Wednesday, April 07, 2010

comatose and brain-dead

With Intervention, Robin Cook dares to venture into Dan Brown territory. I could have said Umberto Eco territory (purely for Foucault's Pendulum, but it would do Eco's reputation injustice while implying (incorrectly) that Robin Cook was capable of being more than a writer of serviceable medical thrillers.

begin flashback

I was an avid reader of genre fiction years ago and Robin Cook was one of the many whose books I picked off the shelves of the Popular Book House library and turned the pages of. Memories can tend to become more favourable over the years and this might account for my impression that I was entertained. There was a lot of information in the pages -- Cook was, like Crichton (who, interestingly, helmed the first of two cinematic adaptations of Cook's ouevre, Coma) and Grisham, to name a couple, the kind of writer who wove proof that he had done his research into the narrative. I do not recall having trouble finishing any of his books. Not being able to glide from cover to cover should have, in retrospect, told me that I had found a book that demanded more and would be more important than these potboilers. I remember quitting Cook when a book I picked up had a protagonist with the same name as a book I had read a week or so before. That, for me all those years ago, was the last straw. I could tolerate the guy hopping around in the medical milieu and finding places to stuff a thriller's narrative elements. But running out of names (or was it the same protagonist?) was just a sign of laziness.

end flashback

Intervention, now that I have turned over the back cover to look at the author posing with a smile in his house (presumably), seems like harsh punishment for daring to challenge my decision to abandon this guy's ouevre years ago. If Cook was good in his older novels, this novel makes them look like literary masterpieces. Cook stretches beyond his turf (the medical thriller) and tries to pluck clumps of grass from the Brown verdant fields of religious conspiracy and revelation. In doing so, he shows us why Irving Wallace's The Word is a far superior richer work. He also makes Dan Brown look like a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize. The characters are stock, the abuse of literally is appalling and the final portion of the book throws up a twist that comes early enough to make the rest of the limp conclusion even worse than it is -- Cook abandons a mix of narrative and dialogue and churns out hasty pages that look like a poor submission in an essay competition. If anyone's about to make an impulsive selection as I did and is looking for some advice, here it is: this dish stinks.

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