover). Toxic dumpings of rejected PCB near a small town in Iowa result in the creation of a living lake of ravenous toxic waste that consumes everything in its path, beginning with animals in the forest and then moving on to livestock and people. Only bank loan officer Tim Walker, together with the local cops, can stop the oozing green menace.

There is a ongoing yet still unfinished (7 years later!) review/synopsis ongoing on this forum post. Everything matches for the creation of the creature, but there is no mention of the iodine, or indeed, how they stop it.

Cover art:

enter image description here


I think it is Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (1971), by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis.

(Gerry Davis has written several scripts for Doctor Who , by the way). I am not including images of the book, because there were several editions.

I know that one, it was one of my favourites then. It is reasonably hard sci-fi set in contemporary London, describing what-if scenario and its effect on the city/world.

An embittered lone old scientist is experimenting at his home with breeding various kind (of bacteria or something I think), trying to make some kind of more organised life. He at last succeeds with something and the moment of triumph is too much for him and he falls dead with some cerebral stroke I think. He is standing next to lab sink at that moment, so the Petri dish (?) drops into it and breaks, then later on it's flushed into city sewer by an unsuspecting charlady.

The organism is constantly referred to as "the mutant" and "clone" throughout the book.

The main protagonist was, a doctor, who while trying to navigate the paralysed London and evade/learn more about the clone, accidentally smashed iodine bottle somewhere where it was trying to extend.

I liked it because it was describing in good detail the modern communications, sewers etc, and how and why the "clone" could actually work.


In the shaft leading to the [ventilation] grille a mindless, groping mass of malodorous corruption was thrusting its way silently towards the surface. Buoyed up by bubbling foam it steadily rose. Single units in an obscene abrogation of normal order divided and made two. Two became four and four, eight. Endlessly supplied with food, each unit absorbed nutrient and in a soft, ancient certainty fulfilled its only purpose - to multiply, to extend and to multiply... "

In the Coburg Street control room of the London Underground system,there was a full emergency... In a dozen tunnels, trains ground down to a halt. Hordes of terrified commuters made their way anxiously along dark, musty tunnels to the lights and safety of the next station. There were minor explosions, fires, and the failure of a million wires and cables. As the dissolution of plastic proceeded and accelerated in rate,the elegant order of the system gradually turned into complete chaos.

On the surface, in the freezing December air, the smell of the rotting plastic began to hang permanently in the air. A cloying, wet, rotting smell similar to the smell of long-dead flesh. It filled streets and homes, basements and factories. Traffic lights failed, causing irresolvable jams.... The breakdown of plastic spread into Broadcasting House.... A gas main with polypropylene seals on its pressure regulators erupted into flame.... Plastic cold-water pipes softened, ballooned, and burst, flooding into shops, homes, and restaurants. Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased; failures occurred in increasing succession until, within forty-eight hours, the center of London had become a freezing chaos without light, heat, or communication.

See also this review from The Quill and the Keyboard:

The central character is Luke Gerrard, a doctor working for a chemical company run by the scientist Arnold Kramer which has pioneered a plastic for bottles, Degron, which disintegrates after use.

Luke investigates what is happening to plastic components which appear to be failing. He is sent to to look at a robot that runs amok in a toy shop, and then at melting cables in a Tube tunnel, along with a journalist, Anne Kramer, wife of the magnate. Whilst they are down there there are series of catastrophic explosions in the underground which bring the centre of London to a halt. These are caused, we eventually learn, by Degron combining with a plastic eating virus, Mutant 59, which has accidentally been released into the sewer system.

The result is an organism which melts plastic, gives off gas, and spreads rapidly. The central part of the novel describes Luke and Anne’s exhausting trek to escape from the underground, and the desperate efforts of the government to stop the infection, which include imposing a military cordon that seals off much of central London. In the final part of the novel Arnold Kramer takes the infection onto a trans-Atlantic jet airliner which horrifically melts around the crew and passengers in mid-flight, while Luke succeeeds in finding an antidote to the virus at the eleventh hour (as they always do in such novels).

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