Gravity

( 114 )

Overview

A young NASA doctor must combat a lethal microbe that is multiplying in the deadliest of environments — space — in this acclaimed blockbuster of medical suspense from Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of Harvest, Life Support, and Bloodstream.
Gravity
Dr. Emma Watson has been training for the adventure of a lifetime: to study living beings in space. But her mission aboard the International Space Station turns into a nightmare beyond imagining ...

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Gravity: A Novel of Medical Suspense

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Overview

A young NASA doctor must combat a lethal microbe that is multiplying in the deadliest of environments — space — in this acclaimed blockbuster of medical suspense from Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of Harvest, Life Support, and Bloodstream.
Gravity
Dr. Emma Watson has been training for the adventure of a lifetime: to study living beings in space. But her mission aboard the International Space Station turns into a nightmare beyond imagining when a culture of single-celled organisms begins to regenerate out of control — and infects the space station crew with agonizing and deadly results. Emma struggles to contain the outbreak while back on Earth her estranged husband, Jack McCallum, works frantically with NASA to bring her home. But there will be no rescue. The contagion now threatens Earth's population, and the astronauts are stranded in orbit, quarantined aboard the station — where they are dying one by one...

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Novelist Tess Gerritsen carved out a solid niche in the thriller market and made the New York Times bestseller list with the release of her first medical suspense novel, Harvest. Two more followed and now, with the release of her fourth, Gravity, Gerritsen has rocketed to the top of her field, charting new territory in the genre by framing a story of high medical suspense with the unique terrors inherent in space exploration.
From the Publisher
"Tess Gerritsen is an automatic must-read in my house."

— Stephen King

"Pulls readers in with fearful force."

USA Today

"...combines the tension of ER and Apollo 13."

New York Post

Romantic Times
Gravity is Tess Gerritsen's most electrifying thriller to date. The tension and terror is nonstop in this utterly transfixing tale.
Providence Sunday Journal
For the past 30 years, Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain served as the benchmark.... Not anymore. Tess Gerritsen sets the new standard with Gravity.
USA Today
As riveting as The Hot Zone, this page turner proves that Gerritsen is tops in her genre.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A powerful new thriller.... A tuat high-wire act on two fronts—crisis aboard the International Space Station meets killer virus on the loose, and all based on the latest technology.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gerritsen Bloodstream meshes medical suspense--her specialty--and the world of space travel in another nail-biting tale of genetic misadventure. Much of this scary thriller is set aboard the International Space Station, where a team of six astronauts suddenly find themselves threatened by a virulent biohazard. Victims first register a headache, followed by stomach pains; then their eyes turn blood red. Finally, they convulse so violently they literally bash themselves apart. Most frightening is what spills out of their bodies: green, egg-filled globules. As astronaut Emma Watson, the station's onboard doctor, struggles to fight the outbreak, her colleagues are dying one by one. A Japanese astronaut, the first to get sick, is sent down to earth via the space shuttle, but he's dead on arrival. Panic spreads when military physicians discover a deadly mutant--a creature that's part human, part frog and part mouse--in the eggs that spill from his body. The military, fearing bioterrorism or even an extraterrestrial invasion, quickly traces the contaminant to an experiment on the space station that was funded by a company researching tiny organisms in the ocean off South America, where an asteroid hit thousands of years ago. Meanwhile, back on the station, Watson is the only one left alive. The military says she's already infected and must be left to die in space, but Watson's husband, fellow astronaut/physician Jack McCallum, won't tolerate that decision, and scrambles to find a way to get her home. It's a tribute to Gerritsen, herself a medical doctor, that such an outlandish tale can be told so compellingly and convincingly. Thanks to her impressive research, the novel's detailed descriptions of life in space consistently ring true, and the progress of the breakout is satisfyingly horrific. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild main selections, Doubleday Book Club Super Release; Simon & Schuster audio; author tour. Aug. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Physician Gerritsen's first medical thriller, Harvest, made the New York Times Best Sellers list. This, her fourth novel in the genre, is destined to be equally popular. Set aboard the International Space Station ISS, this is a tale of astronauts, physicians, government bureaucracy, and personal relationships. The international crew, including NASA astronaut and physician Emma Watson, approaches its exploratory and research roles with professionalism and enthusiasm--even when faced with a catastrophic health emergency. An organism, possibly extraterrestrial and perhaps a result of bioterrorism, infects one crew member after another. Watson and her NASA colleagues in space and on the ground, especially her husband, Dr. Jack McCallum, battle to understand and treat the resulting illness. The medical suspense is gripping and intense. Will the astronauts survive and return to Earth? What exactly is the dangerous illness that afflicts them? And how will they relate to one another under these circumstances? For those who would enjoy a space spin to their medical fiction, this is a polished and engrossing book. For public libraries. [Literary Guild main selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/99.]--Linda M.G. Katz, MCP Hahnemann Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
San Jose Mercury News
Author Tess Gerritsen, the reigning champion of the medical thriller, throws one twist after another until the excitement is almost unbearable.
Kirkus Reviews
A strongly plotted thriller about a plague-like epidemic on a space station. Superb research lifts Gerritsen to the top of the ladder as Michael Crichton and Robin Cook wave from below. Gerritsen's tale doesn't have the mystical touch that Stanislaw Lem would have added, though the essential mystery here is a fairly mystical monster, a multicellular microscopic organism called the Chimera. A geologist, trapped in a submersible 19,000 feet deep in the Galápagos Rift, ties in with an outbreak on mankind's first internationally built space station (ISS), orbiting earth. The ISS, five years in the assembling and twice as long as a football field, is manned by an international team of scientists whose work, in part, focuses on testing the effects of weightlessness on microbes and viruses. When tested on earth, such cultures can grow only on flat slides. In space, without gravity, they grow three-dimensionally and assume unbounded shapes. Someone has hoodwinked the space doctors by having them test an absolutely unknown organism that has been lifted from bubbling thermals on the ocean floor. This creature has hideous properties that allow it to take on the DNA of any host it enters, be such lab mouse, frog, or human. Thus, any vaccine that might kill the amazing Chimera, whose DNA is part frog, part mouse, and part human, would kill the host as well. The story builds to a Liebestodt of dancing horror as fatal globules of infected blood erupt weightlessly from the dying, float about the ship, and clog the air filters. Meanwhile, the main romantic interest turns on a couple in the process of divorce, astronauts Emma Watson and Dr. Jack McCallum. Doc Gerritsen (Bloodstream, 1998, etc.),a former internist who creates chilling viral disasters, knows all the natural gates and alleys of the human bio-novel as well as she does the musculature of suspense. (Literary Guild Main Selection; Mystery Guild Main Selection; Doubleday Book Club Super Release)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671016777
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 167,851
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 10.94 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

