Cover Contagion: Close ups of a virus or pathogens under a microscope

About the Book

Title: Contagion (Contagion #1)
Published: 2018
Series: Contagion
Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cover Story: Under A Microscope
BFF Charm: Mixed Bag
Talky Talk: Keep The Lights On
Bonus Factors: Thematic Tensions, Secrets
Relationship Status: I’ve Got Your Back

Cover Story: Under A Microscope

How do the little strands of whatever that stuff is we’re looking at seem so sinister? In my head the cover is almost animated, everything wriggling and squiggling, reaching out to enter my bloodstream. Aaand now I’ve freaked myself out. Good job.

The Deal:

When an SOS from their secret drilling site, Black Quarry, comes through to the Hevetz Corporation, they send the closest team to investigate. That team happens to be evacuating ahead of a storm at a different drill site, so it’s not exactly full of soldiers and killers: there’s Thea, the high-school lab intern there to help steady the now-trembling hands of the famous Dr. Lisbeth Tarlow; Nova, an ex-military pilot who may have a thing for her CO, Dylan, who has something to prove to her father (and who coincidentally is running the Black Quarry site), plus a handful of other red shirts (Sorry, is that callous? We know what kind of book we’re reading here).

After two months in cryosleep, the team shows up to Black Quarry to find it empty, save for a few bodies here and there. Located on a desolate rock on the fringes of space, the drill site straddles the line between burning day and endless night, and it’s not the kind of place anyone wants to get stuck. What happened to the workers stationed on Achlys?

BFF Charm: Mixed Bag

Brown paper bag filled with various BFF charms

Can I clarify a concern first? Handing out any kind of charms to these guys doesn’t mean I have to be on their ship, right? Because if so then, uh, thanks but no thanks. Like any good horror story, we get glimpses inside almost every character’s head to amp up our anxiety and allow us to feel some sads when they (inevitably) bite it. While this book is more about the setting and action than a true character study, I felt like I got a decent sense of who everyone was and could therefore rejoice or mourn in their deaths appropriately. I think we got enough of certain people that I felt intrigued enough to continue on with their story (since, yes, there is apparently going to be a second book). Also, shoutout to all the strong female representation. We’ve got ladies rocking the STEM field and ladies large and in charge, leading fights. So often (just like everywhere else) men dominate the horror genre and women are just used as murder-fodder. Not so here.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Fighting for your life and finding time for sexy kissing is tough, especially when you’re wearing a spacesuit with a helmet. There are some romantic vibes floating around between Dylan and Nova and two other people I cannot name without spoiling anything, but not much comes of it because of the death and monsters and all. 

Talky Talk: Keep The Lights On

When I heard about Contagion I was super excited because I love a good tension-filled creep-fest, and I feel like many YA books miss the mark on that. I’m happy to say it lived up to the expectations I had. The book plays out just like a well-done horror movie: you’ve got your standard tropes and your jump scares but (thankfully) it’s delicately balanced with an interesting, plausible plot and characters who don’t make every stupid move in the rulebook. Even the world-building, while not super robust, was still thoughtfully done to give you a good sense of place, the government structure, and clues to the political motivations of the Hevetz Corportation. I did not want to put it down once I started. Like, really, I procrastinated an entire Saturday morning because I thought, “Oh, I’ll read for an hour” and then could. Not. Stop. Bowman didn’t waste any words here; the writing is straightforward and so smooth I could easily envision the action. It feels primed and ready for a movie adaptation.

The ending is wrapped up enough that this could be a standalone, but a few things happen in the final ten percent of the book that definitely make me want to pick up the next one.  

Bonus Factor: Thematic Tension

A scared woman holds a bowl of popcorn that's falling out because she jumped at a scene in a movie

Everything out here is trying to kill you. If it’s not the thing that actually killed everyone, it’s the wicked wind storms, the frigid temperatures, or that other thing that wants to eat you. Stress level: extreme.

Bonus Factor: Secrets

Someone whispering in a person's ear

There’s plenty of secrets floating around in the toxic atmosphere. Who is the lone survivor? What did Hevetz cover up decades ago from their last mission to Achlys? Who should you trust?

Relationship Status: I’ve Got Your Back

If we were stranded in a freaky location where something is trying to kill us, I would totally have your back, Book. You’d have mine, right? Because I’m pretty sure one of the first rules of the horror genre is never split up.

Literary Matchmaking

The Enemy (The Enemy #1)

If you’re looking for even more tension and high stakes with a colorful cast of characters, look no further than a brilliantly done zombie series by Charlie Higson, which kicks off with The Enemy.

Pitch Dark

For more scary adventures in space, check out Pitch Dark from Courtney Alameda.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

I mean, I’m not sure how you opened this review and want to pick up this book before reading Illuminae from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, but if you haven’t read it yet, GO DO IT.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Contagion is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.