However, it's a miracle that I ever picked this wonderful book up. What were Harper thinking when they published it in this cover? That image speaks to no genre, certainly not sci fi (in my opinion).
Even today HarperCollins still seem to be misplacing this book. Amazon lists it against Medical Thrillers and Medical Fiction (where it ranks very highly), but casual SF browsers will never find it.
The taglines of "Sunday Times Bestseller" (yawn) and "A better writer than Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell" seemed overly egotistical and I expected to be disappointed - wrong! This is writing of the first order.
I nearly passed it by in the book shop. However, I was always intrigued by gravity when I was studying physics, and that was just enough to get me to read the blurb... which contained lots of things that I love in SF '... study living creatures in space... space travel... space station... infects the astronauts... NASA... contagion...' - what's not to like in that list?
Gerritsen masterfully tells an interwoven medical and space exploration story. The medical science is believable. The descriptions of space technology and procedures feel accurate. I was turning the pages fast in order to see what happened next. Despite many deaths, the story ends on a somewhat upbeat note that I appreciated.
The central premise of the book is that an ancient organism dug up from the Galapagos Rift becomes 'contaminated' with frog genes before being shipped to the ISS as a private experiment. On board the ISS it acquires mouse and human genes. The resulting organism then infects the crew of both the station and astronauts visiting in the space shuttle with a 'disease' that digests them from the inside out. The closing chapters contain a powerfully told cover up and betrayal, followed a State versus The People narrative. Will the astronauts survive and return to Earth? - you'll have to read the book to find out.
The only moment I squirmed over was the fictional destruction of Discovery and her crew. Accidents happen in space, which is a minor theme in this book, but I couldn't help but feel that this plot line came too soon after the loss of Challenger in 1986. Sometimes even thirteen years isn't long enough.
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