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 of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest; she followed her debut with the bestsellers Life Support and Gravity (both available from Pocket Books.) Her other novels includes Body Double, The Sinner, The Apprentice, and The Surgeon. Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Galápagos Rift

.30 Degrees South, 90.30 Degrees West

He was gliding on the edge of the abyss.

Below him yawned the watery blackness of a frigid underworld, where the sun had never penetrated, where the only light was the fleeting spark of a bioluminescent creature. Lying prone in the form-fitting body pan of Deep Flight IV, his head cradled in the clear acrylic nose cone, Dr. Stephen D. Ahearn had the exhilarating sensation of soaring, untethered, through the vastness of space. In the beams of his wing lights he saw the gentle and continuous drizzle of organic debris falling from the light-drenched waters far above. They were the corpses of protozoans, drifting down through thousands of feet of water to their final graveyard on the ocean floor.

Gliding through that soft rain of debris, he guided Deep Flight along the underwater canyon's rim, keeping the abyss to his port side, the plateau floor beneath him. Though the sediment was seemingly barren, the evidence of life was everywhere. Etched in the ocean floor were the tracks and plow marks of wandering creatures, now safely concealed in their cloak of sediment. He saw evidence of man as well: a rusted length of chain, sinuously draped around a fallen anchor; a soda pop bottle, half-submerged in ooze. Ghostly remnants from the alien world above.

A startling sight suddenly loomed into view. It was like coming across an underwater grove of charred tree trunks. The objects were black-smoker chimneys, twenty-foot tubes formed by dissolved minerals swirling out of cracks in the earth's crust. With the joysticks, he maneuvered Deep Flight gently starboard, to avoid the chimneys.

"I've reached the hydrothermal vent," he said. "Moving at two knots, smoker chimneys to port side."

"How's she handling?" Helen's voice crackled through his earpiece.

"Beautifully. I want one of these babies for my own."

She laughed. "Be prepared to write a very big check, Steve. You spot the nodule field yet? It should be dead ahead."

Ahearn was silent for a moment as he peered through the watery murk. A moment later he said, "I see them."

The manganese nodules looked like lumps of coal scattered across the ocean floor. Strangely, almost bizarrely, smooth, formed by minerals solidifying around stones or grains of sand, they were a highly prized source of titanium and other precious metals. But he ignored the nodules. He was in search of a prize far more valuable.

"I'm heading down into the canyon," he said.

With the joysticks he steered Deep Flight over the plateau's edge. As his velocity increased to two and a half knots, the wings, designed to produce the opposite effect of an airplane wing, dragged the sub downward. He began his descent into the abyss.

"Eleven hundred meters," he counted off. "Eleven fifty..."

"Watch your clearance. It's a narrow rift. You monitoring water temperature?"

"It's starting to rise. Up to fifty-five degrees now."

"Still a ways from the vent. You'll be in hot water in another two thousand meters."

A shadow suddenly swooped right past Ahearn's face. He flinched, inadvertently jerking the joystick, sending the craft rolling to starboard. The hard jolt of the sub against the canyon wall sent a clanging shock wave through the hull.

"Jesus!"

"Status?" said Helen. "Steve, what's your status?"

He was hyperventilating, his heart slamming in panic against the body pan. The hull. Have I damaged the hull? Through the harsh sound of his own breathing, he listened for the groan of steel giving way, for the fatal blast of water. He was thirty-six hundred feet beneath the surface, and over one hundred atmospheres of pressure were squeezing in on all sides like a fist. A breach in the hull, a burst of water, and he would be crushed.

