Reviews: Contagion & Immunity by Erin Bowman – Biological Space Horror and Maple Walnut Ice Cream

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Title: Contagion (Contagion 1)
Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 24th, 2018
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi, Thriller, Horror
Subjects and Themes: Microbiology, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 432 (hardback)

Rating: 7.5/10

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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.

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This is one of those “I liked it! The end!” books, so the review is going to be obscenely short.

Contagion offers something I desperately want to see more of in sci-fi: biological space horror. Bowman combines the fear of outer space with that of alien biological entities–all the more scary because they’re microscopic–and creates a entertaining, claustrophobic tale with breakneck pacing and moments that are genuinely creepy.

It also boasts a fairly large cast and multiple PoVs, with an intern named Thea being the central character. I loved the fact that Thea’s not a leader–not your typical confident SFF hero with a smart tongue. She’s introverted yet resourceful and, being the youngest of the crew, feels she has something to prove. Some of the other characters aren’t as developed as she is, but Bowman gives you just enough information to keep you interested in their well-being (or demise).

I do wish the effect of the contagion was less…mundane than what it turned out to be. Something a little more visceral and insidious. Because after the reveal of the “monsters” (space zombies, essentially) a lot of the initial horror was lost. But I enjoyed the atmosphere and tension leading up to that moment so much that I’m mostly willing to forgive it.

And…that’s all you need to know, really. Go read it. You’ll have fun.

And, hey, Netflix? Get on it. I needed a movie adaptation yesterday.

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Title:
Immunity (Contagion 2)
Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi
Subjects and Themes: Microbiology, LGBTQIAP+
Page Count: 448 (hardback)

Rating: 7.0/10

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Thea, Coen, and Nova have escaped from Achlys, only to find themselves imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety. Now the nightmare they thought they’d left behind is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare, putting the entire galaxy at risk.

To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, they’ll have to harness the evil of the deadly Achlys contagion and deploy the only weapons they have left: themselves.

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Immunity is a completely different beast to Contagion in terms of genre and plot focus. So much that I got mental whiplash reading them back-to-back.

Here, the biological horror slips away into space politics and human-on-human horror. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping we’d get to explore more of the contagion, and instead it’s relegated to the role of a side charactera chess piece in the conflict between the Radicals and the Union–and in the process some of what made Contagion interesting.

I don’t want to rag on an author for choosing to take a story in a completely different direction from what I was expecting because it’s ultimately their creative vision, but I can’t say I’m not nursing a spot of disappointment. It’s like going to an ice cream shop and asking for Strawberry Cheesecake but getting Maple Walnut instead. I have nothing against Maple Walnut; it’s still a great flavour and life is too short to be prejudiced against any flavour of ice cream (except Bubblegum which is a devil’s concoction and not in a sinfully good way). But it’s no Strawberry Cheesecake, is it?

That being said, I still had fun with it. The characters are bigger focus in this sequel and we get to learn more about the three characters and see their relationship develop into something more solid. A new member also joins the cast: a medic-in-training named Amber who surprised me in the best way. Give me all the soft characters who seem meek at first glance but reveal themselves to have nerves of steel. And there’s no denying Bowman is a great storyteller. She knows how to balance action with intrigue and quiet character moments, and the ending wraps everything up neatly.

Overall, this is a fun, addictive duology that I recommend to anyone with an interest in microbiology and space thriller/horror, and doesn’t mind a bit of genre-swapping.

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Thank you to Wunderkind PR for providing the review copies. All opinions are my own.

22 thoughts on “Reviews: Contagion & Immunity by Erin Bowman – Biological Space Horror and Maple Walnut Ice Cream

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m so excited to see reviews of this book. It’s on my wishlist but I’ve never taken the plunge. It sounds like maybe I should grab Contagion and skip Immunity? I’m more interested in space horror than politics… lol. Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Haha well, book 1 ends on a cliffhanger so you might be tempted to continue with Immunity. 😛 And the books did get me craving more space horror so I’m hoping to read The Luminous Dead soon. People have been telling me that it absolutely nails the thriller/psychological horror aspect and I’m excited!!

      Like

  2. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    Biological space horror. Now that sounds like an interesting combination. Oooh, Contagion sounds so good! I’m not usually a fan of anything that takes place in space, really, but your review definitely caught my attention. I’ll have to look it up. :3 Shame that Immunity was a bit of a different direction. I’m not usually one for space politics, so I’m not sure how interested in that I’d be (though, of course, I’d have to read it if i read the first, because what kind of monster only reads one book in a duology?! lol). Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Woot! Hope you like it if you end up picking it up! I didn’t really used to like space stories either (I grew up as a hardcore fantasy nerd lol), but now I’m super into them. I actually think there’s more room for variety with space stories than fantasy stories because of how, well, limitless space is.

      “What kind of monster only reads one book in a duology?!” *glances at all the series that I only read the first books of* UH YEAH, I KNOW RIGHT! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

        Fantasy is totally my thing, too. I just end up being picky about space stories. I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t heavy with the science or tech, because my eyes glaze over and my brain overheats. I’m just not that interested in that part of it. But as you’ve said, there are so many nuances, so I’m trying to give them more chances. xD

        Hahaha I really make the effort to read the entire series if I pick it up, unless I end up really not liking it or something. That happens sometimes. Can’t be helped.

        Like

  3. Kal @ Reader Voracious says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed this duology, Kathy! I love this one so much, and while I did experience a little whiplash with the genre switch in book 2, it really did make a lot of sense for the over arching storyline. I just wish there was a little more science/horror in the second book, because I think people that don’t enjoy interstellar politics and came for horror might be disappointed. Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. readsrainbow says:

    Great reviews!! I’ve been eyeing this series (well, the first book tbh, I didn’t know there’s a sequel) for some time now, but honestly I’m not sure I’m the right choice of reader for it with how bad I am with any kind of horror……………………..

    – anna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thanks Anna! And haha you should still try it!! It’s not THAT scary. More thriller-y than anything. Though I’m probably not the best judge of that because horror books don’t really scare me for some reason? Which is interesting considering I’m a TOTAL baby when it comes to scary movies and games

      Liked by 1 person

  5. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’m not sure these would be for me. Part of me thinks I would like them but then the other part, the part that doesn’t always get on well with sci-fi, has doubts. I think I’ll sit on the fence for a little and mull it over some more.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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