Short story that I believe was fairly recent.

  • Story may have been written post-1980.
  • Set in the Amazon
  • Set in current day
  • A man (not the narrator) is infected with some kind of agent that terraforms his body.
  • I remember one remark about his spine being reinforced and made stronger.
  • Eventually it turns him into a non-sentient human-sized rainforest.
  • 1
    Spine being reinforced/rebuilt is one of the things that happen to the protagonist of Blood Music.
    – DavidW
    Dec 12, 2020 at 5:49
  • 1
    This is the mention of the reinforced spine in Blood Music. Does this look familiar? "Look at my spine," he said. I rotated the image in the video frame. Buckminster Fuller, I thought. It was fantastic. A cage of triangular projections, all interlocking in ways I couldn't begin to follow, much less understand. Dec 12, 2020 at 5:54
  • I don't believe so; there was a much more rainforest/ecological bent to the story, and the one person infected died from the infection. (Enjoyed blood music, though.)
    – user134914
    Dec 12, 2020 at 9:25
  • The novelization of the Garland movie "Annihilation" 😂 Dec 14, 2020 at 6:48
  • I vaguely remembered Greg Egan's short story Chaff (ISFDB) from the collection Luminous, which has genetically enhanced amazon rainforest but no mtach: It is acctually about a designed virus which causes neurons to rewire themselves so that you become exactly what you want to be. Dec 14, 2020 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


This is a long shot, but hauntingly similar to your description.

"Recording Angel" by Ian McDonald was written in 1996.

It is set in Kenya rather than the Amazon.

Earth is being transformed by space-borne nanotech that fell first in Kenya. So instead of terraforming, the story introduces the term "xenoforming".

The xenoforming "stuff" is called the Chaga. It is unstoppable by any human means, and, like the famous Body Snatcher pods, but at the nanometer level, is inexorably covering and changing the entire planet.

The story is written in the third person, but gives the strong sense of being narrated, because it primarily speaks from the thoughts and personal experiences of the woman named Gaby who is a journalist assigned to be the "recording angel" of this unstoppable process.

Mismatch: It does not match the requisite of describing a man's spine being xenoformed.

However, her main correspondent and subject, the other protagonist of the story, is determined to explore this phenomenon no matter what it does to him.

He is a hunter by the name of Prenderleith. She thinks, "He look[s] like the last of the Great White Hunters."

As they observe the advancing landscape turned into alien colored hexagons, he shows her an elephant being xenoformed, with veiny growths and limbs ending in something disturbingly like human hands.

At the end of the story, he runs into the advancing growth. His fate is no different from all other humans on earth; he is simply meeting it sooner.

I read this story in the anthology "Nanotech" edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois in 2000 (which also contains "Blood Music").

I did not know that Ian McDonald had written an earlier "Chaga Saga" for Asimov's Magazine called “Towards Kilimanjaro'.

He also wrote a sequel to it called "Kirinya".

They are also set in Kenya, not the Amazon. However, now I wish to read them. I do not know if perhaps one of them describes a person being xenoformed. That is worth an exploration.


Another long shot: "The Crystal World", J G Ballard (1966). Summary from Wikipedia:

The protagonist is Edward Sanders, an English medical doctor, who arrives to the river port of Port Matarre, in Cameroon. From here he tries to reach a leprosy treatment facility where his friends, Max and Suzanne Clair, live. Soon, however, he starts to recognize that a mysterious phenomenon is crystallizing the jungle along with its living creatures. The same phenomenon is reported to be present also in the Florida everglades and in the Pripyat Marshes (Soviet Union) as well. Scientific explanations of the phenomenon are provided within the book: however, Ballard offers mostly an interior and psychological perspective about it, directly through Sanders' experiences. Several facts, furthermore, remain unexplained: for example, the ability of jewels to liquefy the crystals. The crystals also have the property to keep objects and beings in a suspended state of existence. Many passages deal with this characteristic, pointing out its capability to stop time and life.

As hinted in that summary, the internal narration is strange enough that it is not entirely clear what is happening. Supposedly the affected humans are suffering from leprosy, but one interpretation is that really it is the same crystallization process that is affecting the jungle.

Apparently Ballard took much of the setting and events of this book from his earlier short story "The Illuminated Man". I do not know whether that story would be a better match to your description.

  • "The Illuminated Man" is basically the story as described, so it does not give a better match. Dec 14, 2020 at 13:19

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