"Steve, talk to me!"

Cold sweat soaked his body. He finally managed to speak. "I got startled — collided with the canyon wall — "

"Is there any damage?"

He looked out the dome. "I can't tell. I think I bumped against the cliff with the forward sonar unit."

"Can you still maneuver?"

He tried the joysticks, nudging the craft to port. "Yes. Yes." He released a deep breath. "I think I'm okay. Something swam right past my dome. Got me rattled."

"Something?"

"It went by so fast! Just this streak — like a snake whipping by."

"Did it look like a fish's head on an eel's body?"

"Yes. Yes, that's what I saw."

"Then it was an eelpout. Thermarces cerberus."

Cerberus, thought Ahearn with a shudder. The three-headed dog guarding the gates of hell.

"It's attracted to the heat and sulfur," said Helen. "You'll see more of them as you get closer to the vent."

If you say so. Ahearn knew next to nothing about marine biology. The creatures now drifting past his acrylic head dome were merely objects of curiosity to him, living signposts pointing the way to his goal. With both hands steady at the controls now, he maneuvered Deep Flight IV deeper into the abyss.

Two thousand meters. Three thousand.

What if he had damaged the hull?

Four thousand meters, the crushing pressure of water increasing linearly as he descended. The water was blacker now, colored by plumes of sulfur from the vent below. The wing lights scarcely penetrated that thick mineral suspension. Blinded by the swirls of sediment, he maneuvered out of the sulfur-tinged water, and his visibility improved. He was descending to one side of the hydrothermal vent, out of the plume of magma-heated water, yet the external temperature continued to climb.

One hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit.

Another streak of movement slashed across his field of vision. This time he managed to maintain his grip on the controls. He saw more eelpouts, like fat snakes hanging head down as though suspended in space. The water spewing from the vent below was rich in heated hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that was toxic and incompatible with life. But even in these black and poisonous waters, life had managed to bloom, in shapes fantastic and beautiful. Attached to the canyon wall were swaying Riftia worms, six feet long, topped with feathery scarlet headdresses. He saw clusters of giant clams, white-shelled, with tongues of velvety red peeking out. And he saw crabs, eerily pale and ghostlike as they scuttled among the crevices.

Even with the air-conditioning unit running, he was starting to feel the heat.

Six thousand meters. Water temperature one hundred eighty degrees. In the plume itself, heated by boiling magma, the temperatures would be over five hundred degrees. That life could exist even here, in utter darkness, in these poisonous and superheated waters, seemed miraculous.

"I'm at six thousand sixty," he said. "I don't see it."

In his earphone, Helen's voice was faint and crackling. "There's a shelf jutting out from the wall. You should see it at around six thousand eighty meters."

"I'm looking."

"Slow your descent. It'll come up quickly."

"Six thousand seventy, still looking. It's like pea soup down here. Maybe I'm at the wrong position."

"...sonar readings...collapsing above you!" Her frantic message was lost in static.

"I didn't copy that. Repeat."

"The canyon wall is giving way! There's debris falling toward you. Get out of there!"

The loud pings of rocks hitting the hull made him jam the joysticks forward in panic. A massive shadow plummeted down through the murk just ahead and bounced off a canyon shelf, sending a fresh rain of debris into the abyss. The pings accelerated. Then there was a deafening clang, and the accompanying jolt was like a fist slamming into him.

His head jerked, his jaw slamming into the body pan. He felt himself tilting sideways, heard the sickening groan of metal as the starboard wing scraped over jutting rocks. The sub kept rolling, sediment swirling past the dome in a disorienting cloud.

He hit the emergency-weight-drop lever and fumbled with the joysticks, directing the sub to ascend. Deep Flight IV lurched forward, metal screeching against rock, and came to an unexpected halt. He was frozen in place, the sub tilted starboard. Frantically he worked at the joysticks, thrusters at full ahead.

No response.

He paused, his heart pounding as he struggled to maintain control over his rising panic. Why wasn't he moving? Why was the sub not responding? He forced himself to scan the two digital display units. Battery power intact. AC unit still functioning. Depth gauge reading, six thousand eighty-two meters.

The sediment slowly cleared, and shapes took form in the beam of his port wing light. Peering straight ahead through the dome, he saw an alien landscape of jagged black stones and bloodred Riftia worms. He craned his neck sideways to look at his starboard wing. What he saw sent his stomach into a sickening tumble.

The wing was tightly wedged between two rocks. He could not move forward. Nor could he move backward. I am trapped in a tomb, nineteen thousand feet under the sea.

"...copy? Steve, do you copy?"

He heard his own voice, weak with fear: "Can't move — starboard wing wedged — "

"...port-side wing flaps. A little yaw might wiggle you loose."

"I've tried it. I've tried everything. I'm not moving."

There was dead silence over the earphones. Had he lost them? Had he been cut off? He thought of the ship far above, the deck gently rolling on the swells. He thought of sunshine. It had been a beautiful sunny day on the surface, birds gliding overhead. The sea a bottomless blue...

