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 the Rizzoli and Isles series.

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...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780671016777
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 10/28/2000
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 10.94(h) x 1.06(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)

About 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.

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.


"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."


"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?"


"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

Customer Reviews

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Gravity: A Novel of Medical Suspense 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 125 reviews.
Rose28RH More than 1 year ago
A little slow in the beginning but definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
WednesdayAddams More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the space jargon, it gave the story authenticity.
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
redheadish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stephen King has it right when he said you should figure in the price of electricity wen you buy your first book by Tess because you will be up all night. I first thought I dont know if I would enjoy a med suspence on space travel but it didn't take long to not want to put this book down!
jenforbus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dr. Emma Watson is training for her dream trip, a trip to the International Space Station. When tragedy strikes the family of an astronaut already on the space station, Emma's trip is fast-tracked. But when Emma reaches the Space Station her dream trip turns into a nightmare. A deadly virus is attacking the astronauts. Will Emma be able to stop the virus before it destroys the entire space station?Gravity turned out to be a little more in the realm of science fiction than what I normally read, so you'll have to take into consideration my bias as you read my review today. I listened to it on audio book, read by William Dufris. I thought he did a very nice job with one exception. He had a tendency to get overly dramatic. For people who like sci-fi more than me, this may be o.k., but the Doubting Thomas in me found it a tad over the top.For the most part, Gravity is very well written. This is the second Tess Gerritsen book that I've read and the style is strong in both. As a layman, I didn't notice any problems with logic. What I didn't particularly care for in this novel was the use of a couple of cliches. To avoid any spoilers (even though the book is 10 years old), I'll not mention what the cliches were exactly, but I will say they pretty much gave the plot away for me. I really didn't incur much surprise. What the plot does contain is food for thought. There are some rather disturbing issues that come up in the course of the plot. And you can't help wondering, which choice is the BEST choice? Is there a RIGHT and a WRONG?What Gerritsen doesn't disappoint on in this novel is character. She has a knack with developing sympathetic characters. She is also rather creative in naming her characters, but I'd like to see her have faith that her readers will connect the significance of their names, without her needing to point it out specifically.There was also a sub-plot in this novel that I really would have liked more development for. Typically I'm saying the sub-plot could be eliminated. In this case, it was paramount to the main plot, but I found myself wanting to know more about the characters involved in that part of the book.I think Gravity is probably an excellent choice for someone who appreciates the science-fiction element more than I do. I'm going to check out more of Gerritsen's medical thrillers that are a little more grounded in the crime fiction a little less in the science-fiction.
manadabomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't read any medical/suspense books in ages. My treadmill is next to a bookcase and I just pulled this out and started reading. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction so this was a great distraction. And we know how much I like my medical lingo.Gravity leads us into the world of NASA as we watch Emma Watson and her team preparing to be sent into space to stay for 4 months on the ISS (International Space Station). Watson is a physician who is in the middle of a ugly divorce from her husband, fellow physician Jack. We can still see the hearts around them when they talk though...angry hearts but hearts nonetheless.Circumstances occur that cause Emma to be sent into space earlier, with another team. Once there, it's routing space station stuff, until experiments start going wrong. What happens next is an outbreak of "something" that is killing astronauts very quickly and very gruesomely. Everything is fast paced and we learn what this killer bug is at a breakneck speed.Pretty exciting and fun book to read.
caroren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tess Gerritsen used to be a doctor, so it comes as no great surprise that the medical aspects of her latest thriller are absolutely convincing--even if most of the action happens in a place where few doctors have ever practiced--outer space. Dr. Emma Watson and five other hand-picked astronauts are about to take part in the trip of a lifetime--studying living creatures in space. But an alien life form, found in the deepest crevices of the ocean floor, is accidentally brought aboard the shuttle Atlantis. This mutated alien life form makes the creatures in Aliens look like backyard pets.Soon the crew are suffering severe stomach pains, violent convulsions, and eyes so bloodshot that a gallon of Murine wouldn't help. Gerritsen brilliantly describes the difficulties of treating sick people inside a space module, and how the lack of gravity affects the process of taking blood and inserting a nasal tube. Dr. Watson does her best, but her colleagues die off one by one and the people at NASA don't want to risk bringing the platform back to earth. Only Emma's husband, a doctor/astronaut himself, refuses to give up on her. As we read along, eyes popping out of our heads, all that's missing is one of those bland NASA voices saying, "Houston, we have a problem--we're being attacked by tiny little creatures that are part human, part frog, and part mouse."
jdy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite Tess Gerritsen novel, but it was okay. I'm not a huge sci-fi person, so when I starting reading about weird things inside the characters bodies, I got a little turned off. The good part was, it was a great story line of being in space, and the inner workings of NASA and the interest that captivated. Will always love Gerritsen's novels, this just wasn't one on the top of my list.
Darrol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An exciting tale about alien life forms and love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Genuinely sad to be done reading this. Such a great story. Very fast and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Different than anything else I’ve read from this author but not in a bad way. Awesome!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a syfy-realistic fan then this book is perfect for you. This book incorporates the realism of a real life Bioweapon that has the possibility of extinguishing every living soul on earth. The syfy influence in this book incorporates advanced medical bays in space ships and how the Biohazard adapts to human capabilities. The description that Tess Gerritsen uses throughout the book is very visual and takes your breath away. An example is when she describes the Biohazard as an indestructible organism that changes gives you an image in your head of something unimaginable. I found in the beginning of the book to be a slow read because the beginning to me made no sense to me about how it leads to the Biohazard. However, after the first few chapters, the tension begins to rise like brownies in an oven. The plot builds, builds, and builds till it can go no higher. Then, all settles. You then learn if mankind is doomed and everything on earth will evaporate like water on a very hot day, or if one woman will save all mankind and find where this biohazard originated. You will have to read the book to find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of her best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.