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Reviewed by:
Bowman, Erin Contagion. HarperTeen/HarperCollins, 2018 [432p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-257414-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-257418-3 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7–10

In the distant future, the substance corrarium is precious, leading to colonization of planets rich in the sustainable energy source and to subsequent inequity and government corruption. When a distress call draws a group of underprepared first-responders—a renowned scientist, her teenage intern, a young military-trained pilot, and some government contractors—to a fringe planet previously considered to be corrarium-free, some in the group are understandably suspicious, while the scientist knows a lot more than she initially lets on. Bowman’s writing shifts unevenly among a variety of POVs—mainly that of the scientist, the intern, and the pilot, but occasionally other crewmembers and eventually a mystery boy stranded on the strange planet—in a way that’s distractingly ineffective. This piecemeal form of exposition turns an otherwise straightforward space thriller into a dizzying array of narrative threads and contrived secrets, some less interesting than others. For example, as details of the highly contagious bacteria wreaking havoc on this planet slowly emerge, the suspense is undermined by certain POVs being unnecessarily coy with details while others remain frustratingly naïve. Still, the novel manages to give a sci-fi twist to a story of colonial exploitation and deadly biological threats. The reveal that, under the right circumstances, infection gives humans heightened abilities and the bacteria a chance to survive (a fact exploited by the government) makes for a gratifying payoff for the significant characters while also setting the stage for an eventual follow-up.

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