Now a man's voice came on. It was that of Palmer Gabriel, the man who had financed the expedition, speaking calmly and in control, as always. "We're starting rescue procedures, Steve. The other sub is already being lowered. We'll get you up to the surface as soon as we can." There was a pause, then: "Can you see anything? What are your surroundings?"

"I — I'm resting on a shelf just above the vent."

"How much detail can you make out?"

"What?"

"You're at six thousand eighty-two meters. Right at the depth we were interested in. What about that shelf you're on? The rocks?"

I am going to die, and he is asking about the fucking rocks.

"Steve, use the strobe. Tell us what you see."

He forced his gaze to the instrument panel and flicked the strobe switch.

Bright bursts of light flashed in the murk. He stared at the newly revealed landscape flickering before his retinas. Earlier he had focused on the worms. Now his attention shifted to the immense field of debris scattered across the shelf floor. The rocks were coal black, like magnesium nodules, but these had jagged edges, like congealed shards of glass. Peering to his right, at the freshly fractured rocks trapping his wing, he suddenly realized what he was looking at.

"Helen's right," he whispered.

"I didn't copy that."

"She was right! The iridium source — I have it in clear view — "

"You're fading out. Recommend you..." Gabriel's voice broke up into static and went dead.

"I did not copy. Repeat, I did not copy!" said Ahearn.

There was no answer.

He heard the pounding of his heart, the roar of his own breathing. Slow down, slow down. Using up my oxygen too fast...

Beyond the acrylic dome, life drifted past in a delicate dance through poisonous water. As the minutes stretched to hours, he watched the Riftia worms sway, scarlet plumes combing for nutrients. He saw an eyeless crab slowly scuttle across the field of stones.

The lights dimmed. The air-conditioning fans abruptly fell silent.

The battery was dying.

He turned off the strobe light. Only the faint beam of the port wing light was shining now. In a few minutes he would begin to feel the heat of that one-hundred-eighty-degree magma-charged water. It would radiate through the hull, would slowly cook him alive in his own sweat. Already he felt a drop trickle from his scalp and slide down his cheek. He kept his gaze focused on that single crab, delicately prancing its way across the stony shelf.

The wing light flickered.

And went out.

Copyright © 1999 by Tess Gerritsen

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First Chapter

Chapter One
The Galápagos Rift
.30 Degrees South, 90.30 Degrees West

He was gliding on the edge of the abyss.

Below him yawned the watery blackness of a frigid underworld, where the sun had never penetrated, where the only light was the fleeting spark of a bioluminescent creature. Lying prone in the form-fitting body pan of Deep Flight IV, his head cradled in the clear acrylic nose cone, Dr. Stephen D. Ahearn had the exhilarating sensation of soaring, untethered, through the vastness of space. In the beams of his wing lights he saw the gentle and continuous drizzle of organic debris falling from the light-drenched waters far above. They were the corpses of protozoans, drifting down through thousands of feet of water to their final graveyard on the ocean floor.

Gliding through that soft rain of debris, he guided Deep Flight along the underwater canyon's rim, keeping the abyss to his port side, the plateau floor beneath him. Though the sediment was seemingly barren, the evidence of life was everywhere. Etched in the ocean floor were the tracks and plow marks of wandering creatures, now safely concealed in their cloak of sediment. He saw evidence of man as well: a rusted length of chain, sinuously draped around a fallen anchor; a soda pop bottle, half-submerged in ooze. Ghostly remnants from the alien world above.

A startling sight suddenly loomed into view. It was like coming across an underwater grove of charred tree trunks. The objects were black-smoker chimneys, twenty-foot tubes formed by dissolved minerals swirling out of cracks in the earth's crust. With the joysticks, he maneuvered Deep Flight gently starboard, to avoidteart slamming in panic against the body pan. The hull. Have I damaged the hull? Through the harsh sound of his own breathing, he listened for the groan of steel giving way, for the fatal blast of water. He was thirty-six hundred feet beneath the surface, and over one hundred atmospheres of pressure were squeezing in on all sides like a fist. A breach in the hull, a burst of water, and he would be crushed.

"Steve, talk to me!"

Cold sweat soaked his body. He finally managed to speak. "I got startled -- collided with the canyon wall -- "

"Is there any damage?"

He looked out the dome. "I can't tell. I think I bumped against the cliff with the forward sonar unit."

"Can you still maneuver?"

He tried the joysticks, nudging the craft to port. "Yes. Yes." He released a deep breath. "I think I'm okay. Something swam right past my dome. Got me rattled."

"Something?"

"It went by so fast! Just this streak -- like a snake whipping by."

"Did it look like a fish's head on an eel's body?"

"Yes. Yes, that's what I saw."

"Then it was an eelpout. Thermarces cerberus."

Cerberus, thought Ahearn with a shudder. The three-headed dog guarding the gates of hell.

"It's attracted to the heat and sulfur," said Helen. "You'll see more of them as you get closer to the vent."

If you say so. Ahearn knew next to nothing about marine biology. The creatures now drifting past his acrylic head dome were merely objects of curiosity to him, living signposts pointing the way to his goal. With both hands steady at the controls now, he maneuvered Deep Flight IV deeper into the abyss.

Two thousand meters. Three thousand.

