I was very torn while rating this book. Though it is certainly better than many others which I awarded with 4 stars, I could not avoid to detect some small flaws. I still decided to give it 5, because it is undoubtedly one of the few books that got me really involved in the reading in the latest months. I had to force myself not to finish it in a couple of days and it was not easy.
It is a techno-thriller with medical and science fiction implications that undoubtedly associates the work of Gerritsen to that of Crichton. The topic is super interesting, or at least it is for me. The story set in the era of the Space Shuttle narrates of a medical emergency on board the International Space Station (ISS), which has very dramatic and at times even horror implications. The pace is tight, the characters are very well defined and you find yourself living their drama, especially Emma Watson and her almost ex-husband Jack McCallum, both astronauts and doctors. The concern and anxiety to see what will happen next forces you to keep reading. If I'd had the time, I would probably read it in just one session. This is definitely a sign that I found myself in front of a great novel.
The technical part is flawless. This book, although fiction, allows you to get to know the procedures of NASA at the time. There's even a useful glossary at the end of it. All this makes "Gravity" in some respects an educational text that I will no doubt keep aside for future reference.
To great characters and excellent technical part, it adds a perfectly built storyline, with the right timing and the correct scene combination. Paradoxically, this is precisely a flaw of the book. I was at 17% of reading, and I knew exactly how it would end, I had also made a rough idea, later confirmed, about the mechanisms by which the story would come to its resolution. Despite this, I really enjoyed reading, proof that you can satisfy and entertain even the most sly reader with such standard a novel.
In short, you can almost neglect this flaw of too much perfection.
The story takes place in a very cinematic way, and certainly this is not a defect. It is so, however, the fact that in some occasions the author, for reasons unknown to me, has decided to include scenes from an omniscient point of view to show events that no character was able to see. The same facts are then discovered by the characters, but in this way the reader has been deprived of the pleasure to get astonished and scared with them. Why has she wanted to deny this pleasure to us? By completely eliminating those scenes, the book would have been even nicer.
But the reason why I was torn on whether to give it 5 stars is another: the ending. Not so much because of its obviousness, but for the way in which it has been shown. Considering it was entirely predictable, it would be very important to devote special care to the ending emphasizing the emotional part rather than the facts, which, I repeat, were obvious from the beginning. But the author has not done so. The resolutive scene is not narrated from the point of view of one of the two protagonists, but at a distance through mission control, depriving us of the pleasure of seeing their reaction, in particular that of Watson, to the incredible situation in which they find themselves. This is really a shame and I admit I have felt disappointed. I think this is really a missed opportunity. It is as if Gerritsen in the rush to complete the story has forgotten about the characters or, worse, has not known how to manage them at that moment. In a nutshell, I had the impression that with this novel she has made her quite accurate homework, but without putting her heart in it.
What a pity.
Anyway I highly recommend this novel to lovers of astronautics, but I would advise against it for real astronauts, especially when it comes to impressionable people. It could be the cause to more than a few restless sleep for those who are really up there in the ISS.
I beg you, dear astronauts, if you come across some blue-green substance of unknown nature, do not play with it: incinerate it now!
Gravity on Amazon.com.