Contagion by Erin Bowman

contagion recap

The basics

Title: Contagion


Series: Contagion #1

- Contagion (2018)
- Immunity (2019)

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Goodreads Summary:

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don't set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

ere’s our recap of what happened in Contagion by Erin Bowman. Read on for a full plot summary to refresh your memory!

what happened in Contagion?

  • The Cradle was colonised after the exodus from Earth.
  • Corrarium was discovered as a sustainable energy source, and the Cradle became reliant on it.
  • Hevetz Industries, a drilling company, ventures out into the Fringe looking for corrarium.
  • An engineer threatens to shoot a small boy at the Black Quarry base. Something chases after them both.
  • Now, in the present day, Althea is a trainee scientist working under Doctor Tarlow.
  • Hevetz requests that Doctor Tarlow board the Odyssey and head to Black Quarry. Nova pilots the ship.
  • Dylan gives the crew a report. She tells them Hevetz was drilling for corrarium at Black Quarry when they lost contact. Dylan’s team was the closest one, stationed near Achlys, which is an empty star. Doctor Tarlow’s parents previously ran a survey on Achlys, which is known as Witch Hazel. Tarlow lost her whole crew and family there fifty years ago.
  • The crew goes into stasis while they head towards the planet.
  • They land on Achlys.
  • The crew get into rovers and head to the base camp. When they arrive, the power is off. Toby tries to fix it. There are corpses around them. Sullivan wants to leave but Dylan tells them to search the base. They split up.
  • The comms die.
  • They find a note on a corpse that says “it got in” and “don’t trust the kid”. Very ominous.
  • Lisbeth Tarlow changes the passcode in the lab.
  • They watch a video where Evans (one of the dead Black Quarry crew) tells them to call Black Quarry off. He seems panicked.
  • Sullivan wants to leave. Dylan instead tells everyone to head to the drill site.
  • The crew head to the drill site, which is close to the old Witch Hazel bunker. On the way, they argue about independence, the Radicals, and Hevetz.
  • They reach the drilling base. They find a mass grave. Dylan tells them to get a body so they can test it.
  • Dylan reveals she took drugs to get ahead in flight school, and to impress her father, who was in charge at Black Quarry and now probably dead.
  • Toby heads down into the grave. The bodies start to move and something grabs Toby’s leg and pierces the skin.
  • Thea is caught in the storm on the way back, and she comes across a bunker. The mysterious boy finds her and when she collapses he revives her.
  • His name is Coen.
  • They try to treat Toby’s shredded leg. He’s freaking out and trying to take his helmet off. His eyes turn red.
  • Coen tells Thea that this all started at the drill site. People got infected and overran the base. The infection spread from person to person. Coen said he hid in the vents. He wants to talk to Tarlow.
  • Thea and Coen head to join the others. At the base, they walk into what looks like a war zone.
  • Dylan locks Coen in an isolation chamber. They discuss taking Toby back to the ship. Coen tells everyone they have to leave – he’s seen all this before. He tells Dylan that her father is dead.
  • Cleaver finds out what happened to Li, one of the Black Quarry crew, and presumably Patient Zero. Li waded through a river and felt something move. He hit his head on a rock, and got infected from there.
  • Obviously, there was something in the water.
  • Toby gets well and truly possessed. He tries to go after Coen. The group locks him in an isolation chamber.
  • They finally realise that it’s a contagion that’s spreading via blood.
  • Sullivan’s nose starts bleeding. He got infected when he was shot with a laser gun. He tells them to put him in with Toby.
  • Thea offers to stay with Coen while the rest go to evacuate. Tarlow stays too.
  • Coen doesn’t trust Tarlow.
  • Tarlow takes Toby’s and Sullivan’s blood.
  • Sullivan wakes up and chokes Thea. Tarlow saves her, but gets captured herself.
  • Other infected arrive at the medbay. Coen and Thea hide in the vents.
  • The rest of the crew reaches the Odyssey, but someone has cut the wires and Nova is going to struggle to fix them.
  • Thea freaks out about Tarlow dying. Coen shows her a video from the Witch Hazel expedition. In it, you see the Tarlow family (Lisbeth and her parents). Doctor Tarlow’s mother tells Lisbeth to get a medkit because Lisbeth’s father is injured after he saves Lisbeth from drowning in the water. He gets a nosebleed and starts fighting his wife off. Lisbeth’s mother tells Lisbeth to go to the rover, as she now also has scratches all over her from her husband. Lisbeth has to kill her parents to contain the spread of infection.
