“After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.”
My Thoughts: Contagion by Erin Bowman is a satisfying mashup of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. The story draws upon such popular fears as space and space travel, the unknown, disease, and isolation, as well as more mundane young adult concerns like failing and being viewed as different. Adding to the mix are corporate greed and political power. You might be able to say that there is even an aspect of a coming-of-age story as a young woman must step up and grow in her role from high school intern into a scientist and leader.
Even though it is somewhat predictable, Contagion entertains as it shifts from an exploration novel to a monster story and then into a political dystopian one. This hodge-podge of story types works well together as each genre shift involves new information that sheds light on the situation at hand and the universe at large. In this regard, the genres flow from one to the other without damaging the story arc. The characters help this shift as well, as each situation, and therefore genre, requires them to adapt or face the potentially fatal consequences. Readers become immune to the shifts in story types from scene to scene because it is a natural progression of not just the story itself but also of character development.
Granted, there is not much in the way of character development. We learn characters’ secrets which help flesh out their backstories a bit. Their reactions to the situations they face also helps fill out their character profile. There is really only one character that essentially grows – the intern – but whether that continues into the future novels is something only time will reveal. The rest of the characters remain fairly static, foils for our main character and the fodder for our monsters.
While not a truly great novel, there is enough within Contagion to satisfy any desire to read a scary story, and it is a scary science fiction story. Chances are that there is at least one aspect of the story that will scare you, and if that doesn’t work, Ms. Bowman keeps the gore factor high as well. Plus, the tension ratchets quickly in the opening chapters and never falls. There are very few pauses in the action that would allow you to rest from the stress such suspense may cause you. For a book that hits all the sweet spots for fall, as thoughts naturally turn towards the spookiness and macabre of Halloween, you cannot go wrong with Contagion.