Contagion and Immunity

This is another book recommendation from uppercaseya account from Instagram. The previous recommendations like Mexican Gothic, Lock every door and the Truly Devious series were remarkable and captivating books. I have come to trust their opinion and this account is the main reason I started reading voraciously again. They posted a series of sci-fi YA book recommendations and this series comes under Thriller/Mystery category.

Contagion (book 1)

This duology is written by Erin Bowman. A small inexperienced crew of misfits is sent to check another plant after a mining crew sends a distress signal. They reach the planet and are shocked to find nearly everyone dead. As they try to decipher the disastrous events that lead to the mass death, they realize there may be more to the planet than ever expected.

The narrative is fast paced and never gets boring. The book is divided into ten aptly named chapters. The reader will have multiple questions and the pieces come together satisfactorily, like a puzzle. The characters are well-written and the tension between the crew adds to the drama of the book. Characters like Tarlow and Coen have a lot of mystery and how they interact without revealing their secrets is very intriguing to read. The world building in this book is extraordinary. I am always partial to stories from space. As the last frontier left to conquer and the possibility of aliens and technology that we may never see in real life, space sci-fi books are a class apart. The feed the imagination, yet frighten the heart. And this book shows how thrilling space travel may be. It also shows how vast and lonely space can be in poetic terms. The politics amongst planets and the Union that tries to control them is spoken about by the characters but until the end, it doesn’t have much bearing on the story. Maybe in the second book, we shall see more. Speaking of which, this book sets up its successor very well. It ends at a cliffhanger and the reader is left wondering what will happen next.

(Spoiler) (There are plenty of exclamation marks surrounding the spoiler to warn the reader; this is kind of a big spoiler, hence the precaution) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Even though the contagion is just a zombie attack, the adventure of their escapade and the story behind such a contagion is captivating to read. The author herself, pokes fun at the contagion being zombies (in a conversation between Dylan and Tarlow), so the use of that troupe can be forgiven, because it is done exceptionally well. “The old wheel turns and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again” (Sir Arthur Canon Doyle). We can’t always search for new and unique ideas, but presenting the same ideas in a newer light is always fun to read. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Immunity(Book 2)

(Currently in the middle of the book)

This book has a higher rating on Goodreads than it’s predecessor and as I found the first book splendid, I had high hopes for this. Though it’s still interesting, I get the feeling that the story has barely started and I’m currently in the sixth chapter. I would like to know more about the Contagion and the science behind it: how it evolved in a planet, so dark and desolate; can it infect animals; are there evolutionally similar organisms on other planets etc… And though a bunch of scientists are researching it, I doubt I’d get my answers. Maybe I have these questions because I’m a biotechnology student, but I’m sure even other readers would love such answers, even in a soft sci-fi book. I’m also not a huge romantic and the romantic side of this story is a bit too much for me, but I’m sure others like it. This is just a personal bias and has nothing to do with the actual writing and is not meant to offend other fans or the author. Given that I have only four more chapters left in this series and a ton of questions, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it, so kudos to the author for building anticipation.

(Finished the book)

The book finished well and it’s biggest strength is its fast pace. The alternate fuel source that the characters use could have a potential novel for itself. The book leaves you wanting more answers about the scientific nature of the cure and the other potential contagion. Could they be related? So many questions. I would desperately love a third part to the book. This book itself could have been divided into two books: the first book focusing on their capture and ending with their escape and the second book focusing on their time in the planet ‘Casey’. As a trilogy it would have worked better and given us more time to explore the full sci-fi elements and the politics between the Union and the Radicals. The politics is ever-present in this book, but only in the background. I definitely would have loved to read more about the history of the Cradle, instead of just throw-away lines of acknowledgement.

The book is a good conclusion to Contagion and as series they work very well together, despite being completely different. It could be adapted as a movie too and with excellent CGI and animation, the visuals would be stunning.

I would also like to add something a bit irrelevant here. Before reading this book, I was reading Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It is very highly recommended on Goodreads. It is quite autobiographical, is set in medieval earth and follows Kvothe on his quest to avenge his parents deaths. The book was interesting but I noticed that nearly all the characters were male. Even the Chronicler (the character writing the biography of the protagonist) says there’s a paucity of women in Kvothe’s story. When I began reading Contagion though, there were plenty of men and women involved. I know people immediately like to throw the fact that the former book was set in history and that the current book is sci fi, but intergalactic space travel at a speed faster than light is fictional; women aren’t.

I have noticed this disturbing trend that in books written by male authors have one or two token female characters, as a apology rather than an actual character. But female authors generally tend to have equal proportions of characters. I don’t know if male authors willfully give female roles less significance or if that happens subconsciously. I would like to say that A Song of Ice and Fire series gets this part right. There are plenty of characters of both genders and while the females do have to fight against stigma and rise above it (like Dany becoming Khaleesi or Arya learning to fight or Cersei trying to plot her way to the top or Catelyn trying to protect her family and even coming back as Lady Stoneheart) the characters themselves are written in an egalitarian manner. This is probably because we read it from their perspective. The key similarity is that both Kvothe’s story and A Song of Fire and Ice are written by men and set in the forgotten past, but the key difference is, at least the female characters exist in A Song of Fire and Ice. Another series that had a generous amount of characters was Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series. People often fault YA books for being childish or catering to teenagers or following stereotypes, but if a YA book has more worthy female characters than a true-blue adult book, you have to change your priorities. Trying to get YA the respect and recognition it deserves, is the rock I will die on.

Contagion Score: 8.5/10

Immunity Score: 8.5/10

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