Gravity – Tess Gerritsen
I’ve been perfectly aware that in addition to her hugely popular Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli series, Tess has written over 15 other standalone books. I’ve always intended to read them but have been put off by the passing comments of others who state they are not as good. On a whim I decided to purchase one and give it a whirl.
Emma Watson, a brilliant research physician, has been training for the mission of a lifetime: to study living beings in space. Jack McCallum, Emma's estranged husband, has shared her dream of space travel, but a medical condition has grounded and embittered him. He must watch from the sidelines as his wife prepares for her first mission to the International Space Station. Once aboard the space station, however, things start to go terribly wrong. A culture of single-celled organisms known as Archaeons, gathered from the deep sea, is to be monitored in the microgravity of space. The true and lethal nature of this experiment has not been revealed to NASA. In space, the cells rapidly multiply and soon begin to infect the crew -- with agonizing and deadly results. A recovery attempt ends in catastrophe; the NASA shuttle crashes, and the space station is left dangerously crippled. Emma struggles to contain the deadly microbe, while back home, Jack and NASA work against the clock to retrieve Emma from space. But there will be no rescue. The contagion now threatens Earth's population as well, and the astronauts are left stranded in orbit, quarantined aboard the station -- where they are dying one by one...
As the blur indicates this novel takes place in space. IN SPACE! A Tess Gerritsen novel of all things. I couldn’t believe it when I read the blurb as this was such a departure from her normal series. Could Tess write with the same quality? The answer is a resounding yes!
Gravity is a great novel. It has all the hallmarks of your classic adventure/horror novel but is complimented with Tess’s unique style and medical background knowledge.
The characters are all well defined. Emma, called upon to carry out a mission at the last minutes and Jack consigned to be a ghost within the program, in particular are well portrayed. They are the heroes of the novel but nothing they do is too outrageous. There is no defying all the impossible odds here, they just do what they can to survive.
With novels of this ilk, it is easy for the expendable characters to be one dimensional. Tess goes to great length to avoid this trap however. At the start of the novel she invests in the characters, giving them all distinct personalities and making you care for them. This is no mean feat considering the book is not too long.
The only exception to these characters is Luther. Who seems to have a personality transplant as the novel progresses, moving on from the caring colleague to the ruthless pragmatist.
The real strong point of the novel however is the monster/virus. The gelatinous blue/green globules are truly menacing and the havoc they cause is terrifying. Tess focuses her attention of the “monster” but you never feel like you are being over exposed.
As the deaths continue, it is clear that a shady organisation knows what is going on and so another element to the story surfaces. Tess manages to keep the excitement and tension on the ground as good as it is in space.
The ending is a little to neat for my liking, but satisfying nonetheless.
I was thoroughly impressed with this novel and will certainly be checking out Tess’s other standalones.
My rating: 8.8