Coma – 2/5 Stars
I wasn’t alive when this book or the first of the tv movies came out, but Robin Cook also wrote a book called Outbreak, which shares a lot of parallels with the Richard Preston book The Hot Zone and the movie. I also distinctly remember seeing ads for an early 1990s mini-series based on another of his books.
If you’ve read The Firm, you might have felt a similar kind of disappointment in finding out the ultimate resolution of the mystery in that book, where the scope of the novel overpromises a denouement that squarely under-delivers. We have a similar problem here. The scope of the problem, the intensity with which it is investigated, the personal and professional risks involved, a hit man even! all lead to a pretty ridiculous and underwhelming conclusion.
What is also a funny and huge misfire is that the novel takes on the inherent sexism baked into the medical industry, especially involving women doctors, and attempts to comment on it here and there, but ultimately falls into the exact same kinds of reductive traps it seemingly is questioning.
If you want to read a novel that borrows a little feminist language while also telling you the size and shape of every woman’s breasts, here you go.
“She thought about how marvelous is would be to have a wife keeping the house in order, the meals on the table. At the same time it seemed ridiculously unfair that she could never have a wife. In fact, if she married, she would be expected to be the wife.”
Rules of Prey – 2/5
Frustrating in its very casual and intense violence against women (and it’s not super graphic, but very very gendered violence, so be forewarned), but otherwise a solid thriller (not really a mystery) that feels about 15 years younger than it actually ends up being.
I remember being convinced that this book and other John Sandford novels were true crime and being too scared to read them. He’s published a million books, but almost none of them have been made into movies, which is kind of interesting.
Anyway, the book’s cover and the basic idea promises something that this book never capitalizes on, that is a killer who works by a code of rules designed to keep him from getting. But basic policework unravels all his clues anyway, and what’s more the code is ridiculously simplistic in its design. It might as well say “Do murder! But be good at it!” for all the cleverness we have here. There’s a kind of John Grishamness here (meaning just very late 1980s) and a casual silliness throughout.
“Don’t do that. Stay away.” She was on the edge of fear. “Was he stronger?” “No. He was softer. His hands were soft. And when I relaxed, he relaxed. That’s when I stamped on his instep.” “Where’d you learn that?” “From my ex-husband’s father. He taught me some self-defense things.” “Come here.” “No.”
Twilight of Democracies – 4/5 Stars
The discussion of the other places around the world where authoritarianism has taken hold and continues to be in danger of further taking hold.