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Gravity
Tess Gerritsen
Pocket Books, 338 pages

Gravity
Tess Gerritsen
Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers Life Support and Bloodstream. Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

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When one of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station falls suddenly ill, it never occurs to Emma Watson, the station's medical doctor, that anything more than ordinary sickness is involved -- despite the man's bizarre and alarming symptoms, which include wracking convulsions and hemorrhages in both eyes.

But when the crew of the space shuttle sent to retrieve the body for autopsy begins to manifest identical symptoms, it becomes clear that some kind of virulent, unknown infection is involved. Hemorrhagic fever is suspected -- but no form of hemorrhagic fever causes the victims' bodies to burst open and spill out big clusters of neon-green eggs. Soon the Space Station astronauts are also infected. One by one, they die horrifying deaths. At last only Emma is left, sick but still alive.

Meanwhile, on the ground, Emma's estranged husband Jack -- once an astronaut himself, now grounded by a medical condition -- has been frantically working with his former NASA colleagues to try and figure out the pathology of what appears to be a deadly microbe. But is it? The Department of Defense, which has abruptly co-opted the investigation, seems to think it might be something else, possibly extra-terrestrial. They want to contain the threat by allowing Emma to die in space. Jack refuses to accept this. Defying the government, abandoning NASA regulations, he embarks on a desperate quest to save his wife.

To a selection of basic thriller ingredients -- a plucky heroine, a conflicted hero, sinister defense projects, government coverups, and a lot of amazing coincidences -- Gerritsen adds convincing genetic and medical elements and an authentic picture of the U.S. space program, to craft an absorbing novel of biological suspense. If Gravity doesn't have quite the depth of a Crichton or the complexity of a Cook, it's still an excellent adventure. The tightly-constructed plot spins forward at a breakneck pace, and the progress of the outbreak, rendered in cinematic detail, is fascinatingly horrific. Especially good are the descriptions of life aboard the Space Station, which read with the authority of first-hand experience -- an impressive testament to Gerritsen's research.

A few of the amazing coincidences are a bit too amazing: the accidental death of the One Person Who Knows the Cure (in the process of rushing off to save the day), the just-in-time launch of an experimental spacecraft (the minute it appears in the narrative, apparently unrelated to the main story, you know exactly why it's there). But these are fairly minor quibbles, and don't at all detract from a very entertaining read. Fans of bio-thrillers will snap this up, and beg for more.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.


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