  • Thea realises that Lisbeth Tarlow lied to everyone when she said her parents died in a storm like the other adults in the group.
  • She and Coen discuss the infection. They realise there’s probably bacteria in the water that can survive the freezing conditions. No shit, guys.
  • Coen reveals he faked his identity to get on the crew to head to Black Quarry. He needed money to save his sick sister. Pitch apparently found out, which is why he said not to trust the kid.
  • Coen and Thea reach the Odyssey. They can’t leave, though, because the landing gear is broken. They could fly with it out, but they don’t have enough food to last long enough to reach a base. Cleaver tries to dig the ship out of the snow so they can take off and fix the landing gear in space.
  • Cleaver gets stuck under the ship when it collapses.
  • The infected head towards the Odyssey. Sullivan is there and jumps Nova. Thea saves Nova using a stun gun.
  • The crew jump on a rover. The infected grab Cleaver, who drags Coen off with him.
  • Coen’s chapter implies that he’s also infected, and that the infected are like him. He seems to have more strength and speed than normal humans. He snaps Cleaver’s neck, since Cleaver has been infected too.
  • The crew heads towards the short-range shuttles back at the base camp. Thea finds a lab with canisters labelled “corrarium-X” and “corrX”. There’s also some of the black seaweed, like what had been on the Tarlow video. Thea realises that the parasite probably lives on the plant.
  • Doctor Tarlow is also there. She’s somehow alive and her wounds have healed. Thea accuses her of lying and messing with the comms and the ship.
  • Tarlow admits to hiding everything because she was scared of being tested on and quarantined. She worked for years to find a cure. She herself became infected when she fell in the water when she was a child, but she is immune.
  • Dylan shoots Tarlow. Tarlow admits there is no cure but Coen could be the key. Dylan leaves without Thea.
  • Thea examines the subjects. Thea realises that the parasite is looking for a match. It’s all symbiosis.
  • Thea sees that Tarlow’s skin has healed from the gunshot wound, but internal bleeding seems to have killed her.
  • Coen gets to the medbay. Thea realises that he’s infected. She shocks him with a shock rod. She realises that Pitch Evans knew, and that’s really why he said not to trust the kid.
  • Coen admits that Evans was there when Coen was infected. Evans initially saved his life but then spent ages waiting for something to happen. Coen could then communicate with Tarlow using his mind.
  • Toby attacks Dylan as she’s trying to escape with Nova.
  • Coen admits to destroying the comms. He also admits to infecting Thea when he gave her mouth-to-mouth.
  • Nova isn’t sure whether to shoot Dylan or not. She waits for Dylan to show symptoms, but after six minutes she doesn’t.
  • Coen and Thea head to the shuttle and tell Dylan and Nova to meet them there. Luckily, Coen figured out the commander’s passcode and is able to access everything. Coen and Thea set the ship to self destruct. 
  • Thea says Dylan has to stay behind. Dylan and Nova don’t want Coen on the ship. It’s a bit of a thing, until Coen pulls out a gun, then everyone gets on board.
  • Coen’s theory is that if you get infected as a teenager (or younger) then symbiosis is effective. He thinks Dylan might be young enough until her nose starts bleeding. Nova ejects her out into space.

how did Contagion end?

  • A Union battleship contacts the shuttle. Thea tells them to put Achlys under quarantine. The battleship tells Thea not to wake Nova from her sleep.
  • This whole exchange is very suspicious to Thea and Coen. The battleship’s shuttle docks and gas canisters are thrown.
  • Nova is put in a coma, but Dylan is there to keep her company.
  • Thea wakes up in an isolation chamber. She speaks with Lieutenant Burke. They know Coen’s real identity. Burke reveals that they know about the infected, and they know Thea is infected too as she’s no longer sedated by the gas. They plan on experimenting on Thea and Coen to see how they could use the parasite to their advantage.
  • Thea starts to plot her escape.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Contagion by Erin Bowman. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!


  • Ethan Sweat says:

    Thanks! Very good job! 😉

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