What if he had damaged the hull?

Four thousand meters, the cr ushing pressure of water increasing linearly as he descended. The water was blacker now, colored by plumes of sulfur from the vent below. The wing lights scarcely penetrated that thick mineral suspension. Blinded by the swirls of sediment, he maneuvered out of the sulfur-tinged water, and his visibility improved. He was descending to one side of the hydrothermal vent, out of the plume of magma-heated water, yet the external temperature continued to climb.

One hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit.

Another streak of movement slashed across his field of vision. This time he managed to maintain his grip on the controls. He saw more eelpouts, like fat snakes hanging head down as though suspended in space. The water spewing from the vent below was rich in heated hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that was toxic and incompatible with life. But even in these black and poisonous waters, life had managed to bloom, in shapes fantastic and beautiful. Attached to the canyon wall were swaying Riftia worms, six feet long, topped with feathery scarlet headdresses. He saw clusters of giant clams, white-shelled, with tongues of velvety red peeking out. And he saw crabs, eerily pale and ghostlike as they scuttled among the crevices.

Even with the air-conditioning unit running, he was starting to feel the heat.

Six thousand meters. Water temperature one hundred eighty degrees. In the plume itself, heated by boiling magma, the temperatures would be over five hundred degrees. That life could exist even here, in utter darkness, in these poisonous and superheated waters, seemed miraculous.

"I'm at six thousand sixty," he said. "I don't see it."

In his earphone, Helen's voice was faint and crackling. "There's a sh elf jutting out from the wall. You should see it at around six thousand eighty meters."

"I'm looking."

"Slow your descent. It'll come up quickly."

"Six thousand seventy, still looking. It's like pea soup down here. Maybe I'm at the wrong position."

"...sonar readings...collapsing above you!" Her frantic message was lost in static.

"I didn't copy that. Repeat."

"The canyon wall is giving way! There's debris falling toward you. Get out of there!"

The loud pings of rocks hitting the hull made him jam the joysticks forward in panic. A massive shadow plummeted down through the murk just ahead and bounced off a canyon shelf, sending a fresh rain of debris into the abyss. The pings accelerated. Then there was a deafening clang, and the accompanying jolt was like a fist slamming into him.

His head jerked, his jaw slamming into the body pan. He felt himself tilting sideways, heard the sickening groan of metal as the starboard wing scraped over jutting rocks. The sub kept rolling, sediment swirling past the dome in a disorienting cloud.

He hit the emergency-weight-drop lever and fumbled with the joysticks, directing the sub to ascend. Deep Flight IV lurched forward, metal screeching against rock, and came to an unexpected halt. He was frozen in place, the sub tilted starboard. Frantically he worked at the joysticks, thrusters at full ahead.

No response.

He paused, his heart pounding as he struggled to maintain control over his rising panic. Why wasn't he moving? Why was the sub not responding? He forced himself to scan the two digital display units. Battery power intact. AC unit still functioning. Depth gauge reading, six thousand eighty-two meters.

The sediment sl owly cleared, and shapes took form in the beam of his port wing light. Peering straight ahead through the dome, he saw an alien landscape of jagged black stones and bloodred Riftia worms. He craned his neck sideways to look at his starboard wing. What he saw sent his stomach into a sickening tumble.

The wing was tightly wedged between two rocks. He could not move forward. Nor could he move backward. I am trapped in a tomb, nineteen thousand feet under the sea.

"...copy? Steve, do you copy?"

He heard his own voice, weak with fear: "Can't move -- starboard wing wedged -- "

"...port-side wing flaps. A little yaw might wiggle you loose."

"I've tried it. I've tried everything. I'm not moving."

There was dead silence over the earphones. Had he lost them? Had he been cut off? He thought of the ship far above, the deck gently rolling on the swells. He thought of sunshine. It had been a beautiful sunny day on the surface, birds gliding overhead. The sea a bottomless blue...

Now a man's voice came on. It was that of Palmer Gabriel, the man who had financed the expedition, speaking calmly and in control, as always. "We're starting rescue procedures, Steve. The other sub is already being lowered. We'll get you up to the surface as soon as we can." There was a pause, then: "Can you see anything? What are your surroundings?"

"I -- I'm resting on a shelf just above the vent."

"How much detail can you make out?"

"What?"

"You're at six thousand eighty-two meters. Right at the depth we were interested in. What about that shelf you're on? The rocks?"

I am going to die, and he is asking about the fucking rocks.

"Steve, use the strobe. Tell us what you see."

He forced his gaze to the instrument panel and flicked the strobe switch.

Bright bursts of light flashed in the murk. He stared at the newly revealed landscape flickering before his retinas. Earlier he had focused on the worms. Now his attention shifted to the immense field of debris scattered across the shelf floor. The rocks were coal black, like magnesium nodules, but these had jagged edges, like congealed shards of glass. Peering to his right, at the freshly fractured rocks trapping his wing, he suddenly realized what he was looking at.

"Helen's right," he whispered.

"I didn't copy that."

"She was right! The iridium source -- I have it in clear view -- "

"You're fading out. Recommend you..." Gabriel's voice broke up into static and went dead.

