Gravity

Gravity

4.2 119
by Tess Gerritsen
     
 

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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&

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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 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

bn.com
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.
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
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
238,267
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 10.94(h) x 1.06(d)
Lexile:
730L (what's this?)

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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Meet the Author

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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