"I did not copy. Repeat, I did not copy!" said Ahearn.

There was no answer.

He heard the pounding of his heart, the roar of his own breathing. Slow down, slow down. Using up my oxygen too fast...

Beyond the acrylic dome, life drifted past in a delicate dance through poisonous water. As the minutes stretched to hours, he watched the Riftia worms sway, scarlet plumes combing for nutrients. He saw an eyeless crab slowly scuttle across the field of stones.

The lights dimmed. The air-conditioning fans abruptly fell silent.

The battery was dying.

He turned off the strobe light. Only the faint beam of the port wing light was shining now. In a few minutes he would begin to feel the heat of that one-hundred-eighty-degree magma-charged water. It would radiate through the hull, would slowly cook him alive in his own sweat. Already he felt a drop trickle from his scalp and slide down his cheek. He kept his gaze focused on that single crab, deli cately prancing its way across the stony shelf.

The wing light flickered.

And went out.

Copyright © 1999 by Tess Gerritsen

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Interviews & Essays

Barnes & Noble.com: Tess, thanks for taking the time to share with us some of your thoughts and experiences with regard to your latest thriller, Gravity. The concept you've created here is both fascinating and horrifying and utilizes science from the fields of molecular biology, virology, medical technology, space exploration, and marine biology, to name a few. It appears you've done a great deal of homework researching both the facts and the possibilities. Without giving away the true horror behind the menace in Gravity, can you speculate on just how feasible the scenario you created might be in real life?
Tess Gerritsen: When I wrote Gravity, my No. 1 goal was to create a scenario that was completely plausible. With that in mind, I made certain that everything that goes wrong aboard the space station actually could go wrong in real life, from the escape of the organism into the space station's air to the series of disasters that befall the station and later the orbiter, to the political crisis that envelops NASA as a result. While the DNA-stealing organism, "Chimera," is of course fictional, it is in fact modeled on a real microbe -- Archaeons, which dwell in some of earth's most inhospitable environments. When I first learned about these amazing organisms, thriving in superheated waters at the bottom of the ocean, my first thought was: "What if you brought these things up from that high-pressure environment and put them in weightlessness? What if they began to change? What if they began to assume their real shape because they are not, in fact, of this earth?" That's how the plot of Gravity was born.
The details about NASA, the shuttle, and the space station were all based on months of research and conversations with NASA sources. The space station in Gravity is based on the blueprints of the actual International Space Station, which is now being launched in increments. The details about environmental control, orbital docking, commercial rockets, EVA's are all based on fact. The book has since been read by a NASA engineer and a flight surgeon, and both of them have told me how amazed they are that I managed to get it right. As the engineer said about my scenes in Mission Control, "I've been there, done that, and that's how it is!"

bn.com: It's certainly effective! You've combined some very graphic horror -- such as dead bodies, blood and guts, and a few hair-raising descriptions of some pretty nasty ways to die -- with cerebral horrors like the anticipation of certain death, isolation, loneliness, helplessness, and fighting an enemy one can neither see nor understand. So what scares Tess Gerritsen?
TG: Airplanes! Heights! I'm definitely a land-based humanoid.

bn.com: Several of the characters in Gravity have had a lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut and traveling the stars. Would you go to space if you were given the chance?
TG: Okay, I confess. Despite my fear of heights, I wanted to be an astronaut! I think most of us have had that dream, especially those of us who spent many happy hours as children watching Star Trek. If I were given the chance (say, if NASA decides to launch a "novelist in space"), you can bet I'd be ready to go. However (and I say this as a sober-minded parent), I can also say that the risks would make me think long and hard about it. Space is not a place for amateurs and certainly not a place for starry-eyed novelists. It takes training and skills to be an astronaut. To say that anyone can just strap himself or herself in and lift off is like saying anyone can perform brain surgery in ten easy lessons. Space travel, as it now exists, is a job for professionals.

bn.com: Do you envision a day when space travel may become commonplace?
TG: Yes, I do. Commercial space travel is now in development, with a number of private aerospace firms building reusable launch vehicles that can send smaller payloads to space, including passengers. I recently saw that one company is already taking reservations for future passengers willing to pay for a trip into orbit!

bn.com: By placing a lot of your action on a space station where help and rescue are days away, escape is impossible, and the lack of gravity adds a new layer of terror to some of the more graphic scenes, you add a whole new dimension to the "ordinary" horrors of medicine and science run amok. Where did you get the idea to combine all these elements?
TG: I've always been fascinated by the space program. I vividly recall hearing the broadcast of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon, and even now, just thinking about that moment can still bring tears to my eyes. Then, about two years ago, I was traveling in Europe when I heard news about the collision between Progress and Mir. I remember thinking: Three men are about to die up there. And it occurred to me that that must be the ultimate horror, to be facing the prospect of your own death, trapped in space, while the whole world can follow the final moments of your life. With more research came more elements of horror: What is it like to die of explosive decompression? How do you deal with a medical emergency in weightlessness? What happens to blood as it pours out of an exsanguinating body in a space station? Earthbound horrors are magnified in the hostile environment of space.

bn.com: They certainly are! Your descriptions of the way things behave in a weightless environment (some of them things we wouldn't want to encounter in any environment!) were very vivid and often quite spooky. What sort of research did you do to create those scenes?
TG: I read everything there was to read about life in microgravity. I read astronauts' accounts, NASA reports, space medicine textbooks. I combed research publications about microbial and tissue culture behavior in space. I spoke to flight surgeons about emergency medicine in orbit. After a while, I actually began to dream about weightlessness (those were amazing dreams, too!), and when writing a scene that takes place aboard the station, it became second nature to me to envision everything without gravity. After I finished the book, it took months for those dreams of weightlessness to go away.

bn.com: Obviously there was a lot of hard work and lengthy research that went into the writing of this book. What parts of the writing process were the most fun? And which parts were the most drudgery?
TG: The research for Gravity was absolutely the most fun part of creating the story. Since I have such a deep interest in the space program, digging into the details of NASA was like playtime for me. Getting the inside tour of Mission Control, having the chance to talk to people at Johnson Space Center -- these are the sorts of experiences that remind me how lucky I am to be a writer!
As for the drudgery of writing, of course there's always that aspect of the work. Books don't write themselves: There's months and months of just plain putting pen to paper. And there are days when I don't know where to go with the story or how to get my characters out of the awful situation I've put them in. I admit, when I got to the climax of Gravity, I didn't know how to save Emma. It took several weeks of sleepless nights and lots of hand-wringing to come up with the answer.

bn.com: There were parts of Gravity where the flavor of the story felt like Stephen King and Michael Crichton were taking a once-in-a-lifetime journey with Carl Sagan. What writers do you think have influenced you the most in your writing career? And who are some of your favorites to read?
TG: Both Stephen King and Michael Crichton were definitely big influences for me: King because he can look right into the heart of a character and put that character on the page, in living, breathing color; Crichton because he proved that science can be entertaining. But I'm a voracious reader of just about every genre, from historical novels to science fiction. Just show me good writing!

bn.com: Speaking of characters, your heroine, Emma Watson, is wonderful: tough yet soft, bright yet not beyond making mistakes, confident but not cocky, and just flawed enough to make her very human. How much of Tess Gerritsen is there in Emma? And how much of you is there in any character you create?
TG: There's a little of me in every heroine I create. I think most of my heroines have similar traits. They try their best, but they sometimes fail, or they make honest mistakes. In other words, yes, they are human. They are not perfect. That's where I most easily identify with my characters -- where the flaws come in. Emma, I confess, is quite a bit braver than I would ever be. Faced with the crisis she faces aboard the space station, I would probably decompensate!

bn.com: The underlying love story in Gravity is incredibly sweet, a bit painful, and truly moving in that Jack ends up making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of his love for Emma. As someone who started out writing romances, what do you think is the importance of love in life?
TG: The love story is, in truth, the main focus of Gravity. Yes, it's a biotech thriller, but it is first and foremost the story of two people who are desperately in love trying to find their way back to each other, even if it means reaching across the void of space. I don't think there is any more powerful human emotion than love. All I have to do is consider what I would be willing to face in order to protect my children, and the answer is...anything.

bn.com: In your first medical thriller, Harvest, your theme was murder for stolen organs and the black market sales of same. In both Life Support and Bloodstream the culprit was a contagion of some sort. What do you think poses the greatest medical threat to humankind today?
TG: Our own behavior. Humans have a way of being self-destructive in so many ways, from smoking to drug addiction to taking plain old dumb risks. We are our own worst enemy.

bn.com: In Bloodstream, you used the tiny town of Tranquility, Maine, as a picturesque setting that served to masquerade a shocking secret. In Harvest you make great use of darkened streets and the twisting labyrinth in the belly of a huge freighter ship to augment the suspense. Now, with Gravity, you've used the awesome and ominous setting of space to magnify the terror -- with great success, I might add. How important do you think setting is in your work?
TG: Very important. In many ways, the setting is a character in itself. Certainly that was true in Bloodstream, where the threat seemed to emanate from the small town, a winter-locked place that was both claustrophobic and dark. Sometimes, when planning a novel, I'll actually start off with the setting first. That was what happened with Gravity. I couldn't imagine a more terrifying place to be than trapped in a space station with dead bodies floating around me.

bn.com: Well, you imagined it very vividly! You did a marvelous job of making every scene in Gravity highly visual, and I see that the movie rights have been bought by New Line Cinema. Any thoughts on how well it will translate to the big screen? And who would your ideal cast be for the main characters?
TG: I'm very pleased that the screenwriter is Michael Goldenberg, who wrote the script for Contact. I think this bodes well for an intelligent, thoughtful script -- one that will explore the deeper issues of just what extraterrestrial life will truly be like, and whether we will recognize it when we see it. As for my ideal cast? I'm envisioning Jodie Foster and Kevin Spacey!

bn.com: In Gravity you touch on the two areas that still remain vast unknowns to us here on earth: outer space and the darkest depths of the oceans. What are your thoughts on the potential for both miracles and mayhem coming from any discoveries we make as we explore these final frontiers?
TG: There are always dangers to exploration. Yes, there will certainly be deaths as we move into space or deeper into the sea -- but that's the risk man takes whenever he moves into unknown territory. That compulsion to push into the unknown is what makes us, as a species, unique -- we are always asking what's beyond the next mountain. As for the benefits of exploration, we don't always know what the rewards will be until we get there. Columbus couldn't have anticipated the riches he'd find in the New World. And we can't possibly know all the good that will come from space travel until centuries down the line. That's why I feel so strongly that we have to keep looking toward the next horizon, that we can't let our enthusiasm for space exploration wane. When Armstrong set his foot down on the moon, that was a triumph not just for Americans but for every human being. It symbolized man at his very best -- reaching for the stars.

bn.com: What stars will Tess Gerritsen be reaching for next?
TG: I'm always looking for new challenges. What I don't want to do is write the same old medical thriller over and over again. Maybe that's why I've moved out of the hospital setting for the moment. I just couldn't get excited about another story about evil doctors or nasty pharmaceutical companies. Also, I'm a naturally curious person, and I love learning about new things, digging up odd bits of biological trivia that I can weave into a terrifying story. So I guess you can expect more biological thrillers from me but usually with weird twists!

bn.com: We'll be looking forward to them. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck with all your future endeavors.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2011

    Good book

    A little slow in the beginning but definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2012

    I think this book would make a great SyFy movie but it wasn't my

    I think this book would make a great SyFy movie but it wasn't my cup of tea. I enjoy most of her books but this one was out of character. I probably should have researched it a bit more before I bought it because it sure wasn't something that I would have bought.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    Fantastic story

    Tess Gerritsen has done it AGAIN! This story is absolutely amazing. It grabs you by your shirt and drags you into it and never lets go till the end. Can't say it enough that this is another mind-blowing read by the great Tess Gerritsen.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2013

    WOW! This is full of thrilling excitement that you cannot put do

    WOW! This is full of thrilling excitement that you cannot put down. It is kind of like a combination of “Alien” and “Apollo 13”, with astronauts and space as well as genetics gone badly. It is not for the weak stomach though. I love the detail in which Tess Garrison delves. She is Fantastic at this genre. I love her stuff.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2000

    Excellant

    This is one of the best books that i have ever read. I highly recommend it. You will love it. It has everything that a good book needs and more. It will stand out in your mind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    Not for me.

    I liked the other books I read by Tess Gerritsen. Could not finish this one. I spent way too much time checking the glossary at the back of the book. Finally gave up! I'll wait for the movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2014

    Great story

    One of her best!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    Highly Recommended - awesome and quick read

    I really enjoyed Gravity. Ms. Gerritsen leaves room for the reader to use their imagination to visual the graphics in their mind. A very fast paced and enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    Great!

    Usually don't read books about space, but because this was written by Tess, I gave it a try. I can say, I was not disappointed!! I could not put it down, as usual for her books!! I can see this one being made into a movie!! I would most definately watch it.

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  • Posted November 22, 2012

    I've enjoyed some of her other books, but couldn't make it thru

    I've enjoyed some of her other books, but couldn't make it thru this one. It was so formulaic. OMG! Mutated slime on the space station! OMG! A mouse infected a doctor! OMG, he died from the slime! OMG! The space capsule crashed, but everyone was slimed! OMG! A body exploded during an autopsy! Gee.. whatever will happen next?? These fevered plot points were hung on the random two-dimensional character dreamed up at that point just to have a human die. Really disappointed in this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Stan

    ((First, have you seen the episode where Dipper brings a video game character to life?))

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2012

    Dipper

    Hi!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    Mabell

    Ru afraid of heights

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2012

    WOW

    Before Tess Gerritsen, I didnt think you could describe deaths with such... detail. One morning I woke to see my eyes blood red but it turns out I was just tired and Immagined it. Thats is what I want out of a good book, a good scare. This is one of the best books Ive ever read and it just got better when it was in outer space too! Tess thank you for writing this book, its definitely going on my top 10 (and Ive read ALOT of books)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    Recommend

    This was a very interesting book. I am a Tess fan and this was nothing like any of her other books. The beginning was a little slow, but it picked up and I was sorry when it ended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    Gripping!

    Tess Gerritsen ventures into territory established by Michael Crichton in her own gripping way. Impeccably written at her usual lightning pace. My fingernails will take a few weeks to recover!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2012

    Found my new favorite book

    This medical thriller was simplely astounding. Hooked from page one, she pulls you into the story as you go from a small hospital all the way to outer space. I was reluctant to set this down, but when I did, I was still pondering the mysterous pathogens in this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2011

    Very recommended

    I am an avid reader. About 3 months ago, I read a book by Tess Gerritsen. While I like her medical mysteries the best, her romance novels are ok also. Thanks to Barnes and Noble, I was able to purchase some of her original stories that I could not find in my book clubs or local book stores.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it

    Gravity is one of my favorite books by Tess Gerritsen. The action never stops, but is also not over the top. It was creepy and interesting, she really put a lot of thought, knowledge and research behind this one. It paid off big time, I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    Sci-Fi meets mediocre fornsics

    This was a very 'fun' book to read, despite the morbid bits.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews

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